30 March 2006

In Hoc Signo Vinces

As we prepare for our "destruction" to begin on Monday, we share a few more "moving" moments from our experience:
This is a picture of the hole in the wall where an enormous crucifix hung between the second and third floors on the main stairwell. We are told that the crucifix was built into the wall when the wing was built. It is no surprise, therefore, that it took four moving men nearly two hours to get it out. It was packed in a wooden crate and will return when the construction is complete. (We shall refrain from waxing spiritual about what conclusions we may draw about the crosses in our own lives and the indelible marks they leave!)

In preparation for construction there are now some precautionary construction signs posted on the stairwell. They provide some idea how large the crucifix is.

Sisters who have been trekking over to the monastery to clean up a few last items made a discovery today: a zip door. See photo on right. Our project managers installed a nifty zip door between the construction site and the entrance to the Chapel from the monastery side so as to minimize the amount of dust that flies into the Chapel. Brava!

28 March 2006

Healing Words

There is an interesting exchange in today's Gospel. Jesus asks the man sitting near the temple gate if he wants to be healed and Jesus never gets an answer. The man, instead, tells Jesus why he has not been able, for 38 years, to enter the pool and receive healing.

For most of us, there is at least one "thing" in our lives that warrants healing or correcting but which we are reluctant to address. Sometimes we become very comfortable in our patterns of living, working, behaving, etc., and even though we know that we should work on this "thing," it has almost become too comfortable to change. Perhaps we have a co-worker with whom we could work better -- but we don't try. Perhaps there is someone we avoid, whose company we find troublesome. Maybe we make excuses about why we should avoid him or her and why it is okay, even profitable, to do so. And, like the man at the temple gate, when Jesus asks us if we want to be healed of this situation, if we want to change, to be changed, we have a ready reply of why it has not been possible for us to change -- or why it would not be convenient to change. We, too, avoid the question. Sometimes we can be so busy explaining our excuses to ourselves (and to Jesus) that we do not take the time to ask the Lord for the healing grace we need. Acknowledging that we need this grace is, itself, a great grace. Let us ask the Lord for the vision to see where we need to grow and the grace to respond to this invitation.

In a letter to St. Jane de Chantal while she was still Madame de Chantal, St. Francis de Sales wrote the following:

"...now although we may love our abjection [wretchedness] that comes from a fault, still we must not neglect to correct the fault."

26 March 2006


"Rejoice, Jerusalem!"

Today is the fourth Sunday of Lent, erstwhile known as Laetare Sunday. We pause halfway through this solemn season and take a break from our Lenten journey to enjoy some "restrained" rejoicing. A few flowers on the altar, a little extra music at Mass, bright rose vestments and a maybe even a little extra dessert at dinner or supper (if our cook is reading this!)

On the heels of the great Solemnity of the Annunciation, we continue to reflect on our own ability to say, "Yes" to whatever the Lord asks of us day after day. 384 years ago, on the fourth Sunday of Lent, 22 March 1622, St. Francis de Sales concluded his homily with the following words:

"We say that we do not know whether the will to please Him that we now have will remain with us during our whole life. Alas! It is true for there is nothing so weak and changeable as we are. But, nevertheless, let us not be troubled. Let us, rather, frequently lay this good will before Our Lord; let us place it in His hands and He will renew it as often as is necessary that we may have enough for our whole mortal life."

24 March 2006

Tid-bit of History

Not to bore our readers with every iota of our moving escapades, but this is a little peek into the dormitory quarters (16ths, perhaps!) of the south wing of the monastery. The P Street wing (south), pictured here, was built in 1856. Most of the iron beds were given to us in the late 1860's when they were no longer needed as hospital beds when the civil war ended.

During the civil war, many of the large buildings in Washington were taken over to be made into temporary hospitals for wounded soldiers. Our monastery was spared thanks to General Winfield Scott, whose daughter was a member of our community.

During the civil war years, we had a number of sisters from the north as well as from the south; when a soldier knocked at the door asking for food, the sister who responded would note the color of his uniform and would call upon a sister whose home was in the north or south, depending upon whether he was wearing blue or gray.

Though our civil war years are only a page in our history, there are many countries which are experiencing this trauma today. Let us pray for a swift end to civil wars and for many good things may come from such suffering and strife.

