31 December 2006

The Holy Family - on the move!

It seems, each year, that the Feast of the Holy Family suffers some unfortunate liturgical fate. Last year, in the shortest Christmastide possible, it was relegated to a Friday and first Vespers were omitted. This year, it assumes its usual place on a Sunday but cedes its second Vespers to the Solemnity of Mary on 1 January.

Despite the liturgical aerobics that this happy Feast suffers, it offers us an opportunity to reflect on the time that Jesus spent with Mary and Joseph -- a time about which we know very little. The story of the finding in the temple, which we hear in today's Gospel, is the only documented pericope we have of the years between the Jesus' presentation in the temple and his baptism. Whatever the events that filled the silent years spent together, we can presume that the Holy Family experienced the joys and sorrows common to all families - and we can presume that they received those joys and sorrows with unparalleled grace.

As we experience the day-to-day events in our family, our parish, our community, etc., let us remember that every feeling we experience has first passed through the Most Sacred Heart of our Lord. And, although none of our families can approximate the holiness of the Holy Family, we can trust that, in some way, the feelings of frustration or helplessness that we may feel when we watch a loved one suffer -- or that we may experience ourselves -- were not entirely unknown to the Holy Family. Let us look to this first domestic Church for strength and consolation for each of our families. Let us entrust to Mary's and Joseph's care all families who are in special need of healing.

"Not that there is any comparison . . . yet still we may say that it was a trinity on earth representing in some sort the most holy Trinity -- Mary, Jesus and Joseph; Joseph, Jesus and Mary -- a trinity worth indeed to be honored and greatly esteemed."
St. Francis de Sales

25 December 2006

The Lord is Come!

The desert shall bloom with flowers; the Lord is near!
The desert has bloomed with flowers; the Lord is come!

This is an unusual Christmas for us, in many ways. We are counting down the days to the end of our exile and we are trying make Christmas as smooth and prayerful a celebration as possible, given the limitations of our living conditions. So, why are orchids in bloom in Washington DC in December? Indeed, this is an unusual Christmas! It seems that our Sister Leonie Therese has been coaxing these orchids to bloom (without success) for four years. Recently, in the Fennessy refugee camp, the over zealous radiators have caused some areas to reach 85-90 degrees (with the windows open!) When sister placed the orchids near the "rainforest" they began to bloom and they are simply majestic. There are four more buds just beginning to bloom -- perhaps they will come out in time for the Solemnity of Mary!
All kidding aside, as we celebrate the coming of our Lord, we rejoice and give thanks for all the blessings we have received in the past year -- most especially the kindness and generosity of our benefactors who are making the renovation of our monastery a dream come true. We anticipate moving in within a month or so. Stay tuned for pictures!

A happy and holy Christmas to our readers.
With love from your Sisters of the Visitation of Georgetown.

23 December 2006

O Emmanuel!

Today we sing the last of the Great O Antihons. The apostrophe of this last antiphon has become the title (and first verse) for the popular Advent hymn.

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, expectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: Veni ad salvandum nos Domine Deus noster.
O Emmanuel, our King and law-giver, the desire of the nations and their Savior: come and save us Lord our God.

Historians who study these antiphons have discovered that the first letter of the Latin titles, spelled backwards reveals: "Ero cras" (I will be tomorrow.) Either the historians need a hobby or the monk who penned these hallowed verses embedded them, from every angle, with hints of the promise that is fulfilled in the incarnation. Presuming the latter, we approach this penultimate day of waiting with great hope for we trust that He, the long-desired of nations, will come and be born again in the hearts of those who seek him. As we make our last-minute preparations these next two days, let us ask for the grace of stillness. Come, Lord Jesus.

22 December 2006

O Rex Gentium!

The King is coming and today we recall His unifying role, making both to be one, as he includes the Gentiles among the sons of Israel as those he has come to save.
O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: Veni, et salve hominem, quem de limo formasti.
O King of the Nations, and their desire, the cornerstone, who makes both to be one: Come and save mankind, whom you formed from clay.
The long-desired Messiah approaches and we rejoice because our weak and frail human nature will be restored to its original dignity when it is embraced and worn by the King of kings. God repairs our broken humanity by becoming one of us and we marvel at how He who formed us from clay is come among us as a fragile baby. The Creator entrusts his creation, whom he formed from clay, with Himself. Indeed, too great a mystery for us to comprehend -- one can only marvel and adore the mystery of God made man in the form of a child. O come, let us adore!
"Behold God incarnate! How beautiful it has been to reflect on the very profound mystery of our Savior's Incarnation! This mystery is so exalted and so profound that we understand next to nothing about it. Finally, some day in Heaven above, we will grasp it fully."
St. Francis de Sales

21 December 2006

O Oriens!

Today we call Christ the "Oriens," the rising brightness, the dawn. The Latin verb "orior" literally means "to rise up" or "to be born" and, used substantively, it has come to signify the rising of the sun in the east.

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae et sol iustitiae: Veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris et umbra mortis.
O Rising brightness of everlasting light and Sun of justice: come and enlighten those sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death.
The word "oriens" as the place where the sun rises, the east, is responsible for the less than politically correct adjective - once popular - referring to things Asian: oriental. It meant, simply, from the east. Today, "orientation" has become synonymous for "direction" but, in a more accurate reading, it really means a turning to the east, a turning to the rising sun, a turning to Christ.
Let us turn ourselves to the east, to the Rising brightness who comes to the hearts of the faithful who seek him. When He comes, let Him find us neither unprepared nor afraid, like those who, squinting, miss the splendor of the sunrise. Let us greet the Rising dawn with words of praise and grateful hearts. Come, Lord Jesus.

20 December 2006

O Clavis David!

Today's O Antiphon uses a title that is "new" inasmuch as it is used for the first time, as a title, in this antiphon. The "key of David," the six-pointed star, is born and illumines the darkness, just as it once lit the night sky over that humble manger in Bethlehem.
O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel: qui aperis et nemo claudit; claudis et nemo aperit: Veni et educ vinctum de domo carceris sedentem in tenebris et umbra mortis.
O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel: who opens and none shall close, closes and none shall open: Come and lead out from the prison house the one in chains who sits in darkness and the shadow of death.
Jesus is the key that unlocks the gate of heaven. Man is held captive, chained by sin and temptation, walking a road that leads only to despair and death. The law, the old covenant, did not lead men to freedom -- it was yet another fetter waiting to be unlocked. Jesus is the long-awaited messiah. And by his coming among us as man, Jesus ended the reign of sin and death.
As we prepare for Jesus' coming, let us examine our hearts for those little trappings that hold us bound. Sometimes we find it difficult to forgive someone and we are held captive by a feeling of guilt or sorrow. Perhaps we struggle with an addiction that makes it difficult for us to carry out our daily responsibilities and we are held captive by a feeling of helplessness. Whatever it is that restrains our heart can be loosed by the power of the mighty Key of David -- and the wise still seek that six-pointed star in the dark sky that veils the dawn of his coming.

