28 December 2007

Angel on My Shoulder

"No, she's not heavy, she's my angel! "

As we continue celebrating these holy days of the Octave of Christmas, we pause for a moment to share some of the lighter moments of our Christmas. Pictured above, Sister Catherine, our postulant, finds an angel -- oddly resembling an egg -- on her shoulder. On Christmas morning, each place in the refectory was marked by an egg-angel. Below, they gather for a group photo.

Anticipating the busyness of the (very short) fourth week of Advent, we decorated the Christmas tree in our assembly room on Saturday evening during recreation. Below, Sister Rosemarie (who did the lion's share of putting up the tree and stringing the lights) adjusts an ornament.

Sister Mary Roberta steps up and reaches the top of the tree with ease -- something that some of us would need a trampoline to do!

Last, but not least, our Sister Mada-anne (true to her work as an archivist) is pictured below recording gifts we have received so that we may properly thank our kind benefactors. The lovely tree pictured above was one of the first gifts we received this season!

"Simplicity towards God consists in seeking Him only in all our actions, whether we are going to Office, or to the refectory, and then to recreation; we us go everywhere to seek God and to obey God." ... even to decorate the Christmas tree! St. Jane de Chantal

24 December 2007

Spotlight on the Savior

In February, we began our monthly "Spotlight on St. Francis de Sales" which featured a different sister on the 24th of each month. This last installment, a little Christmas message, is from the heart of our Sister Rosemarie. She is pictured here (in action) in the kitchen, one of the many places where she serves our community faithfully. Her reflection begins -- as many of her spontaneous-supper-sermons do -- with a quotation from the Gospel:

In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God, all things were made through him. . . . And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. As children of God, we have many reasons to rejoice for the son of God has come among us as a man and yet he is God. He has come to reveal the face and the love of God to all of humanity. People of all races, all nations, know that God is with us -- even those who choose not to believe. St. Francis de Sales describes how creation and the Incarnation are the "two births of the world." They show us "the two natures of the Word made flesh and the eternal Father's goodness to us in making His son a member of our human race." We rejoice at this time because it is through the Incarnation that Our Salvation was wrought. Jesus as man and as God has shown us the way back to the Father. We are now God's sons and daughters because of Jesus' union with us. He has wonderfully fulfilled the very purpose of the creation of man. We also rejoice with our Blessed Mother because her yes to God brought about the fulfillment of His promise. And so let us rejoice with the shepherds as we welcome the newborn King. Let us also rejoice with the angels as they sing their hymn of praise, "Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth." For today He is born: Christ our Lord.

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

22 December 2007

Eleven Years and Counting!

Amid these privileged days before Christmas, we have a very special Solemnity which we celebrate on the 21st of December. In 1996 our Chapel of the Sacred Heart was rededicated by James Cardinal Hickey after its restoration following the 1993 fire that destroyed our school building and damaged the Chapel. Each year, when we celebrate this solemnity, we light the six festive candles (pictured above) on the walls of the chapel and choir, marking the places where the walls were anointed with chrism oil. At Office of Readings today the second reading was from the homily on the day following the rededication, the fourth Sunday of Advent 1996. We share here an excerpt from this well-crafted reflection:

"The chapel associated with Georgetown Visitation Monastery and Academy has been here for almost two hundred years. We can't really dedicate or consecrate it! Those hundreds and hundreds of Sisters who have prayed in this space, who have taught in this academy, and who have lived in this Monastery -- they have dedicated it, consecrated it, hallowed it. . . . Their bodies lie here -- a few beneath this building but most in the earth just up the hill. . . . Their prayers, as well as their long years of toil and suffering, continue to bless us still. . . . The fact of faith is what makes this chapel a place where those who come here to meet with God, speak with God, learn from God, and leave God only to find Him again in those they serve and among those with whom they live. God is found here because God loves here -- and he is loved here in return. He is loved in both prayer and in life, day in and day out, year in and year out -- always!"
Very Rev. Lewis Fiorelli, OSFS

18 December 2007

Christmas Comes Early!

