Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God, O.S.B. is founder of Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel’s Hope (www.motherofisraelshope.org), a new religious congregation currently headquartered in the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma, under the leadership of Bishop Edward Slattery. The former Rosalind Moss was born into a Jewish home in Brooklyn, New York, but converted to evangelical Christianity and then to Catholicism. She worked on the staff of Catholic Answers in San Diego for nine years, before leaving to found her religious congregation.
Mother Miriam spent a year in Europe living with women’s religious communities to learn the basics of religious life, and is now interviewing candidates for her new community. She has had more than a thousand queries from interested women; she plans to select six by the end of the year who will join with her in establishing the community.
In conjunction with Catholic Answers, for 12 years she was a guest of the Catholic radio program From the Heart, and in April 2015 began a new radio program through Immaculate Heart Radio, Heart to Heart with Mother Miriam.
CWR: What is the mission or charism of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel’s Hope?
Mother Miriam: Our purpose is to help restore God’s design for the family. We want to help Catholic families know who they are, their identity and vocation, and that they are called by God, by Love and for love. We work with non-Catholic families as well.
Our apostolate is to be handmaids of the family. If a family has an elderly member that is dying, we’ll be there to help them. If a mother comes home with a sixth child and is overwhelmed, we’ll be there to help. We would love to help families pray together, to set up a prayer table and begin by praying even one Hail Mary a day. It can be utterly life-changing.
One evening, a woman knocked at the door of our priory to ask for help for an elderly man whose house had been badly damaged in a tornado. We’re helping him find people to rebuild his house. Another time I met someone in a coffee shop in great need, so we’re doing what we can to help.
CWR: You also strongly identify with the traditional religious habit.
Mother Miriam: Yes. We walk the streets in full habit. When I was 20, I was a single Jewish woman who didn’t know Christ. The shortening of nuns’ habits had an enormous impact on me, however. I felt a deep and immediate loss. Twenty-six years later, the same “holy shock” went through me when I was challenged to look into the claim of the Catholic Church that it was the one true Church founded by Christ.
My dream has long been to return the hemline of the religious habit to the floor and to the world, as the glorious sign to God that it is.
I recently spent time studying religious life in Ireland, where I was greeted by sisters in pantsuits and running suits. You would have no clue if you saw them in the street that they were sisters. It is deeply grievous to me.
I think many sisters abandoned the habit because they had the mistaken notion that religious had to be like the people to whom they ministered. But the people do not need religious to be one of them, just as children don’t need their parents to be peers or friends, but to lead them to heaven.
Other sisters got tired of the habit, because they thought it was hot, uncomfortable and too difficult to maintain.
I feel like a hanger for the habit. I walk the streets and shopping malls wearing it. People come up to me all the time asking, “Are you a nun? I thought they were extinct!” People ask me for prayer. It brings hope to the world.
I love the habit. I’d sleep in it if I could. I suspect some of those sisters who abandoned it regret it. They’d go back to it, but fear their community would ostracize them if they did.
CWR: What concerns do you have about family life?
Mother Miriam: It is God’s number one design to build His kingdom, and the Enemy’s number one target to destroy. This destruction seems to be happening at breakneck speed. When the Enemy destroys the family, he destroys society. This attack has primarily happened within the Church; as Pope Paul VI famously said, the “smoke of Satan” has entered the Church.
A Catholic who is not a priest or nun has the very first and most vital calling we have as human beings: to marry and multiply the kingdom of God on Earth. I accept that a religious calling is higher than marriage, but I cannot see anything more glorious than a man and woman joined as one in marriage. If they are truly open to life-giving love and living according to God’s design amidst many trials, it is in a great measure to live heaven on Earth.
CWR: What was your reaction to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision redefining marriage, mandating that all 50 states accept “same-sex marriage”?
Mother Miriam: Utter, utter grief. I was not surprised, but nonetheless I was deeply grieved.