19 December 2006

O Radix Jesse!

The third antiphon, sung tonight, calls Jesus the "Root of Jesse," identifying him with his ancestral line as a son of David, the son of Jesse.
O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: Veni ad liberandum nos, iam noli tardare.
O Root of Jesse, who stands as a sign for the peoples, before whom kings will fall silent, whom the nations will entreat: Come and free us now, do not tarry.
Jesus' lineage as a son of Jesse is important for many reasons -- one of which is Jesse's own heritage. Jesse was the son of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Ruth herself is a significant figure: she was a Moabite woman and the widow of a Bethlehemite. When her mother-in-law Naomi chose to return to Bethlehem, Ruth insisted on going with her. In Israel, Ruth married Boaz and they became the parents of Obed (the father of Jesse). Had Ruth stayed in Moab and not accompanied Naomi to Bethlehem, the lineage of King David, the royal line in which Jesus was to follow, might never have come to be.
Ruth's fidelity to her mother-in-law and to the daily work of gleaning the fields for food were both significant factors which led to her becoming the wife of Boaz, the mother of Obed, the grandmother of Jesse and the great-grandmother of King David. As we await the birth of another little boy in the city of Bethlehem, let us ask for the grace to be faithful to the Lord in all that is asked of us each day -- for we can never estimate the far-reaching effects of our fidelity.

18 December 2006

O Adonai!

This second of the Great O Antiphons heralds the coming of the Lord, as the promised leader of the House of Israel -- He who approached Moses on Mount Sinai.
O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: Veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
O Lord, and Leader of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the red fire of flame and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with outstretched arm.
Moses himself was a leader of the House of Israel who led his people out of slavery to the Egyptians, a foreshadowing of the great Leader who would lead His people out of slavery to sin and death. Moses was a man of great faith who led his people not only by his deeds but also by his prayers. When, to avoid the Philistines, the Israelites took a longer route through the desert and encountered the Amalekites, Moses appointed Joshua to lead the Israelites in battle. Moses did not rest secure in Joshua and his men, however, he went up a hill and prayed for his people. Through his intercession, the Israelites continued their journey toward the promised land.
Let us learn from Moses that the Lord who trusts us with the responsibilities that come our way -- be they to our family, our employer, our community, our parish, etc. -- also trusts us to trust Him. Let us not forget to ask the Lord's blessing and assistance on all that we undertake in His name. For his arm is outstretched to help those who call upon Him.

17 December 2006

O Sapientia!

This evening we begin the Great O Antiphons of Advent. In the shortest Advent the calendar can possibly provide for us, these ancient antiphons begin on Gaudete Sunday and continue for the duration of the third week of Advent.

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: Veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
O Wisdom, you who come forth from the mouth of the Most High, and reaching from end to end, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.
This first antiphon reminds us of Christ's role in creation. It is striking that we proclaim how the Lord reaches "from end to end, ordering all things mightily" while we wait for His coming among us as a baby. This mighty Lord whose birth changed the world and whose death brought salvation will be born of woman and laid in a manger. That Christ came among us as a child tells us a great deal about his humility, a humility that we are invited to cultivate. Let us pray for the grace to imitate the Lord in this profound humility which prepares our hearts follow Him more closely.
"Humility and charity are united like St. John the Baptist and Our Lord. Humility is the forerunner and precursor of charity . . . . humility must come in order to empty hearts that they might then receive charity."
St. Francis de Sales

15 December 2006

The Advent Journey Continues

The prophet Isaiah reminds us, in today's first reading, that the Lord will lead us on the way we should go. It is a consoling reminder that He goes before us, He leads us and He will not lead us astray. It is also a "reality check" -- as some of our students might call it -- because we know that the way which the Lord has marked out for us is not always the one we might prefer. It is hard to see the Lord's hand at work when circumstances unfold in ways that frustrate us, challenge us and cause us or those we love to suffer. It is at these times, however, when we must remember that the Lord's own road led him to the cross, for love of us. And, for love of us, He will not leave us to walk alone if we follow Him. When we do not understand why the Lord permits certain challenges to befall us and when we cannot see the road ahead, let us ask for the grace to trust Him and to trust that He knows the road by which we should go.

"Live each day well, eat what is given you, and you will nourish yourself well by putting that into practice. Leave the rest to Divine Providence, which will surely provide sufficiently for your needs. Use well only what is given you, and be free of all other care."
St. Francis de Sales

12 December 2006

Profession Pictures -- part III

Most of our fellow Visitandines in other parts of the world are celebrating the Solemnity of Our Holy Mother, St. Jane de Chantal today. Here in North America, she's been moved to August for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Little by little we are receiving photos from friends and family who were in attendance at the profession on 1 December. We have a few more pictures (at great risk of boring our faithful readers) and a few more customs to share.

Sister Maureen and Sister Anne Elizabeth kneel after their profession for the solemn blessing. Much like our formula for the profession of vows, this blessing has been used for many generations of sisters:

Father in heaven, our desire to serve you is itself your gift.
And our perseverance needs your guiding hand.
How right it is that we should sing your praise.

With boundless love you created the human family through your word, in the Holy Spirit,
And lifted it up into communion with yourself;
You make the human family your bride,
radiant with your own likeness, adorned with gifts of everlasting life.

When your bride, deceived by the evil one, broke faith with you, you did not abandon her.
With everlasting love you renewed with your servant Noah the covenant you had made with Adam.

Then you chose Abraham, the man of faith,
to be the father of a people more numerous than the stars of heaven.
By the hand of Moses you sealed a covenant with them in the tables of the law.
Throughout the ages there arose from this favored people
Holy women renowned for devotion and courage, justice and faith.

In the fullness of time you raised up the Holy Virgin from the stock of Jesse.
The Holy Spirit was to come upon her, and your power was to overshadow her,
Making her the Immaculate Mother of the world’s Redeemer.

He became poor, humble and obedient, the source and pattern of all holiness.
He formed the Church into his bride by loving it with love so great that
he gave himself up for it and sanctified it in his blood.

Father, in your loving wisdom, you have singled out many of your daughters to be disciples espoused to Christ and to receive the honor of his love.

Father, we earnestly pray you:
Send the fire of your Holy Spirit into the heart of this, your daughter, to keep alive within her the holy desire He has given her.

Lord, may the glory of Baptism and holiness of life shine in her heart.
Strengthened by the vows of her consecration, may she always be one with you in loving fidelity to Christ, her only Bridegroom.

May she cherish the Church as her mother, and love the whole world as your creation, teaching all people to look forward in joy and hope to the good things of heaven.
Lord, holy Father, guide the steps of your servant and guard her on her pilgrimage though life. When she comes at last to the throne of Christ her King may she not fear him as her judge, but hear the voice of her Bridegroom lovingly inviting her to the wedding feast of heaven.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. AMEN!