21 March 2006

Moving Moments

In preparation for our first ever renovation (in 207 years!) we have spent the last few weeks gathering into the hallways all the furniture to be moved; now, it seems a bit odd to see most of the hallways empty, once again. We are lucky enough to be able to leave in place a couple of our statues which would be too heavy to move. "Sister Mary Bubblewrap" (pictured left) strikes again as the Sacred Heart of Jesus receives a protective coat for "safe keeping" (pictured below).

One of our chaplains recently commented that we do not have to go looking for extraordinary challenges this Lent; we've been "exiled" already!

All kidding aside, we are very grateful to have enough nooks and crannies on campus to accommodate all of us so that we may remain together. Thanks to our trusty technology support, we have access to the internet in our various new abodes. And as we begin our time of "exile" we are grateful for the many graces of the Lord, the many kindnesses of our benefactors and friends and countless others who have helped us to move.

"Prayer is a hidden manna, neither known nor valued save by those to whom it is given, and the more we taste it the more does our appetite for it grow." St. Jane de Chantal

20 March 2006

Solemnity of St. Joseph

In addition to being the patron saint of the Universal Church, St. Joseph is also the patron saint of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Buon onomastico!

We know very few "facts" about the great saint whose solemnity we celebrate today. The fact that he was the foster father of Jesus, however, is most significant. God entrusted his only son to be the son of Joseph on earth. That alone is reason to be certain that St. Joseph was a virtuous and holy man.

There are many different devotions and customs that accompany the celebration of St. Joseph. He has earned himself the patronage of so many different occupations, situations, countries, dioceses, etc., that it would consume this whole blog post to list them. Among the great variety of "responsibilities" are carpenters and wheelwrights, pregnant women, pioneers, those who are dying as well as those who are selling a house.

Many people have heard of the tradition of burying a statue of St. Joseph up-side down, likely started by St. Teresa of Avila, who encouraged a devotion of St. Joseph to acquire land for new convents. (This is not a mere superstition -- ask someone who has tried it and you may be surprised how effective it is.) This patron saint of a happy death has been buried more times than perhaps anyone else.

As a community, we have been making a perpetual novena to St. Joseph for the special intention of the renovation of our monastery. To learn more about our renovation project, click here or stay tuned for "moving pictures" and tales from our temporary quarters. Here below is the novena we have been using:

O glorious St. Joseph, we most humbly beg of you, by the love and care you had for Jesus and Mary to take our affairs, spiritual and temporal, into your hands. Direct them to the greater glory of God and give us the grace to do and accept His holy will. Amen

18 March 2006

Let us Feast

We do not normally think of Lent as a time of feasting. Today's Gospel of the prodigal son and the "feast" that is proclaimed at the sight of his return give us a small window into how the Lord rejoices when any of us children come home -- so to speak -- and leave behind unvirtuous ways.

In a book entitled "Bathe Seven Times" by Mother Nadine, there are insightful suggestions which complement the traditional notions of feasting and fasting: "Fast from judging others and feast on Jesus in them. This gives us something positive to do. Many people find it hard to fast from judging others. Some actually feed on judging others. It feeds their superiority, it feeds their pride, it feeds their own self-image. We need to take time to look at how we feed ourselves. How do we feed ourselves instead of letting God feed us?"

Indeed, when we refrain from actions which are not life-giving, such as looking in judgment on our neighbors, we open ourselves to be fed by the Lord. The elder son in today's Gospel stood outside the party because he judged not only his prodigal brother but his generous father. When we "starve" these temptations and refuse to give in to them, we may enter the feast which the Lord has prepared.

"We must always judge, as far as possible, in favor of our neighbor. If one action could bear a hundred aspects, we should always consider that which is the most favorable."
St. Francis de Sales

16 March 2006

Loving Lazarus

One can almost picture the scene in today's Gospel: Dives, the rich man, returns home day and night and steps over Lazarus, the beggar at his door. The Gospel doesn't say that he stepped on him; he didn't injure him, he just ignored him.

If we are really honest, we all have at least one "Lazarus" in our life. Our Lazarus may not be someone covered in oozing sores, stretched across our doorway. It may, however, be someone who is covered by spiritual or emotional sores -- someone who is difficult company, someone whom we would prefer to "step over" and ignore. We do not wish our Lazarus anything bad or hurtful, but at the same time, we do not stop to love this beggar for whom a scrap of our time, attention and kindness would be a healing salve.

Let us pray for the grace to know, to recognize and to show sincere charity to the Lazarus who is stretched across the threshold of our heart. For that which we do for this beggar, we do for Christ.