People have asked me what I think of “same-sex marriage.” I tell them that I have no opinion on it, because it does not and cannot exist. There is no such thing. Human beings cannot define marriage; they can decide to live immoral lifestyles, but what they do is not marriage.
God has left Christians to be lights in the world. This “same-sex marriage” ruling gives us a great opportunity to be lights in the darkness.
CWR: Not long ago, “same-sex marriage” was unthinkable. Do you marvel at the speed in which it has been widely accepted in society?
Mother Miriam: Yes. It has happened very quickly. I used to use the example of putting the frog in the boiling water: if you drop him in boiling water he’ll jump out, if you put him in cool water and slowly turn up the temperature you can boil him to death. But now I use a new illustration. There is a lily you can put into a pond that doubles in size every day. The question I ask is that if it takes 29 days for the lily to cover half the pond, how many more days for the lily to cover all of it? Not another 29 days, but one.
Pope Benedict XVI himself, in his private writings, spoke about the Church having to go underground in our day, due to the evil that pervades civil governments. But, for me, the greatest tragedy is priests and bishops who have defected from the faith and have not taught the sheep or who, by their silence or poor example, have led them astray. This is far more grievous than what is happening in the world today. In fact, if bishops were not afraid, if they truly believed the Faith and taught the truth and Catholics knew their faith, we would not be as threatened as we are.
CWR: What are your thoughts on last year’s Synod on the Family in Rome?
Mother Miriam: It was tragic. There was a confusion that came out of it that the bishops should not have allowed.
And, with the continuation of the Synod this October, there’s going to be a discussion about the possibility of giving Communion to the divorced and remarried. That is something that should not even be a topic. It should be off the plate. It simply is not a Catholic question. Should we reconsider whether or not murder is legitimate? It would be no less absurd than discussing whether or not Catholics should receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord in an unworthy and gravely immoral manner.
Families need direction and solid help that coincides with our faith so that we know how to live.
CWR: There is also a need to address the contraceptive mentality, which is depopulating much of the developed world.
Mother Miriam: Oh, yes. The people of Israel, for example, are putting themselves out of existence. The death rate is higher than the birth rate, and young couples are not getting married. This is true in many parts of the world.
The contraceptive mentality has had a tragic effect on society. But, many young people don’t have good examples to follow. The father is not living in the home because parents are divorced or never married; sometimes the mother is not involved. Young people don’t have examples of good marriages. We need the example of holy families, so we can build the domestic church.
CWR: What are you hoping this second phase of the Synod will produce?
Mother Miriam: I’d love to simply see the faith taught, with the truth restored in clarity and not a single compromise made. I’d like to see the truth of marriage and the family proclaimed: that marriage is for life, that it is a sacrament, that no one should be having extramarital intimacy and that no one should be using contraceptives.
I’d like to hear that the wife’s number one vocation is to make her husband a saint, and that the husband’s number one vocation is to make his wife a saint. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has said that the greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother, and the greatest gift a mother can give her children is to love their father. The children will learn what they see. If they see love, they will learn love.
CWR: How did the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel’s Hope get its start?
Mother Miriam: Cardinal Raymond Burke, when he was Archbishop of St. Louis, knew of my dream for this new congregation and invited me to found the community in his archdiocese. A month after I arrived, he was called to Rome by Pope Benedict, and the new archbishop did not want the community to continue in the archdiocese. I contacted five bishops, and Bishop Slattery invited me to Tulsa. I’m now under Bishop Slattery, who is a holy bishop and a true father to his flock.
Two years ago I went to Angers, France with a foundational group of six women. We stayed with a community of Benedictine sisters to experience the beauties of religious life. I wanted my community to experience, from its inception, the beauty of reverence and the freedom of obedience. However, we faced difficulties we didn’t anticipate, and in four months all six were gone.
I’m back in Tulsa in a three-bedroom house, which has been divided into seven cells, so there is room for me and another six women. We have no age limit—we take women from 18 to 118—most of the more than 1,000 who have inquired are in their 50s and 60s. We’re not an order for older women, however; we very much want to invite all age groups, especially younger women.