One pious practice that our community observes is the tradition of placing prayer intentions in the pockets of those about to be professed. For it is believed that when they prostrate under the pall the prayers are placed before the Lord in a very special way, as the sisters prepare to offer their lives to the Lord. Pictured above is our faithful master of ceremonies, David, adjusting the pall (just in case sister had hopes of breathing!)

The crucifix presented to a sister at her solemn profession is, traditionally, placed on her pillow each morning after she makes her bed. Although it may seem to be an odd place for a crucifix (since our rooms all have one hanging on the wall), the crucifix of profession is a daily reminder of the permanence of our consecration to the Lord, which teaches us to seek no glory but that of his cross.

"For I have chosen and have sanctified this place that my name may be there forever and my eyes and my heart may remain there perpetually."

2 Chronicles 7:16

10 December 2006

Second Sunday of Advent

On one of his two feast days during the past year, St. John the Baptist received an unusual tribute at morning Mass: one of our chaplains told the story of how, as a little boy, he heard St. John the Baptist referred to as the "precursor" to Jesus -- and he thought it meant that the saintly herald went around saying bad words. Father went on to explain that he later learned that the word "precursor" comes to us from the Latin verb "to run," suggesting, of course, that St. John the Baptist "ran ahead" of Jesus and prepared his way.

We can take today's Gospel, to heart -- literally -- and allow St. John the Baptist's words to run ahead and prepare a path in our own hearts for the coming of the Lord. The prophet Isaiah's proclamation promises that every mountain and hill will be leveled and every valley will be filled. Let us locate those "mountains" in our own hearts -- those obstacles that keep us from responding with love to all that the Lord asks of us; let us find the "valleys" of our hearts -- those little spiritual pitfalls which await us -- and let us ask the Lord for grace to allow ourselves to be changed. The contour of our heart -- with its mountains and valleys -- may be a little different each Advent, but we are invited to find those growing edges where, with God's grace, we may straighten and make smooth the road for Him who comes. Let us pray that, during this most sacred season, we may prepare a place in our hearts worthy of the coming of the newborn King.
"St. John was the son of Zachary and the word of God came to him not merely that he might treasure it within himself but that he might also communicate it to others."
St. Francis de Sales

07 December 2006

Profession Pictures - Part II

We have a few more pictures from the profession to share ... and a few explanations of our customs and traditions.

After the sisters have made their profession, signed their vows and received the crucifix and candle, the monastic community extends a sign of welcome (not to be confused with the kiss of peace which occurs at its usual place in the Mass).

Mother Philomena looks on as Sister Maureen and Sister Anne Elizabeth greet each other in the monastic welcome.

The meeting of the "Annes" -- Sister Anne Francis greets Sister Anne E.

In addition to the monastic welcome, one of our customs here in Georgetown is for the guests to line the front hall after Mass for newly professed to greet them.

The sisters greeted the guests prior to the reception. Sister Maureen is pictured here greeting some of the concelebrants.

The vows are received by the superior who takes the hands of the sister into her own while the vows are pronounced. This formula for solemn profession has been used in our community for generations of sisters:

O Heavens! Hear ye what I say, and let the earth listen to the words of my mouth. To Thee, my Savior, Jesus Christ, my heart speaks though I be but dust and ashes. O my God! To Thee I make the Vows of living in perpetual chastity, poverty and obedience, according to the Rule of St. Augustine and the Constitutions of St. Francis of Sales, for the Congregation of our Lady of the Visitation: for the observance of which, I offer and consecrate to Thy divine Majesty, to the sacred Virgin Mary, Thy Mother our Lady, and to this Congregation, my person and my life. Receive me, O Eternal Father! Into the arms of Thy most merciful Paternity, that I may constantly bear the yoke and burden of Thy Holy service and that I may abandon myself forever and without reserve to Thy divine love, to which I again dedicate and consecrate myself. O most glorious, most sacred, most sweet Virgin Mary! I beseech thee for the love and through the death of thy Son, receive me into the bosom of thy maternal protection. I choose Jesus, my Lord and my God, for the only object of my love. I choose His holy and Sacred Mother for my protection and this Congregation for my perpetual direction. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Stay tuned for a few more pictures . . .

05 December 2006

Profession Photos

We have a first installment of some photos to share -- thanks to our kind benefactors, family and friends of our sisters who shared the role of "photographer." This set of pictures is a collection of highlights. In our next installment, we shall share a few more of our community customs and explain some of the symbols used during the rite of religious profession.

Sister Anne E and Sister Maureen de Chantal stand for the examination prior to the homily.

Prior to pronouncing their vows, the sisters prostrate during the Litany of the Saints and are covered with a pall as a reminder of their baptism and the promises made for them at the moment they became children of God.

Sister Maureen reads the formula for profession.

Sister Anne Elizabeth reads the formula for profession.

The newly professed sign and date their vows.

More pictures to come. . . stay tuned!

03 December 2006

Bethlehem or Bust!

Before we share a little thought about Advent, just an update and a promise that we will have pictures from Friday's profession -- just as soon as our two newly professed collect themselves (and collect some pictures from their friends and family!) From the looks things, they will be writing thank-you notes from now until Easter -- but we promise to interrupt that process and have them post pictures!

Several years ago, one of the greeting card companies made buttons with a star at the top and below it were the words, "Bethlehem or Bust!" In a way, the buttons remind us that as we begin this sacred season of Advent we begin a journey, a journey of the heart -- to Bethlehem, to the manger, to the crib of the newborn King. Like Mary and Joseph, we must travel light. We must strip our hearts of all that does not lead us to the Lord -- attachments, anxieties, distractions -- the little things that slow the journey or tempt us to stray from the path. And when we arrive, if we have made the journey well and faithfully, we pray that we may approach the stable with a heart that is "empty" -- ready to be filled with the blessings of this Holy Child.

"Knowing that Divinity was unknown to the human family, the Divine Majesty desired to become incarnate, uniting with human nature so that under this human mantle Divinity could again be acknowledged."
St. Francis de Sales

30 November 2006

New Blogger in the Family

We've got a new blogger in the house! Our Sister Mary Berchmans has begun a blog called, "Visitation Connections" for the purpose of facilitating a forum for dialogue among the six schools in the Visitation Network. If you have a moment to drop in and visit her blog, you can find it here.

If we may be so bold as to say so -- most people, after a long career in administration settle into hobbies such as knitting or crocheting -- and good hobbies they are! We think it is meritorious that Sister Mary Berchmans has included blogging as one of her new "hobbies" (but we're pretty sure we'll still see her doing bargello needlepoint!!)

27 November 2006

Solemn Profession Approaching

In case our readers are wondering why our blogposts have been so few and far between, it might make sense if we mention that two of our more "tech-savvy" sisters have been in retreat since 20 November. Sister Maureen de Chantal and Sister Anne E are making their retreat in preparation for their solemn vows on 1 December. You can be sure that there will be pictures and posts to follow -- once they are both out of retreat. Stay tuned and, in the meantime, keep them in your prayers!

