Catholic Mom Book Spotlight

Amata Means Beloved
by Mary Catharine Perry, OP

If you're like me and love a good novel, you find yourself reading to discover new worlds that you may not ever be able to physically visit.  A good book enables us to enter a place, interact with the community of characters living there, and grow to love and care about the people in that place and what happens to them.  On a higher level, a book occasionally comes along and challenges us to look at our own lives and at how we might become more:  by giving more of ourselves, by loving our family or friends more, by deepening our spiritual lives and our connection to God, even by seeing the daily tasks we undertake with a more positive attitude - seeing them as faith and love offerings to God.  Amata Means Beloved is one of these treasures:  a book that will take you into its world, cause you to fall in love, and challenge you to make your world a better place.    Please read this book and share it with the special people in your lives - you'll be happy you took the time!

Lisa,
Webmaster, CatholicMom.com

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Amata Means Beloved
by Mary Catharine Perry, OP
paperback, iUniverse, 125 pages

 

 

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CM:  Thank you for your time Sister!  I am so happy to share your story with our readers!  Could you please start off with a brief description of the plot of Amata Means Beloved?
 
Amata Means Beloved is the story of a young woman's first steps in contemplative-cloistered life and how with God's grace she confronts what is holding her back from giving herself completely to God. It is a story about the power of God's grace, the struggle to forgive and the purification of motives and desires. It's also a window into the reality of what goes on inside a cloistered monastery.
 
CM:  What was your inspiration for writing this book?
 
I'm not really sure how I came to write Amata Means Beloved! For a long time I wanted to share the joy of living the contemplative life--of belonging to God alone. There are so many misconceptions about the contemplative life even among "devout" Catholics.  Sometimes with a story, rather than a factual article or book one can more easily convey truth and someone who may not be interested in learning about nuns and monasteries might however, read fiction.

CM:  Please share with our readers a bit of information about your own background and family, your faith journey and your vocational call?
 
I am the youngest of two girls. Both of us are adopted. My mom wanted a large family and the story goes that my parents adopted my sister and she was one child and then they adopted me and I was the equivalent of nine children! I grew up in rural Massachusetts and attended a small Catholic school run by Religious Sisters. The school was so small that I was the only one in my senior class. We got a great classical education and the familial atmosphere fostered close friendships. I maintain ties with friends that I've had for 25-30 years! That's unusual today, I think.
 
I knew since I was about six that I wanted to be a nun. I wanted to belong totally to Jesus as His spouse and I couldn't wait until I turned 18! Shortly after graduation from high school I entered the congregation of sisters that had taught me in school. I thought I wanted to be a teacher and the apostolate of this congregation was education and person-to-person evangelization but they were also semi-monastic. However, my two years in the novitiate were very difficult. I knew I had a vocation but I didn't know where the Lord wanted me to live it out! I left and began exploring other congregations. Slowly, the Lord began to get a word in and much to my surprise I began to realize that I was being called to the cloistered-contemplative way of life! It seems like I was the last person to find this out and that many others thought the Lord was calling me to this life! At first, this was not easy to accept. Eventually, I found out about this Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary and entered in 1991. I've been a cloistered nun for over 13 years.
 
CM:  I fell in love with the character of Emily/Amata...is she a reflection of your own life or a composite of "characters" you've encountered in your community?
 
There is probably more of me in Emily than I care to admit! Yes, some of Emily is a reflection on my own life. I did at one time have to struggle with the need to forgive someone who had seriously hurt me and I had to struggle with issues of rejection coming from being adopted. It wasn't an easy road but I learned how much I had to lean totally on God and His love for me and that everything He permits is an opportunity to grow in love and grow in holiness. I did not set out to intentionally hide behind the character of Emily but one has to write from one's own experience if it is to be authentic.
 
CM:  With your busy and full schedule living in a contemplative community, how have you found time to write, publish and promote your novel?
 