As the Church begins these solemn days of preparation for the Nativity of Our Lord, beginning with last night's first of the "O Antiphons" we were treated to a festive afternoon: a fitting way to begin -- ever so quietly -- celebrating the Incarnation. Yesterday, following the last period class, students from our library association gathered around the piano in one of our school's parlors and shared with us an hour of sing-a-long Christmas carols. Mother of an '07 alumna, Virginia Lum, took requests on the piano; she encouraged the singers and even organized an impromptu round of "Do You Hear What I Hear" with the Sisters and students from '08 and '09 forming the echo choir. Cookies and punch topped off a wonderful afternoon. We are grateful to our librarians, our stellar musician (who played most of the songs from memory!!) and all those who participated.

"Had Our Lord not become incarnate, He would have remained always hidden in the bosom of His Eternal Father and unknown to us."
St. Francis de Sales

14 December 2007

Bring Your Own Beads!

Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Chapel for Wednesday's Feast.

"Bring Your Own Beads" is what BYOB stands for on Wednesday afternoons in our chapel. Recently, a few moms, a few students and any available sisters have been gathering on Wednesday afternoons for an impromptu praying of the Rosary after the last period class lets out. This past Wednesday, being the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe was an especially beautiful occasion to gather in prayer.

For a short time, the Feast of Our Holy Mother, Saint Jane de Chantal, was celebrated on 12 December (and still is in most countries outside of North America). Prior to the elevation of Our Lady of Guadalupe to a Feast, it was a Memorial which, in our houses, was not recognized due to the Solemnity of Our Holy Foundress. Our sisters recall, with a chuckle, the response of our Sister Barbara, of happy memory, who was an Indian; despite being from Mexico, she had no Spanish or Mexican ties at all. She was native to the very area in which her kinsman (loosely speaking) Juan Diego was born. When "Happy Feast Day" greetings were exchanged with her on the 12th of December, she would grit her teeth and say, "It is NOT the feast of our Holy Mother; it is the Feast of the MOTHER OF GOD!" Dear Sister Barbara was vindicated when Our Lady of Guadalupe was elevated to a Feast in dioceses of the United States and Saint Jane de Chantal relocated to 18 August.

10 December 2007

Coming Home for Christmas

Long before liturgical reforms of the Pope Gregory I, when the Church was but a few centuries old, the season of Advent was a time when catechumens prepared to enter the Church. The season of Advent had a penitential nature, much like the season of Lent, as a time of preparation for those who were to be baptized. Even though the preparation period for catechumens now takes place during the season of Lent, we can still think of Advent as a time of "coming home" -- for us or for those whom we know.
In today's Gospel, we hear how the men who were bringing a paralyzed man to Jesus were not able to access him on account of the large crowd. Most of us know people who are separated from Christ or the Church for one reason or another. The symbolic "crowd" that posed an obstacle for the men carrying the paralyzed man might take a different form in the lives of those whom we know. Perhaps we have friends or relatives who have suffered an unpleasant experience in the Church and feel unwelcome. Sometimes adults who were not well catechized do not understand fully some counter-cultural Church teachings; misconceptions and misunderstandings are the "crowd" that keeps them from drawing closer to Christ. Advent is an opportune time to reach out to those we know who have become separated from Christ or the Church. We are not always in a position to evangelize or catechize but by our own example and our prayers, we can help others come home to the Lord during this sacred season of Advent.
"This is the grace that I desire for you, my dear souls: that you remain very near to this sacred Savior who is about to gather us all around Himself in order to keep us always under his most holy protection."
St. Francis de Sales

06 December 2007

St. Nicholas

As we celebrate today the patron saint of sailors, children, unmarried girls, bakers and pawnbrokers, we take a moment to mention one of the (many) traditions associated with his legend.
When his popularity spread to Northern Europe, the celebration of his feast was marked by children leaving a shoe outside their doors, hoping for a treat in the morning. Perhaps the American custom of hanging stockings evolved from this European tradition!? In our school's homeroom bulletin for 5 December, students were informed that each homeroom could expect a surprise from the Student Government if one shoe (or boot, perhaps?) was left outside the door at the beginning of homeroom. Stay tuned for a report on the surprise!
Fun and games aside, St. Nicholas is honored for many miraculous deeds. The miracles attributed to him -- from saving sailors to delivering dowries -- point toward the kindness he showed those whom he served. Some legends recount the miraculous raising to life of murdered children; others suggest he battled Arius face-to-face. On this side of eternity we will not know the truth about this fourth century bishop of Myra, modern-day Turkey. We can be sure, however, that his fidelity to the office of bishop and his faith in Jesus Christ were steadfast.
For parents (and others) looking for a good Christian message and some balanced St. Nicholas vs. Santa resources, click here.