Archbishop Wuerl Visits Visitation!

On Monday 20 November, Archbishop Donal Wuerl celebrated Mass for our school community. He is pictured at left greeting Mother Philomena and Sister Jacqueline after the Mass.

In his homily and closing remarks, His Excellency spoke of the importance of the gift of faith. His homily was crafted as a response to a question posed by a student at another local high school: "What does the Church offer me?" Archbishop Wuerl spoke eloquently to the student body and teased about keeping his closing remarks brief, lest he upset the faculty by making students late to class.

In her opening remarks, school president Sister Mary Berchmans commented that Archbishop Wuerl stands in a long line of bishops who have counted Georgetown Visitation among the sheep of their flock -- beginning with our founder, Archbishop Leonard Neale, second bishop of Baltimore.

Georgetown Visitation is grateful for Archbishop Wuerl's visit and hope that it is the first of many such occasions.

19 November 2006

A Talking Head

It looks like a talking head, but it's actually our very own Sister Anne E, who was interviewed back in June by the Washington Post's on-line department. One would hardly know that Sister is rather shy and - most especially - camera shy. In the event that Sister seems to jump from topic-to-topic, readers should be aware that the interview was actually a little over an hour and it was skillfully edited down to just over two minutes. All kidding aside about the talking head, Sister shares honest (and, at times, amusing) pieces of her story and her journey to follow the Lord. Click here to view this short video.

16 November 2006

A Shower?

It is not exactly a "shower" as you might imagine a soon-to-be bride having, but it is more that we have experienced a great out"pouring" of generosity by our friends, benefactors and alumnae. On Tuesday evening, after supper, our faithful friends, Nan and Kathy, brought samples of material for various aspects of our new monastery.

When we moved out, in April, for this long-awaited renovation, many of us were sleeping on mid-nineteenth century civil war hospital beds. As quaint as it may seem, it should be mentioned that some of our bedding appeared to be as old as the beds. In order to prepare us for a fresh, new beginning when we move into the monastery, Nan and Kathy, brought samples of materials and colors for sisters who may need new bedding, towels, etc. We had almost as much fun passing around the samples as we did speculating about what "flamingo" colored towels might look like in a sedate baby-blue cell. We are most grateful to all those whose thoughtfulness and generosity are making our renovation possible. (Nan and Kathy are pictured with some of the sisters who are examining the samples. )

13 November 2006

Sr. Stanislaus and her Patron(s)

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Stanislaus Kostka, patron saint of our faithful infirmarian, Sister Stanislaus -- affectionately called "Sr. Stannie." She is pictured here, (on Ash Wednesday, you might notice) moving a few items into our "temporary infirmary," which has served us well during our time of exile. At current, Sister is making her annual retreat but we will surely celebrate in her honor. Sister is the third "Stanislaus" in the history of our monastery -- spanning an almost-unbroken two centuries with a "Sister Stanislaus" in our community.

For years the feast of St. Stanislaus Kostka was a "recreation day" for the sisters in the novitiate (our newer members remind us continually about the renewing this tradition). When Sister made her solemn vows and left the novitiate, she was made an honorary member of the novitiate on 13 November, every year, when she would join them for their recreation day.

It is fitting that, as infirmarian, Sister's Feast Day falls on the commemoration of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, patron saint of hospital administrators. As infirmarian, Sister keeps all of us healthy. The infirmary is, beyond doubt, the neatest, cleanest and most well-organized office in the house. In fact, it is such a pleasant place to visit, it is a wonder we don't get sick more often!
For a biography of St. Stanislaus click here. For a biography of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, first citizen of the United States to be canonized, click here.

10 November 2006

Pope St. Leo the Great

There are many compelling reasons to pray for the Church today -- both the local Church and the Church Universal. The media does not always portray the Church in a charitable light and differences among Catholics are emphasized and -- all too often -- exploited. As discouraging as this can be, it is helpful to remember that the Church has seen difficult times in her past. Today, we commemorate a saint under whose watch the Church saw many difficulties.

During his papacy, St. Leo the Great combated several five and six-syllable heresies as well as an invasion by the Huns. Perhaps one of the intentions closest to his heart was that of Church unity. As we honor his memory today, let us ask his intercession for a greater unity of hearts and minds in the Church.

For a (relatively) short -- but stellar -- homily on the Incarnation, click here.

"I will dwell only on that union which we ought to have with each other. This union has been earnestly preached and taught to us by Our Lord, equally in word and example. . . . To love God without loving the neighbor, who is created in His image and likeness is impossible!"
St. Francis de Sales

07 November 2006

Irritation or Invitation?

So often we hear heaven referred to as the "heavenly banquet." In today's Gospel, Jesus is responding to a fellow guest who remarked about those who will dine in the Kingdom of God; he replies by telling the parable of the invited guests who make excuses as to why they cannot come to the dinner. Although it may be difficult for us to imagine ourselves making excuses, at the last minute, about why we are unable to attend a formal event we might consider the metaphor on its deeper level. If it is the Kingdom of God to which we are invited, how often do we make excuses?

We are invited to a foretaste of heaven, here on earth, when we live in accord with God's will -- in union with His heart. How often are we presented with opportunities to taste heaven and how often do we mistake them for something else? Perhaps we are assigned to work with someone who is very skilled at trying our patience. Do we see it as an irritation and try to get out of the assignment or do we see it as an invitation from the Lord to make his Kingdom present by the way in which we cheerfully overlook the shortcomings of our neighbor. Perhaps the only available seat in the lunchroom today is next to someone whom we do not like. Do we see that as an invitation to the heavenly banquet -- to be polite and cordial to one whom we would prefer to avoid or do we think of a reason why we need to have lunch in our office -- or at a later time?

The Kingdom of God is at hand -- at our hands -- we have only to respond generously and lovingly.

"Let us walk joyously among the difficulties of this passing life; let us embrace with open arms all the mortifications and afflictions that we will meet on our way, since we are sure that these pains will have an end when our mortal life ends."
St. Francis de Sales

04 November 2006

Humility: True or False?

Today's Gospel is a gentle reminder to cultivate that very attractive -- yet very hidden -- virtue of humility. Jesus gives us the example of one who seats himself at a wedding, suggesting that he should seek of place of lesser honor so as to avoid the humiliation of being demoted, so to speak, were a higher ranking guest to arrive. This example, however, might seem a little foreign to us in a culture where our social structures often preclude such an embarrassing faux pas. Today, most weddings or other formal events have pre-arranged seating assignments. In view of this, we might have a hard time seeing this Gospel as little more than a lesson in politeness.

What Jesus is getting at, it seems, is the interior disposition of the person. We should not seek places of honor, yet we should accept them graciously if they are offered to us. If we were to sit at a lower place in order that we may be noticed when our seat is changed then, perhaps, we have lowered our seat without humbling our heart. If, however, we were to sit at a lower place, content to be there and accept graciously an offer to move higher -- if we receive such an offer -- we find our heart in quite a different place. It is not where we sit that matters so much as how our hearts are disposed. And that is known to God alone.