It wasn't easy! Part of the asceticism of monastic life is that the day is seeming broken up by the times for the Divine Office and prayer. Everything else is subordinated to this. However, in the novitiate one learns not to waste a minute and you'd be amazed as to what you can do in 5 minutes! So, Amata Means Beloved was written in small snatches of time. If I was on "turn" duty, i.e. answering the door or phone, and things were quiet, I would have a good block of time to write. I find, though, that I write best at night, after Compline. The realization that the next morning I would be getting up at 4:30 AM did hamper me from staying up too late!
 
CM:  What can Catholic parents do to foster religious vocations in our families?  How can Catholic families support the religious communities in our home towns?
 
This is a great question! First, parents have to be convinced of the value and beauty of the priesthood and consecrated life. They won't foster vocations if they don't value this way of living the Christian vocation. Teach them to pray for the gift of a religious vocation. Also, taking them to visit convents and monasteries and priories so that they'll meet priests, sisters and brothers. For example, we have a family that comes every Sunday to pray the rosary in our extern chapel. Meeting the sister who lets them in at the door is as "normal" to them as meeting anyone on the street. They are growing up knowing what the cloistered life is all about. If you don't know much about the religious life, don't hesitate to call or write a religious community and ask for information and tell them that you want to teach your children about religious life and have correct information. If you teach CCD or teach in a Catholic School, consider arranging to bring your class to visit a monastery. Prepare the kids and help them formulate questions. (The younger grades don't need help; they are full of questions!). We also have a large mother-daughter group that comes every First Friday to pray the Rosary in our chapel.  Another great way to foster vocations is to arrange for your children to volunteer to work with religious in their apostolates. If it's a monastery, offer your help and perhaps the nuns will have something up their sleeve for you to do! For example, every year boys from a local prep school come and help pick the apples in our orchard. We have volunteers that work in our "front office" and it would be great way for a young woman in high school to volunteer.
 
The most important way families can support religious in their hometowns is to pray for them. The marvelous gift of the Mystical Body of Christ is that we need each to grow in holiness and religious are no exception. Another way is to volunteer if you have the time. It might even be contacting the community and saying, "Sister, if you ever need me to pick something up for you at the grocery store, or pick someone up at the airport, etc. please don't hestiate to call me." They'll understand if you have other obligations if they do call you.
Remembering the community on it's patronal feast or on Consecrated Life Day (February 2nd) or November 21st which is dedicated to cloistered nuns, is another way. Perhaps stopping by the monastery with fruit, vegetables or baked goods or maybe a book (like Amata!). It doesn't have to be anything fancy. Makes sure you take your children with you because not only will it be good for your kids to get to know the religious, the community will like it, too!   
 
CM:  Do you have any writing plans for the future?
 
I have a few ideas roaming in my head. A few articles and perhaps a sequel to Amata Means Beloved. However, right now I feel I need to step back from writing and be more silent for awhile and listen more intensely to the Lord. I leave the writing up to Him. If He wants it, the Holy Spirit provides the inspiration.
 
CM:  Could you please educate us on the mission of your own community?
 
My monastery is part of the Order of Preachers, the Dominicans. We were founded in 1206 by St. Dominic ten years before he founded the friars. Our mission in the Church is one of prayer and adoration. From our contemplation of Christ flows our desire and passion for the mission of the Order of Preachers which is preaching for the salvation of souls. St. Dominic founded the nuns to be intimately connected to the "Holy Preaching" of the brethren. So, we are contemplatives in an apostolic Order. My monastery also has the privilege of the "Adoring Rosary"--there is always a nun before the exposed Blessed Sacrament contemplating the mysteries of Salvation in the Rosary.
 
CM:  Thank you again for your time and for sharing the gift of your writing in this beautiful story.  Are there any closing thoughts or comments you'd like to share with our readers?  God bless you and your Sisters!
 
First, thanks for highlighting Amata Means Beloved and for the opportunity to share a little about cloistered-contemplative life. Secondly, I have to mention how much catholic moms inspire me in my own vocation as a spiritual mother. The thousand everyday acts of selflessness and charity you exercise toward your families is an example and reminder for me in my life in the monastery.  Please be assured of my prayers for each of you! Now, that I'm in my 30's I can appreciate everything my mom did for me....I think you should all be canonized! 
 
May the Virgin and her loving Child bless you all!
 

 



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