Tag Archives: Regina Laudis Abbey

Mother Dolores Hart speaks about her life and Faith

On Saturday I drove up to the Abbey of Regina Laudis situated in Bethlehem, Connecticut, to purchase cheese and note cards made by the Benedictine nuns there. Cheese is a homemade product of the nuns of this monastery made from milk of 5 dairy cows. But in addition to cheese and note cards I picked up a beautiful DVD interviewing Mother Dolores Hart, OSB. In 2000, Chantal Westerman interviewed Mother Dolores for an hour long presentation called “Conversations with Remarkable People: Mother Dolores Hart.”

Dolores Hart Life.jpg

From this conversation I learned a few things and a new perspective among which Mother Dolores was not only an actress but also a carpenter who made chairs and tables but also coffins for the nuns in her earlier life at the abbey and she took the time to welcome guests. Patricia Neal was of particular interest. (A convert to Catholic before her death, Neal died in August 2010 and is buried at Regina Laudis Abbey.) Of particular interest to me was not Hart’s work in Hollywood but her concrete witness of Christian faith. Ms Westerman asked Mother how she understood faith and the phrase “I am spiritual but not religious.” Mother answered (my notes):
Faith is remembering the exquisite gifts of God given us in particulars of space and time and people; faith is having the guts to say ‘yes’ when you have no idea what the ‘yes’ means; the ‘yes’ is given in response to a mystery.
With regard to the spiritual/religious distinction often made: the two are complementary and have a convergence.

Indeed! There is no separation between spiritual and religious. The soul needs integration of each to make any real sense.

If you can get a copy of the DVD from the Abbey, do so. I recommend it. And stay for Vespers (the Church’s evening prayer) daily beautifully sung by the 40 nuns.
You may be interested in other blog posts on Regins Laudis and Mother Dolores Hart found here.

Dolores Hart steps out of the Abbey to help her sisters

RM Dolores Hart OSB.jpg

She’s known because of her background: the actress who worked with Elvis Presley. That’s what many people remember of Dolores Hart. Some recall that in 1963 Hart left Hollywood to follow her heart: to give her heart to Jesus Christ as a Benedictine nun at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut. Today, Hart is known as Mother Dolores. At 73 (her birthday on October 20th), there are no signs of slowing down, despite flares of neuropathy.
As buildings and property age –more than 60 years old by now– the wood, bricks and mortar give way and updating needs to happen. Working for the Church, I can attest of the serious need and reasonableness to invest buildings and property. Regina Laudis needs our help! Read about it here.

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Oscars 2011 and a nun

Dolores Hart OSB.jpgNot surprising that many people are interested in sensational stories like “Mother Dolores Hart: The Nun Who Kissed Elvis Presley.” I guess kissing Elvis is akin to winning the jackpot. Each to his or her own! Thom Geier’s story is exactly titled such on EW.com. I have to admit, however, I am fascinated –to a degree– by this woman’s gesture of following a vocation that had in mind her eternal destiny and not just money, fame and power. Hart’s life and enduring witness to Christ at the Abbey of Regina Laudis, Bethlehem, CT, is inspiring. Who wouldn’t be inspired by a beautiful woman giving her life to God through monastic consecration!


The following gives a flavor of Geier’s article: “Over the course of nearly half a century as a Roman
Catholic nun, Mother Dolores has had many jobs: choir member, baker, and coffin
maker. She’s served as prioress, the convent’s second in command, for nine
years. But for the past two decades, she has spent a good deal of time each
winter on another assignment that harks back to her earlier, pre-monastic life:
Oscar voter.”

Mother Dolores’ autobiography ought to be out soon.

The Crèche at Regina Laudis: The Timeless story of a birth in Bethlehem …


crèche Regina Laudis.JPG

If the crèche at
the Abbey of
Regina Laudis
strikes you as a little out place, there’s a good
reason. The austere Yankee barn that houses it is a world away from its previous
home. Handcrafted by artisans in Naples, the intricate nativity scene was
presented as a coronation gift to Victor Amadeus II, king of Sardina, in 1720.
It remained among Italian nobility until it was purchased by Loretta Hines
Howard, an artist and collector, in 1949. She immediately donated it to what
was then a fledgling Benedictine Abbey in, fittingly, Bethlehem, Connecticut
(although the nuns insist the name is a coincidence). 

The crèche takes a few
liberties with the traditional nativity story. Instead of a Judean village,
Bethlehem appears here somewhere on the coast of Italy. The stable has been
replaced by Corinthian columns, and the traditional kings and shepherds are
joined by a whole host of other characters, who have shed their New Testament
robes for 18th-century knickers and coats. In one corner, some
peasants argue over the contents of a stem pot. In another, a noblewoman walks
her whippet on a leash. The crowd is puzzling at first, though it may
serve  a distinct purpose. “For as
many people as there are, there are attitudes toward the birth of Christ,” says
Sister Angèle Arbib, who helps care for the crèche. She points out some figures
who seems reverential, others who seem distracted or dis-believing: “It’s so
representative. When people come here to see the crèche, they identify with
someone in here.”

And people of all faiths do come to see it. The mass of
Christmas pilgrims has returned after a recent restoration had taken the crèche
out of public view for three years. Conservators from New York’s Metropolitan
Museum of Art painstakingly repaired each of the 68 figures and the tiny
hand-sewn outfits they wear. The results are stunning. The crèche now stands as
a testament to the continued support of the community of nuns,
preservationists, and believers that has formed around it. It’s fitting. After
all, what is a nativity other than a story of people coming together?

Justin
Shatwell


Yankee

November/December, Vol. 74, No. 6.

Abbey of Regina Laudis

273 Flanders Road

Bethlehem, CT

The crèche is open to the public daily 10-4 through Jan. 5 (closed Jan. 6-Apr. 24)

203.266.7727


Some pictures today

I went to Mass this morning at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, CT and then spent the morning meeting with Mother Lucia. We had a wonderful conversation about life, God, Church, monastic life. My father brought home the finished replica of the 1910 Flying Merkel. Some pictures follow…

altar-2.JPG
sanctuary.JPG
no incense.JPG
Dad & Mom with Merkel Sept 2 2010.JPG
more Merkel-f.JPG

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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