It should come as no surprise that St. Francis de Sales has a great deal to say about this most august of virtues. This is a mere snippet:
"We pretend to hide ourselves, so that the world may seek us out. We feign to wish ourselves to be considered the last in the company and to sit down at the lowest end of the table, but it is with a view that we may be invited to pass more easily to the upper end. True humility does not make a show of itself or use many humble words; for she desires not only to conceal all other virtues, but most of all to conceal itself."
St. Francis de Sales

01 November 2006

Solemnity of All Saints

Why on earth are we sporting a picture of the Pantheon on the Solemnity of All Saints? We could make our readers guess and hold a little contest in the comment box to see which of our readers knows the history of today's Solemnity...but it's not fair to make our readers guess. The Pantheon was built by the Emperor Hadrian as a temple for "all gods" -- hence the name, borrowed from the Greek. About three centuries after the Church began commemorating "all martyrs" Pope St. Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon as a Christian Church under the patronage of the Mother of God and the Holy Martyrs. Over the course of the next two centuries (and thanks to a couple of Popes named "Gregory") a Chapel in St. Peter's Basilica was dedicated to "all saints" and the Solemnity was formally extended to the whole Church on 1 November. A happy Solemnity to all our readers!

"A sad saint is a sorry saint!"
St. Francis de Sales

29 October 2006

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today's Gospel, the words of the crowd to the blind man are striking -- arresting, even: "Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you." The blind man had been calling out to Jesus to have pity on him and had been rebuked by the crowd; and now that Jesus asked for the blind man to be brought to him, the crowd speaks a word of encouragement. The crowd speaks to us, too.

So often we call upon the Lord, begging for his mercy, asking for the grace to do his will. How often, however, do we stand poised with courage awaiting his response? Most of us, when we pray, have some idea of how we would like the Lord to respond to our plea. We want to desire God's will for us but, sometimes, deep down inside -- if we are really honest -- we hope that what we desire is already a part of God's plan for us. Desiring our will and God's will to be one in the same is a good and noble prayer -- so long as we are open to the Lord's will as it unfolds -- even when it is different from our own designs. This, indeed, is where courage is important. Jesus invites us to tell him our needs; do we have the courage to approach him?

Like the blind man, let us approach the Lord with unreserved courage. Let us call out to him. And when he draws us near -- when we draw near to him in prayer -- and he asks us what we want him to do for us, let us be honest and courageous in how we approach him. Perhaps it is a worthy prayer that we, like the blind man, may be blessed with the Lord's graces on account of our faith. And, like the blind man, let us follow the Lord who has done wonderful things for us.

"It is not sufficient to accept God's will generally.
We must accept it in every detail and circumstance."
St. Francis de Sales

24 October 2006

Pure Gift

This is not an error. You have reached the Monastery blog of the Visitation Sisters of Georgetown. If you think that this "new face" looks too good to be our own work, you are absolutely right. This is the inspiration and the handiwork of our "guardian angel" Rick Lugari. Rick did the lion's share of the work on the templates for our new webpage and now he's blessed us with a "matching gift" for our blog. Rick is the author of the award-winning blog, De Civitate Dei and a founding member of the prodigiously growing blog, Amateur Catholic. We are as grateful as we are excited about our "matching look." Benefactors come in many different forms, sometimes they even come as angels!

**If you are a regular reader and you've got us listed among your favorites, do add us again and overwrite the listing. The nifty "V" that appears next to our name is a further reminder of Rick's creativity and thoughtfulness. **

Coming Soon to a College Near You!

On Thursday our Sister Anne Francis and Sister Anne Elizabeth will be heading to Wheeling, West Virginia for a short stay with our Sisters at Mount de Chantal while they attend the annual vocations fair at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Contrary to the very convincing illustration, they will not be taking the Visitation school bus, they will not be traveling with two stick figures (and Sister Anne Francis probably won't look so carefree if Sister Anne E does most of the driving.) True to the illustration, however, you will see their smiling faces at our table on Friday, 27 October. So, if any of our faithful readers are local to Steubenville, do stop by to meet us -- at least two of us -- in person.

21 October 2006

Don't Mess with the Holy Spirit

Today's Gospel issues a stern warning about blaspheming the Holy Spirit. It is a curious point that a similar offence against the Son of Man can be forgiven when we acknowledge the inherent unity of the Trinity. We can offer no concise explanation delineating the doctrine of the Trinity. We can, however, share one of the more beautiful images which inspired a phrase in our Creed.

Lumen de lumine: light from light, true God from true God, one in being with the Father. . .

It seems, that this very familiar phase in our Nicene Creed came from an early attempt to explain the Trinity by Qunitus Septimus Florens Tertullianus -- known to most of us as "Tertullian." Although his later years as a theologian led him away from the fledgling flock of the early Church into the dangers of Montanism, many of his earlier works are an excellent source of spiritual reading. In an attempt to describe the three distinct persons of the Trinity, Tertullian suggested that the Father is like the sun, the source of Light; the Son can be likened to the rays, and the Holy Spirit is the visible effect of the sun and its rays, though itself not visible: a shadow, perhaps. Light from Light. True God from true God.

An insight such as Tertullian's analogy is surely the fruit of prayer. May we, too, ponder the mystery of the Trinity, a mystery ever ancient, ever new.

"By the Holy Spirit, He has come to us and has come beforehand to us, has come into us and has assisted us, has come with us and led us on, this finishing what He had begun."
St. Francis de Sales

18 October 2006

Meet Sister Mary Roberta!

On Monday afternoon our Sister Earlene made her first religious profession and received the name Sister Mary Roberta.

The blue veil, constitutions and pectoral cross are placed on the altar at the beginning of Mass.

"Sister Earlene" stands with Mother Philomena prior to the entrance procession.

Mother Philomena and Sister Mary de Sales replace the white veil with the blue veil.

Both Sister Mary Roberta and our "brother" David sport their new crosses!

Many thanks to all whose kindness and generosity made Monday's celebration such a joyous one!

16 October 2006

Feast of Our Holy Sister

Today is the feast of our Holy Sister, Saint Margaret Mary. Though only a "commemoration" on the Roman calendar, we have the privilege of celebrating the day as a Feast. For a short biography, click here; for a longer biographical article, click here.

In addition to the joy of the Feast, we are also celebrating the first religious profession of our Sister Earlene. Sister "comes out" of retreat today and returns to the fold before her profession, which will take place during Mass. For locals, the Mass for Sister's profession will be held in our Chapel of the Sacred Heart at 4.30pm. Stay tuned for profession pictures.

