Community in Imbramowice
As Sister Canonises Regular of the Order of Premontre we are called to live in strict papal enclosure while adhering to the Norbertine spirituality and traditions handed down to us for generations. Every Sister entering our monastery professes to live a hidden life permanently in common with the sisters in this monastery, as the Rule of Saint Augustine requires. The Sisters form the community primarily to foster a oneness of heart and soul directed to God. The goal and essence of our contemplative vocation is “to remain in the missionary heart of the Church thru constant prayer, self denial and the rendering of the offering of praise. In this manner our life must be a mysterious source of apostolic fertility and a blessing for the whole world (Verbi Sponsa 1999, 15).”
With the help of humble external means we strive to realize the hidden apostolate embracing the vast fields unreachable to active missionary efforts. Such is our vocation as a community. Our simple style and likewise the hidden richness of our common life is reflected in our plan of day. Its center and focal point, as it were, is the prayer of the fulfillment of our daily tasks, our common meals, our various penitential practices, our recreations and our joyful celebrations. The first and the last words of the community prayer of a given day, begining at 5 a.m. in our Imbramowice monastery and ending with the great silence at 9:30 p.m., complete the daily circle of our waking hours.
Four times a day the Sisters come together to pray in common a total of six hours. This includes, among others, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Divine Office, meditation, rosary, novena to the Suffering Christ, crown to Divine Mercy and devotion to Saint Joseph. Yet more, every Sister adors the Blessed Sacrament individually every day for at least a half hour and attends to her Lectio Divina. Besides these daily prayers there are particular devotions connected with certain feasts and seasons of the year. The majority of them are the expression of the spirituality of the traditions of our order and the local community.
The cultivation of the Premontretensian tradition in common prayer finds expression in choral Gregorian chant of a specifically Norbertine XIV century origin, which is preserved to this day in our monastery in the from of antique graduals and antiphonaries. On weekdays all hours of the Divine Office are sung in the Polish language. Since we strive to preserve Latin in the liturgy we therefore chant Vespers and Compline on Sunday and holy days in Latin.
Tending the spirituality of our Holy Father Saint Norbert we gather each Thursday and every last Sunday of the month to adore the Blessed Sacrament. And every day we sing a hymn in honor of the Immaculate Conception – Jutrzenka. On Sundays we sing in polish the Godzinki (a variation of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary). On Saturdays, if there is no other obligatory Divine Office, we chant the Office dedicated to our Blessed Mother.
As guards of the Regional Sanctuary of the Suffering Christ we feel especially called by our life to endlessly praise Our Lord Jesus in the mystery of His salutary Passion and impetrate His boundless mercy for ourselves and the whole world. The expression of this is not only the participation in the ceremonial prayers (e.g. Palm Sunday), additional Masses, nightly vigils and devotions in honor of the Suffering Christ together with the visiting pilgrims and the local people of God but also the fostering and growth of the Passion piety in the daily prayer life of our community.
We should mention here yet other particular forms of community piety which we foster in connection with certain holy days and joyful occasions. Among them we have the Feast of the Epiphany. Then the youngest members of the community (usually novices) dressed as the Three Magi go with the other Sisters thru the monastery and sing christmas carols, incense the rooms and mark the doors (with chalk) with the symbols of traditionally known names of the Three Wise Men: K+M+B (Kacper, Melchior and Baltazar). Other occasions are the feast of Saint Joseph (the special Patron and Protector of our Imbramowice community), the commemoration of Our Lady of Fatima and that of The Mystical Rose, when all the Sisters go in procession thru the monastery and gardens carrying a holy picture or figure and praying the rosary or crown and singing hymns.
A special experience is our awaiting and reception of the Most Blessed Sacrament at our monastery gate during the Feast of Corpus Christ. The priest carrying the monstrance at the head of the procession comes to the altar prepared in front of our main entrance and there conducts a solemn Beneciction Service.
Another important moment in the life of our community besides that of prayer is that of mealtime. Our meals are precedid by so-called stations or salutation of Our Lord Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament, afte which we all process in an orderly fashion to the refectory. In the refectory, after reading or solemn chanting of the Martyrology of the day. There is a spiritual reading, that is, public reading of some work about the spiritual life. During the meal an atmosphere of prayerful concentration is maintained so that, as the Rule of our Father Saint Augustine states, not only our mouth may receive sustenance but also our heart. On Good Friday we take our meal in a kneeling position.
Internal concentration as well as heartfelt and ever deeper spiritual union with Jesus must characterize not only our prayer and our spiritual reading but also find their extension in the whole of our day. Great facilitation in attaing our desired goal are all the limitations as also the privilegs connected with the strict papal enclosure which is had in our monastery. Primarily this consists of the permanence of place, non active involvement in missionary efforts, big limitation on external contacts, private cell. The conscious cultivation of the interior life is served likewise by the detailed demands of religious life like silence during the performance of duties, the observance of silence on the corridors etc.
The gathering of the Sisters at the chapter, during which each Sister confesses her external failings and receives a penance from Mother Prioress, also is a communal act of penance. Another ascetical practice is the observance of the days of penanc, during which we limit our quantity of food and omit the after dinner common recreation and in its stead we process from the refectory to pray the penitential psalms before the Blessed Sacrament. On all the Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays as well as in the seasons of Advent and lent we refrain from eating meat.
In order that our contemplative vocation might be realized with joy and energetic involvment as well as in good psychic and physical health, a fitting amount of time is set aside during the day and specified times of the year for purposes of recreation, rest, relaxation, sport and various events within the monastery. Everyday, except days of penance and adoration of atonement, we come together for at least a half hour of recreation. In Spring and Summer, benefitting from the gifts of nature we organize longer recreation in the garden. During ceremonious occasions we organize cultural events within the monastery. Including such things as plays and recreation with poetry. A special holiday recreational event is our joyful gathering at the animated manger on Christmas Eve after the Midnight Mass. Each year the manger setting with its surroundings is prepared in a new and differend from for the faithful. On December 28, when we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the youngest Sister assumes the role of the monastery Prioress for the whole day.
Full participation in the life of the community begins with the profession of perpetual Vows, which is preceded by three phases of religious formation: 6 -9 months of postulancy, 2 years of novitiate, 3 years of juniorate. The Sisters undergoing preparatory formation prior to their profession of perpetual vows constitute a distinct subgroup of the community. They live in a seperate wing of the monastery, do not maintain closer contact with the other Sisters and participate in the recreation of the whole monastic community only on days especially festive. They do not take part in the chapter gatherings. Within the framework of preparation for the religious life they participate in special exercises of formation under the care of Mother Mistress and in singing lessons conducted by religious and secular specialists. They benefit also from the special care of spiritual fathers who come to our monastery once a week.