From the women who are inquiring I can select only six to enter next January. I’m praying that God will one day give us a huge, beautiful convent, wherever it is, that has room for many more women. The needs are huge, and the women who are applying have a heart for the family and want to spend the rest of their lives serving our Lord.
CWR: Who would be a good fit for your community?
Mother Miriam: Women who love God and who love the Church and every single doctrine She teaches. We cannot impart what we do not love.
We need women healthy enough to participate in a contemplative-active apostolate. We’re under the Rule of St. Benedict. We begin with Lauds at 5:30 a.m. We also pray Vespers and Compline, have a daily Holy Hour and the Rosary. We have a common schedule and share common meals.
I desire women who have a pioneering spirit, and are amenable to change, women who are flexible, mature and courageous, women who are ready to suffer and to give their all.
Obedience is also important, although it can be extremely difficult for a woman who has been making her own decisions throughout her adult life. Every woman knows this in advance. It is vital.
If God allows us to receive 500 women, I’d love to have communities in the ghetto as well as wealthy neighborhoods. But all who participate must understand we are not a social service organization. We’re a religious community not trying to fix the world, but to bring the love, the presence and the truths of God to help restore what the Enemy has distorted and destroyed.
CWR: What challenges have you faced?
Mother Miriam: It is often the women who enter or who desire to enter who bring with them the greatest difficulties. They come from a world that is “me-centered,” and lack a great deal of formation, even in Christianity. I’ve been told not to take anyone from a dysfunctional home, but it’s difficult today to find anyone who is not from one! The family has been so destroyed, and many in society have been poorly formed.
Also, although we’re a happy and joyful community, we keep a great deal of silence in the priory. This can be difficult for women who are used to much speaking!
The one thing that cannot be tolerated is gossip. Gossip is poison. It kills. It is the one thing above all others for which a woman would be dismissed.
CWR: What is the focus of your new radio program?
Mother Miriam: I am free to speak about any subject at all, so we speak a lot about the family. It’s been going wonderfully well. As I once said to Cardinal Burke, what I live for, 24-7, is to put my arms around the whole world and to tell them about Christ and His Church. Immaculate Heart Radio is helping me to do that!
CWR: Was it difficult for your Jewish family to accept your conversion to Christianity?
Mother Miriam: Both my brother, David Moss, and I converted to Christianity, and for two years, we couldn’t go into our parents’ home, and they wouldn’t go into ours. In their mindset, there are two kinds of people, Jews and non-Jews. To leave the Jewish faith was considered not only to betray but to diminish the people of Israel.
But, before they died, they both gave their lives to Christ in the Baptist church. (I converted to Catholicism after their death.) My younger sister, Susan, also gave her life to Christ.
When others in the family found out about my parents’ conversion, they took away their burial plots. To this day, my siblings and I are not allowed into the homes of some of our relatives. The name of Christ is not allowed to be spoken in such homes.
It’s been 38 years since I became an evangelical Christian, and 20 years since I became Catholic. I cannot get over the fact that I believe, that I see, when so many others do not. Faith is a gift.
CWR: What brought you into the Catholic Church?
Mother Miriam: Primarily it was due to the influence of my brother David and Scott Hahn. My brother became a Catholic 16 years before me, and today heads up the Association of Hebrew Catholics. He was once an atheist, but never stopped searching for truth.
I listened to four hours of audiotapes of Scott Hahn debating a Presbyterian minister. At the end of the debate, Scott declared that the one who looks into the claims of the Catholic Church will discover a holy shock and glorious amazement to find out what he had been fighting against is, in fact, the Church Christ founded 2,000 years ago.
I stood paralyzed on the spot. “Oh, no,” I thought. “Don’t tell me there is any truth to this!” But, I knew that if I did not look into the claims of the Catholic Church, I would be turning away from God. My journey into the Catholic Church had begun.
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