But above all preserve peace of heart. This is more valuable than any treasure. In order to preserve it there is nothing more useful than renouncing your own will and substituting for it the will of the divine heart. In this way his will can carry out for us whatever contributes to his glory, and we will be happy to be his subjects and to trust entirely in him.
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

13 October 2006

Unclean Spirits (part II)

Jesus' words, in today's Gospel, about how an unclean spirit will return to a person from whom it was expelled are rather alarming. An honest look at our spiritual lives, however, will reveal the truth of this prediction. How often have we worked at practicing a much-needed virtue or avoiding some particular temptation and not had any indication that we were making any progress. . . only to wake up one day and realize that what once challenged us is no longer a great struggle. We can't pinpoint exactly when this "unclean spirit" was expelled, but we are just aware that a burden has been lifted. As consoling as this may be, it can also be a temptation for us to think that we are above or beyond the temptation that once plagued us. And this is precisely when the unclean spirit, returning with its seven companions, can catch us off guard. True to Jesus' words, the returning spirits will find our hearts "swept clean" and, if we are not vigilant, they can gain a foothold. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to guard our hearts from all temptations -- those we have exiled and those with which we still battle.

For the first post about unclean spirits, click here.

"There is a very great difference between getting rid of a vice and acquiring its contrary virtue. It often happens that our passions slumber and become torpid, and if, while they are in this state, we do not lay in a supply of strength to enable us to fight and resist them when they wake up again, we shall be worsened in the battle."
St. Francis de Sales

10 October 2006

Shameless Promotion

At risk of boring our locals with yet one more plug for this Saturday's retreat day, we thought we could do a little shameless promoting. Fr. Stephen Spahn, SJ, local vocation promoter for the Maryland province of the Society of Jesus, and our own Sister Anne E. have teamed up -- not for a rap concert, as it might appear -- but for a day-long retreat for young men and women who are discerning the Lord's call in their lives. The retreat day will be held from 9am-4pm at the McKenna Center at Holy Trinity Parish, concluding with Mass in our Chapel of the Sacred Heart, here at the Monastery. Interested readers may email to register: aefiore(at)gmail(dot)com. Or, click here to register by email.

09 October 2006

Profession Approaching!

On Saturday night, our Sister Earlene entered retreat for her first profession of vows which will be on the Feast of our Holy Sister, St. Margaret Mary (16 October). We've tried to "predict" what Sister will look like after her retreat -- the wings and the halo may be a slightly different shade of celestial gold, but we thought this was a pretty good estimation. She'll recieve the navy blue veil as well as our pectoral cross (which is really silver -- the turquoise shading was a slip of the mouse!) In addition, Sister Earlene will recieve her religious name. Suggestions for her name have been fluttering around the house but only the Holy Spirit (and the superior) know for sure what Sister's new name will be. All kidding aside, we ask our faithful readers to pray with us for our Sister during this very special time of preparation.

"If we desire to know whether God wishes us to enter Religious life or not, we must not wait until He speaks to our senses or until He sends an Angel from heaven to signify His will to us . . . we must correspond to the first impulse and cultivate it."
St. Francis de Sales

06 October 2006

Blessed and Baseball?

Today is the commemoration of Blessed Marie Rose Durocher, foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. At great risk of scandalizing our readers with this light-hearted speculation, we would like to point out that there has been some question as to whether there is any relationship between the Blessed Marie Rose and the baseball player who shares her last name. Perhaps the timing of post-season baseball division playoffs has something to do with this speculation, but a family resemblance has been suggested between Blessed Marie Rose and Leo Durocher. See below:

Leo Durocher is reputed to have quipped the following: "Baseball is like Church. Many attend, few understand." Since it was Durocher (Leo, that is) who is credited with coining the phrase, "Nice guys finish last," we can take heart in knowing that in the kingdom of heaven the last shall be first and the first shall be last. Perhaps we can safely presume that means that heaven will be filled with "nice guys!" Saint Francis de Sales would agree that being a "nice guy" -- a gentleman -- is an important part of cultivating virtue.

"Sometimes we are too busy trying to be angels that we forget to be good men and women."
St. Francis de Sales

04 October 2006

Il Poverello

Today we honor il poverello, St. Francis of Assisi. Images that depict St. Francis talking to birds and other animals are ubiquitous. Beyond this appealing -- yet incomplete -- picture was a man who was an extraordinary visionary, knew great suffering, and who loved deeply the poor, chaste Christ whom him followed. Click here for a biography of il poverello.

There are at least two -- and perhaps more -- sisters in the necrology of our monastery whose first name in religion was "Assisium." As best we can conclude, this was to honor St. Francis of Assisi, the patron of our Holy Father, St. Francis de Sales. Due to our close proximity to the Jesuits, it is not surprising to find a "Sr. Ignatia" here and a "Sr. Loyola" there, as one walks the rows of our cemetery. In fact, we probably have almost as many permutations of Jesuit saint names as we do "de Chantals," "de Sales" and "Margaret Marys" -- but we are privileged to have a couple of our sisters named especially for the "Other St. Francis."

As we honor this man of prayer, peace and great vision, let us ask his intercession for peace and tranquility in our nations, families and parishes.

"Preach always. Use words when necessary."
St. Francis of Assisi

01 October 2006

Solemn Profession Pictures

As promised, we have a couple of pictures from our trip to Brooklyn.

The bishop presents candles, newly lit from the Pascal candle, to the Sisters as a reminder of thier baptismal promises and as a sign of the Light of Christ.

Mother Susan Marie receives the vows of Sister Judith Marguerite.

As we begin this month of October, let us continue to pray for peace in the world through the intercession of Our Lady.

28 September 2006

Pearls of Wisdom

Yesterday evening we were treated to a wonderful conference by our faithful chaplain, friend and brother, Father Jim Greenfield, OSFS. Father gave a wonderful beginning-of-year retreat to our faculty and Mother invited him to share some of his insights, as they related to community life. The theme of Father's presentation was that of conversion examined through the lens of "holding on" and "letting go." In his usual manner, Father combined a serious spiritual challenge with his usual good humor and genuine enthusiasm for our shared Salesian tradition.

Father Greenfield is currently the local superior of the Oblate community at De Sales Hall hall and is director of formation for the Wilmington-Philadelphia province the Oblates. Click here to learn more about the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. Click here to visit their vocation blog, (updated frequently!!)

26 September 2006

Road Trip!

This weekend, four of us took a road trip to our Monastery of Brooklyn where two of their sisters, Sister Judith Marguerite and Sister Damaris Ines, made their solemn profession. Above is a picture of their novitiate group, taken several years ago; we've indicated the two profitandae with some poorly drawn arrows. As soon as they are available, however, we'll post some pictures from the profession. It was too glorious an occasion not to share.

The solemn profession also marked the 151st anniversary of the foundation of our Brooklyn monastery. Bishop Thomas Daily, bishop emeritus of the diocese of Brooklyn, presided and Mother Susan Marie received the vows of the sisters. In attendance were numerous family and friends of the professed as well as friends of the community.

