Not long before his foundation of the Order of Friars Preachers, Saint Dominic founded the Dominican nuns in 1207, gathering converts from the Albigensian heresy in the Monastery of Blessed Mary of Prouille near Fanjeaux, France. He set them upon a preaching mission, instructing them to live a contemplative life and study the Word of God. Today, Dominican nuns follow that life in countries around the world.
In Los Angeles, the Monastery of the Angels was created in 1924 by Mother Mary of the Eucharist from the Dominican Monastery in Newark, New Jersey, the first such enclave in the United States. She arrived at the invitation of the Archbishop Cantwell of Los Angeles. Mother Mary was also accompanied by four other nuns from Newark: Sister Mary of Jesus, Sister Mary Raphael, Sister Mary Gabriel and Sister Mary of the Immaculate Conception.
The sisters' initial residence was on 28th Street in downtown Los Angeles. They were able to live a monastic life there until it became possible to purchase land on which to build a permanent home in the 1930s. A hilly property became available in the Hollywood area, and the Monastery of the Angels moved from 28th Street to its present location on Carmen Avenue, one block north of Franklin on North Gower, within sight of the famous Hollywood sign in Hollywood Hills.
The Giroux Family Mansion occupied the area at the bottom of the hill, and that is where the nuns set up their domicile. In place of the property's grand fountain, they erected a Statue of Our Lady. Behind the mansion at the top of the rise, so-called "Monastery Hill,'' they put up a Statue of the Sacred Heart. The space in front of the mansion, with its landscaped gardens and lawns, was marked for development of the monastery proper.
Dominican nuns living a inside a Hollywood mansion might seen a bit of a dichotomy, but the sisters adapted as best they could, "bearing witness to Christ where that witness was needed most,'' until after World War Two. The first section of the permanent monastery was finished just in time to celebrate Christmas Midnight Mass in 1948.
Today, the Monastery of the Angels shows little sign of its non-contemplative past. Its Chapel of Perpetual Adoration now serves as the center of the monastic complex, where visitors as well as residents may say their prayers and spend their holy hours. The sisters take turns praying, night and day, so that one or another continually perpetuates the act of adoration.
Meals here are eaten silently in a large room called the Refectory. Sleep takes place intermittently in monastic cells. A life of "hiddenness'' goes on quietly behind the monastery walls, devoted to spiritual reading, meditation, never-ending prayer, penance, contemplation, and unceasing adoration.
The Gift Shop of the Monastery of the Angels is open daily except Sundays from 8:30am until 5pm. The specialty items sold here are made by the nuns and include creative cards, crocheted and knitted items, original paintings, pumpkin bread and hand-made candies. Also on sale are candles, books and religious objects. The shop accepts enrollments in the Venite Adoremus Association and issues Prayer Association cards, too.
The Monastery of the Angels is located within walking distance of Hollywood Boulevard at 1977 Carmen Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90068-4098. Visitors are extended an open invitation to come pray with the residents. Access from Burbank Airport is more convenient than from LAX. The gate is open daily from 5am to 5pm.