" . . . if God had forbidden me to love my enemies I should have a great difficulty in obeying him. It seems to me that the very contradiction we receive from our fellow men ought to stir our spirit to love them more, for they serve as a whetstone to sharpen our virtue."
St. Francis de Sales

14 March 2006

The Widow and the Orphan

Isaiah's exhortation, in today's first reading, is a call to honor those who are neglected. The widow, having no husband, and the orphan, having no parents, would have been summarily dismissed by society at the time the prophet was writing. We may have more opportunities for orphans and widows in our society today, but the command to comfort and listen to those who are neglected is still as salient -- and necessary -- today as it was in Isaiah's time.

We may dismiss someone because he or she makes us uncomfortable. Perhaps we have a colleague at work whom we avoid or someone in our family with whom we prefer not to visit. Sometimes we don't even know a person and we feel a sense of discomfort; perhaps there is someone asking for spare change along our daily walk to the bus or the train and it is easy to drop a dollar in the cup but hard to say, "Good morning." When we put aside our own sense of "comfort" and say "Good morning" as we drop a dollar in the cup, we give much more than our spare change. We give honor. We acknowledge the person as worthy of our greeting and our kindness. That is truly the prophet's message to us today: honor those who are dishonored.

This message -- of loving our neighbor -- prepares our hearts for the Gospel command to love our enemy.

"For the commandment to love the neighbor also includes the love of enemies. O God! What a disproportion between the objects of these two loves, and yet these two commandments are alike to such a degree that the one cannot exist without the other."
St. Francis de Sales

12 March 2006

Our Father in Faith

Each time we pray Eucharistic Prayer I and we profess that Abraham is our father in faith we make a courageous claim. This great patriarch sets the “spiritual bar” very high for those of us who follow him. Abraham was truly a man after the Lord’s own heart.

Childless at 75 years old, he trusted the Lord to lead him to a new homeland and to provide him with countless descendents. When the Lord, having gifted him with Isaac, his legitimate heir, asked Abraham to offer the child in sacrifice – not altogether uncommon in ancient middle-eastern cultures – Abraham did not question this.

It is easy to overlook the significance of today’s first reading. We all know the story so well: the voice of the angel arrives – as if on cue – while Abraham’s hand is ready to strike his child; there is no suspense, for most of us, in the story. What should strike us, however, is what is missing: Abraham’s voice. There is no preference on his part. This is not to say that he did not love Isaac as any father loves his son. Rather, Abraham preferred God’s will to his own will. His heart was so very united to the Lord and so very trusting of the Lord’s care for him that he was unhesitatingly obedient.

Abraham gives us a splendid example of someone who trusts the Lord with all his heart. Amid prosperity or calamity, our trust in the Lord should be the same. Let us ask for the grace to be very trusting of the Lord’s care for us and, in so doing, let us stand on the shoulders of our Father in faith:

“We must follow the example of the great Abraham. When God commanded him to sacrifice the child, he did not become sad; when God dispensed him from it, he did not rejoice. It was all equal to that great heart, provided that God’s will was served.”
St. Francis de Sales

10 March 2006

Lesser Temptations

It may seem funny to think about degrees of temptation, but today’s Gospel gives us a little reminder that the smaller temptations are just as important to avoid as the greater ones. Most of us may not have great difficulty refraining from murder and adultery but we may be tempted to harbor distain for one of our neighbors. Calling someone a “fool,” against which today’s Gospel cautions us, is tantamount to dismissing someone as worthless. The Lord warns us that giving into this temptation can be just as harmful – if not more harmful – than causing a physical injury.

Let us remember that, as important as it is to refrain from giving into the larger temptations, our work is not finished. We must be persistent in asking for the grace to avoid the (seemingly) smaller temptations which befall us.

“It is an easy thing to abstain from murder, but it is very difficult to avoid those angry outbursts which are incessantly aroused within us. . . .it is easy never to desire any man’s death, but hard never to desire what will injure him; easy to avoid open defamation, hard not to indulge in disdain. In short, lesser temptation are the continual trial of the most fervent and devout persons.”
St. Francis de Sales

08 March 2006

Field Trip!

This past Sunday our "Devotion and Discussion" group took a field trip to the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, who were our gracious hosts for Evening Prayer, supper and a lively discussion of the wisdom of St. Francis de Sales on the topics of sin and temptation.