Those of us who traveled are still aglow from the beautiful ceremony and the gracious hospitality we experienced in Brooklyn. Click here for a link to information about our Monastery of Brooklyn.

"This is the way, my dear Sisters. Grace will never be wanting to us if we are faithful in seconding its attractions; thus will God bless us and our labors."
St. Jane de Chantal

23 September 2006

St. Pio of Pietrelcina

In 2002, Pope John Paul II declared the commemoration of St. Pio of Pietrelcina to be an obligatory memorial for the Roman Church. Surely St. Pio -- known affectionately to most as "Padre Pio" -- is a saint of our times, having died in 1968 at 81 years of age. But John Paul II might have had a more personal reason for elevating the Feast of this extraordinary saint. As a young bishop, John Paul II sent a very special prayer request to the monk who, at the time, was under scrutiny for his extraordinary gifts. Click here for an article about the relationship between John Paul II and Padre Pio.

There are many lessons to be learned from the life of St. Pio but perhaps one lesson that stands out is his fidelity to his vocation. Having become the subject of much scrutiny, Padre Pio was forbidden, for many years, to answer his mail. Amid the discomfort of being watched so closely, Padre Pio was unfailingly obedient to his superiors and unwavering in vocation. The grace of God which gifted Padre Pio with extraordinary gifts also provided him with the grace of perseverance amid the discomforts that he suffered. When we experience challenges in our daily life, when we feel that our actions or the work that we do are scrutinized unfairly or unjustly, let us follow the example of St. Pio and ask for the grace of perseverance.

"The Spirit of God makes us consider beginnings only so as to arrive at the end, and makes us rejoice in the flowers of the spring only in expectation of enjoying the fruits of summer and autumn."
St. Francis de Sales

21 September 2006

Archivist in Exile

As promised, some time ago, we have a little window into one of our refugee camps. (If you are wondering why we're living in exile, click here for a previous post.) Sister Archivist shows the entry way to "The Passage" which is guarded by an electronic lock (lest some of our new and -- at times -- lost freshman stumble into this "refugee camp"). This dormitory hallway was given its appellation by a guest a number of years ago and we have referred to it as "The Passage" ever since! Among the more challenging aspects of being an archivist in exile is locating items in the temporary storage areas provided. Currently, there are six sisters living in this "camp."

Sister Archivist discovers a "blocked staircase" on the Passage. It is protected by a zip-door reinforced with heavy-duty duct tape. Such discoveries are not altogether uncommon during this time of renovation. For although we are living (temporarily) in the school, we cannot seem to escape construction work. In fact, at times, it even seems to follow us!! Perhaps one of the perks, however, of life on the passage is the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and the opportunity for a quiet space for prayer amid the disruption of being out of the monastery for these 6 months. Despite the inconvenience of the construction, we maintain how fortunate we are to remain together and on campus!

18 September 2006

Coming Soon

Later this week we shall have a long-awaited expose on one of our "refugee camps" -- we will spotlight our "Archivist in Exile." Prior to that, however, we'd like to share one of the unexpected "fruits" of our time in exile: Since our "refectory" and our "recreation area" are almost the same room in the "home base camp" -- and since washing supper dishes is much faster while we're in exile, we are able to catch the end of the 6.30 news before 7.00 recreation. This past Friday night ABC news featured an incredible story about their "Person of the week." This young man, Ray Ray McELrathbey, is worth sharing with our readers. Click here for a few other links about this extraordinary story. And while you wait for the page to open, say a prayer of thanksgiving for the grace of God which allowed this young man to overcome his own struggles in order to be such a great "father."

15 September 2006

Mater Dolorosa

It is fitting that the day after we celebrate the Triumph of the Cross we honor Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows. She, who stood in the shadow of the cross, is remembered for the pain and sorrow that pierced her Immaculate Heart. This memorial dates back to the 13th century, when the Seven Founders of the Order of Servites devoted themselves to the suffering of Mary at the foot of the cross. This devotion was eventually extended to the entire Church in the 18th century by Pope Benedict XIII, under the name, "The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary." The seven sorrows which we honor are:

The Prophecy of Simeon
The Flight into Egypt
The "Losing" in the Temple (before the "finding")
The Encounter with Jesus Carrying His Cross
The Crucifixion
The Deposition from the Cross
The Burial of Christ

Perhaps one insight we can glean from this memorial is a ray of hope in the face of suffering -- especially the suffering of watching others suffer. It can be very difficult to feel helpless in the face of a loved one's illness and suffering. We do not have a God who stands aloof and removed from our pain. When we are overcome with grief and pain, let us remember that we have a God who suffers with us. He suffers with us because he became one of us and suffered physical, emotional and spiritual torment in his earthly life. Mary stood at the foot of the cross and experienced the most unnatural grief of watching her child die. Let us entrust our sufferings to Mary, whose Immaculate Heart was wounded with great love for her son.

Of all the sermons of St. Francis de Sales, we have none on Our Lady of Sorrows since its devotion was not extended to the entire Church until after his death. Click here for a good website with music and words for the traditional Stabat Mater.

13 September 2006

Face Lift

...or maybe we should call it an HTML-makeover! As of yesterday morning, our monastery website has a new look. There are several people to thank for this much-needed and long-overdue improvement. First and foremost, many thanks to Rick Lugari, author of the award-winning blog, De Civitate Dei, and charter member of the Amateur Catholic B-Team. Rick's skilled hand and creative mind produced neatly-coded templates for us to use during the "makeover process." Rick's generosity of time and talent provided excellent long-distance technical support -- and good humor along the way!

On the 'schoolfront', we must thank our very own IT director, Fred, whose creative approach to problem solving and kindness toward technologically-challenged nuns have distinguished him as a man of great patience. Thanks also to John, our AV coordinator, whose ingenuity and creativity are responsible for the "no plug-in-needed" slide shows on two of the pages. Bravo!

Finally, on the 'homefront' a word of thanks to Sister Mary Proofreader who read all the texts for the pages, corrected typos and untangled poor grammar. Thanks also to our sisters who were good sports about being photographed...again and again and again.

Click here to visit the new page.

10 September 2006

Our Very Own

From time to time our Monastery bestows the cross of affiliation on individuals who have distinguished themselves by their loyalty and devotion to our community. On Friday, 8 September, during Mass for the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother Philomena (pictured above) conferred the cross -- a smaller version of our Order's pectoral cross -- on David M. Gardiner. Locals will recognize David as our faithful master of ceremonies for special Masses and Feasts in our chapel. David's affiliation with us, however, dates back several decades.

David is one of the few men who can claim to be an alumnus of the Visitation. David attended the Baltimore Academy of the Visitation from 1967-1975 and continued his education at Loyola High School in Baltimore. When the Academy closed, David visited his beloved former-principal, the late Sister Christine (erstwhile Sister Marie de Chantal) who came to our community along with Sister Isabel de Sales and Sister Marie Louise (who was on a temporary "loan" to Baltimore from our monastery).

