Some people may perhaps ask “but what do they do all day?” It is a very good question. Their principal duty is to support the Holy Father in his difficult mission and to pray for the Church and for the whole world, with the hope of bringing all humanity closer to the love of God, since many there are in our world today who are walking in darkness and who never give a thought to their Creator, nor question the true meaning of their existence. The sisters come together in the choir at various times of the day for at least seven hours of community prayer (the first one being just after Midnight) in order to pray the Divine Office, which is made up of psalms, hymns, canticles, prayers and spiritual readings, in order to praise God throughout the whole course of the day and in order to sanctify it.
The highlight of each day is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and following the encouragement given to the whole Church by our Holy Father, Benedict XVI, in the Moto Proprio Summorum Pontificum cura, from 13th June 2008, the Holy Mass has been celebrated each morning at 7.30 a.m. (10 a.m. on Sundays and Holy days of obligation) using the 1962 Tridentine Rite.
The sisters have recreation every Sunday afternoon and on some other special feast days. Each of the sisters also have their daily duties to fulfil and, as you can imagine, there is quite a lot to keep them busy in a monastery the size of Lanherne. Apart from the usual domestic chores, some of the sisters have begun book-binding, another sister is busy growing vegetables: one sister translates a magazine aimed at the Contemplative Life from Italian into English each month, two of the sisters are the sacristans of the monastery and they prepare the choir and church for the various liturgical celebrations: each Saturday, another sister prepares the flowers for the Church and for the monastery itself. That is just to give a vague idea of how the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate spend their days at Lanherne.
But why did all these women seemingly give up their lives in the world to shut themselves up in a Monastery for the rest of their lives? Is it some sort of escapism? No, not at all. The reasons are many and varied but there is always one reason that they have in common – to come closer to God with the help of Our Lady and to love Him more deeply by offering Him their very lives. As well as the usual three vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, the sisters have a fourth vow, considered by them to be their first, and the ‘precious jewel’ of the Institute – the Marian Vow of total consecration to Our Lady. By this vow, the sisters are called to consecrate themselves without limits to Our Lady, in order to be transformed by Her into the image of Her Divine Son, Jesus. By taking this vow, they commit themselves to make Mary known, loved and served throughout the whole world, in order to hasten the coming of the Kingdom of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The fact that the sisters only leave the monastery on certain occasions e.g. to visit the doctor or the dentist, helps them to remain completely recollected in God and to pray throughout the whole day – not only when they are in the choir. In fact even when the sisters are working, their prayer life continues, because as St. Francis of Assisi strongly exhorted his followers; “Do not extinguish the spirit of prayer.” He meant that even during very busy times, the hearts and minds of his friars and sisters ought to be raised to God, in order to remember that everything should be done to please Him alone Who created us for Himself – then everything will go well.