A brief selection from our readings this week:

"We must not be disturbed at the sight of our imperfections, for our imperfection consists in fighting against them. . . Our victory consists not in being unconscious of them but in refusing to consent to them. . . . It is absolutely necessary for the exercise of our humility that we should sometimes suffer wounds in this spiritual warfare. It is a happy thought for us that we should shall always be victorious, provided that we are willing to fight."

06 March 2006

New Feedbox

Perhaps you have heard friends or colleagues -- or your kids -- talking about their RSS feeds. And perhaps, like most of us, you smile politely, nod your head and then later you google "RSS feeds" to learn about this new phenomenon.

In August 2005 Sacred Heart Media launched "MyCatholic," a Catholic portal which, once customized, delivers news, local weather, and a host of other helpful resources. For those of us who would style ourselves "technophobes" this is a rather user-friendly site. We have posted a button that says "SUB MY CATHOLIC" in our sidebar which links to the page where you can customize your options. Click on "Add" or "Remove" next to the different options to add or remove the links which you want to appear on your page. Be sure to add your zip code under "preferences" to get local weather and Mass times at Churches in your neighborhood. Since there are no passwords for "MyCatholic," once you select your preferences they will be saved only on the computer where you set them. So, if you share a computer at work or at home, you may want to collaborate with other users.

This is a pretty neat resource because you can access several different news services all in one place. You can peruse the headlines and decide what you would like to read rather than opening several different news sites yourself. Among other perks, you can read -- or have read to you -- the Mass readings for the day.

Once you have set your preferences, you can access your own customized page by selecting the link "My Catholic" under the "Resources" section in the sidebar of our blog. (If you go back to the button that says "Sub" you will get the page where you can change your preferences.)

Please note that Georgetown Visitation monastery receives no remuneration for referring users to "MyCatholic." We just wanted to share a this nifty resource with our readers.

04 March 2006

Sabbath Rest

In today's first reading from Isaiah, we are reminded to keep holy the Sabbath, to honor it, to delight in it. We are to refrain from our own pursuits -- be they good or bad. It is easy to forget that Sunday is a day of rest when no one around us is "resting." In many cultures businesses are closed, mass transit is non-existent or very limited, and families are together. In the United States, we have managed to mar the sacredness of the Sabbath rest. The "more is better" mantra of our nation's work ethic has carried itself from the work week into the weekend.

To believe that rest is just as important as work takes an act of faith. We do not earn money for resting; we do not impress our employers by how well we rest; we do not earn a promotion by logging hours of resting. We do, however, give honor to the Lord by resting on the Sabbath. Our leisure, our time spent with family, friends, community, etc., is just as pleasing to the Lord as our labor.

"The devout heart has no less love when it turns to external duties than when it prays. In such hearts, their silence and their speech, their action and their contemplation, their work and their rest equally sing the canticle hymn of their dilection."
St. Francis de Sales

02 March 2006

Neighboring gods

The caution against following "other gods" which we hear in today's reading from Deuteronomy is still applicable to us today. The Israelites were tempted, constantly, to worship the gods of their neighbors, their conquerors and -- as in the case of King Solomon -- the gods of their wives. We probably do not have neighbors who offer sacrifices to what we might consider "other gods." As long as the mainstream media and popular culture often display messages which are contrary to the Gospel and which, if heeded would lead us away from virtue, we do have neighbors who worship "other gods." They may not be sun gods, fertility gods and war gods, but we are, in fact, surrounded by idols.

The Israelites, in many cases, sacrificed to other gods not because they wanted to betray Yahweh, but because they were hedging their bets, so to speak: just in case Yahweh did not come through for them, they had a little incense burning to the local divinity. Their "infidelity," one might conclude, was really due to a lack of trust. When we do not trust that the Lord will provide us will all that we need to carry out his will, we too can be tempted to withhold our trust from Him. And when we fail to trust the Lord, we can be lured into trusting our own means, or the means that popular culture would offer. Some of the world's offerings can lead us toward materialism, relativism, and rugged individualism -- all things which lead us away from Christian virtue.

As we begin our Lenten journey, let us trust that the Lord who has begun this journey with us, is very worth of our turst. St. Francis de Sales urges us to cultivate this trust in the Lord's providence over us and to ask for graces necessary to carry out His will:

"When I say that you must ask for nothing and desire nothing, I am speaking of earthly things; as for virtues, we may, of course, ask for them, and in asking for the love of God, we comprise all, for it contains them all."