In 1993 our school burned and our chapel was badly damaged by the water used to extinguish the fire. At the first Triduum in the renovated chapel in 1996, Mother Philomena invited David to serve as master of ceremonies. Thus began David's more recent and very faithful (and faith-filled) service to our community.

Saint Francis de Sales reminds us that "We pray best before beauty." David understands this deeply. Over the years we have been the beneficiaries of David's humble generosity. Easter lilies and other floral deliveries simply arrive in time for seasonal decorating. Homemade desserts materalize on Saint Patrick's Day. New (and exquisite) vestments for our chaplains appear in the sacristy -- with a fresh supply of incense. David has adorned our chapel and choir with his generosity countless times. He senses a need for something and it appears (sometimes even before we know we need it!) David's friendship and loyalty, his good humor and kindness make him a gentleman after Saint Francis de Sales' own heart.

It is worthy of note that David is not the first member of his family to have received the cross of affiliation from our monastery. His maternal grandmother (nee Dwaayar) was a cousin of James Cardinal Gibbons who received the cross in 1914. The cross of affiliation entitles David, upon his death, to all the spiritual benefits of a member of our Order. We are sure that Sister Christine is saving him a seat in the choir of the heavenly Visitation -- for it was she who told him, as a fourth grader, that he had the Visitation in his blood.

08 September 2006

Yes Upon Yes

As we celebrate this Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Gospel reveals a subtle message about Mary's "Yes" to the Lord at the Annunciation. Matthew's account of the genealogy of Joseph, the husband of Mary, lists several mothers among the generations of fathers who are named. We learn that Ruth, wife of Boaz, was the great-grandmother of King David, patriarch of the royal line in which Jesus' birth was foretold. Of what significance is a great-grandmother in an exhaustive list of the generations from which Joseph was descended? Of great significance, in fact.

Ruth, we learn, was a Moabite and the widow of an Ephrathite from Judah. Perhaps she is most well known for her fidelity to her mother-in-law, Naomi: "Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God." This fidelity brought her to Bethlehem where she won the favor of Boaz, who permitted her to glean his fields for food. When asked why she deserved his kindness, he replied that he heard of her fidelity to her mother-in-law and her willingness to leave her native land and take refuge in Yahweh. Ruth eventually married Boaz and from their lineage came David.

Ruth said, "Yes" to the Lord being her God when she promised to follow Naomi. Her "Yes" took her to a foreign land, led her into another marriage -- one which proved very significant for the future of Israel and the coming of the Messiah! For Mary, her "Yes" was very similar; it took her places she could not have anticipated and brought her sorrow she could not imagine. Ruth's "Yes" gave us the great king of Israel, a man after God's own heart; Mary's "Yes" gave us the King of Kings, the Savior of the world - from the very heart of the God himself.

As we celebrate the birth of Mary, let us reflect on our own "yeses" to God. Most of us are not asked for a "Yes" as extraordinary as Ruth's and Mary's -- but each day we are asked to say "Yes" to the little challenges which God permits us to experience. Let us ask for the grace to respond as Ruth and Mary did, trusting that our "Yes" can be a source of grace for others in ways we may never know.

"A privilege which Mary had above all creatures is that no one else ever gave himself so perfectly or so absolutely to the Divine Majesty as she did. She was more perfectly obedient to the word of God than any other creature."
St. Francis de Sales

05 September 2006

High-quality Labor!

Summer sang its swan song yesterday as Labor Day marked the last day of vacation before today's opening day of school. Living in exile, it is hard to have a Labor Day barbecue without a barbecue, but our Sister Mary Austin and her trusty helpers managed to produce a fine "indoor picnic" for dinner on our last day of summer break. Among the happy "cleaner-uppers" was our canon-lawyer-in-residence, Sister Rose, SSJ. Sister was enjoying a break from classes at the University and joined us for our "indoor picnic." She was assisted by expert "dry-cleaners" Sister Mary de Sales and Sister Jacqueline. (Not many folks can boast about having a canon lawyer wash their dishes!)

Newly-polished floors signal the beginning of school and the arrival of our students. As we begin another school year, today, we are grateful for the many hands that helped to get the school prepared for opening day: buildings cleaned, welcome signs hung, building repairs completed, parking passes issued, schedules printed, homeroom folders prepared, supply closets stocked, etc., and rumor has it that there is even a new coffee machine in the faculty room. Thanks to all who pitched in!

A little thought as we commence the school year:

"Let us have a thoroughly pure intention of willing the honor of God and His glory in all things; let us do the little we can for that end . . . and let us leave to God the care of all the rest."
St. Francis de Sales

01 September 2006

The Wise Virgins

It's easy to get lost in some of the details of today's Gospel. The wise virgins, for example, are not exactly exemplars of charity when they send the unwise out to purchase oil. Most readers and "pray-ers" who spend time with this passage will, no doubt, recognize that the Lord's focus is on the preparedness of the wise virgins -- and not their posture toward sharing. The parable itself, when considered in light of those that surround it in chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew's Gospel, indicates that the encounter with the Lord, the bridegroom, is symbolic for the day of judgment. Indeed, the parables of kingdom do point toward the day of judgment. This parable, however, also speaks to our daily life -- those many days between now and judgment day.

The wise virgins were ready for the bridegroom when he arrived. They heard the shout, they trimmed their lamps and went with him into the wedding banquet. This is an invitation for all of us to be ready to greet Christ when he comes into our daily life -- not only on the day of our judgment. We are called to be alert and attentive to his presence everyday. Sometimes it is easy to recognize the situations in which we need to be attentive to the Lord's coming: at Mass, at prayer, etc. Other times it is not so easy to hear the shout, "Look! Here is the bridegroom." In our daily comings and goings, we encounter Christ in those whom we meet. Often it is difficult to see him in a co-worker or colleague with whom we find it difficult to keep company; sometimes it is difficult to see Christ in members of our own family or among our friends. Still, the "shout" is there and we are called to "trim our lamps" and greet Christ in those around us. And when we recognize Christ in those around us, we have a foretaste of heaven, a foretaste of that banquet to which we shall someday, we pray, be invited.

"We must consider our neighbor in God who wishes us to love and cherish him."
St. Francis de Sales

29 August 2006


As promised: a little renovation update. Two weeks ago, we were treated to a tour of the renovation work by our project manager, Kelley Flynn. There are walls in some places and beams in other places that allow us to picture the outline of rooms and begin to imagine what it will look like when things are finished.

Among the highlights of the tour was this outline of a window pictured above to the left. It was discovered behind the wall at the end of the sisters' dormitory passage (known as "Blessed Lady's Passage). It seems that it was once an outside wall of the belltower, before the dormitory wing was built. Our architects are working on how to incorporate it into the "new" wall that will be there. What a delightful surprise!

At right, Mother Philomena studies the wall of a soon-to-be bedroom. It is very exciting to watch the progress from tour to tour.