02 December 2007

The First Sunday of Advent

Above is a fuzzy snapshot of the Advent wreath in our choir. The candles were a bit fuzzy, but the sisters in the picture were even fuzzier, so we thought it best to leave them out. :)

Since it seems to be a trend among blogs to celebrate birthdays, we mark two years and one day today since "Live + Jesus!" was born. When we began, the word "blog" was new and unfamiliar around the monastery; 288 posts later, it has become a household word. Sisters can be heard saying, "That would be a great picture for the blog!" or "Don't put this on the blog!" It began as a means of sharing our spirituality and it has been a source of blessings as it has connected us to countless friends among our readers.

We share here a few words from one of St. Francis de Sales' Advent sermons in 1620:

"Fear [of the Lord] and hope ought never to be without one another. Fill up these valleys formed by fear with confidence. Lower the mountains and hills. What are these mountains but presumption and pride, which are very great obstacles to our Lord's coming. . . . Make straight the way of the Lord, that is, acquire an even disposition; an even disposition is the most pleasing virtue in the spiritual life, one for which we must work continually."

28 November 2007

Shameless Promotion!

This coming weekend we are hosting an overnight retreat for women who are interested in the monastic life. A little last-minute promotion, as it is not (exactly) too late to email a reservation. Click here to email for more information. Please pray for those who will be attending!

24 November 2007

J is for Jesus

This month's spotlight on St. Francis de Sales is from the pen of our faithful portress, Sister Mary Immaculata. If anyone is an example of "Live + Jesus" it is our very own "SMI" -- as she signs her initials. Sister is known for her gentleness and her fidelity to our life of prayer. While she is minding the phone and the door, Sister makes rosaries, prepares correspondence and does a myriad of other tasks. Sister takes phone calls from people requesting prayers and asking us to pray for special intentions. She is such a warm and gentle presence on the phone that we suspect some of our family and friends call just to talk to Sister Immaculata! She writes:

Live + Jesus!

What a blessing to belong to the Order founded by St. Francis de Sales! I love, admire and am grateful to him for these reasons (and lots more!).

St. Francis de Sales was gentle, kind and so approachable. He was always willing to listen to and to advise all: the lowly and the lofty, the saint and the sinner, the humble person and the nobleman.

Who would not admire one so persevering in his combat against heresy. And did you ever consider the number and content of his letters; so full of understanding, wisdom and as practical and fresh now as then?

Lastly, I am eternally grateful for the grace to be received into the Visitation Order , when other orders wanted only the physically strong and robust. God is good! Thank you, dear father, Francis de Sales!

God be praised!

21 November 2007

Renewal of Vows

Today we share a bit of our history and a little taste of our tradition. As is the custom of our Order, we renew our Vows during Mass each year on the 21st of November. In addition, each sister writes and signs her vows in our vow book (each year, every year!) This vow book dates to 1816, when our monastery replaced our first vow book because it was too small! Every sister who has made profession in our house has signed this book. If a sister happens to be visiting on the Feast of the Presentation, she signs our book on the guest page. Our Vow Book is a rich piece of our history and we are very fortunate that it was preserved from harm during our 1993 fire when our intrepid archivist, pictured below, went back into the burning building to retrieve the book!

The Vow Book is enshrined in our chapel, on the west wall, between the stained glass pictures of the Visitation and the giving of the constitutions to St. Jane de Chantal. Below is a close-up of a sister's page in the book, dating from the late 19th century.

"Grant, O Jesus, holy and sweet love of our souls, that the year in which each Sister shall inscribe her oblation in this book may be a year of sanctification for her; the day, a day of salvation, the hour an hour of lasting benediction."

From the three wishes of St. Francis de Sales written into the front of every monastery's Vow Book.

18 November 2007

A Quiet Memorial

As we celebrate the thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, we whisper a quiet "Happy Feast Day" to our Blessed Martyrs of Spain. Blessed Maria Gabriela Hinojosa and her six companions were martyred in 1936 during the civil war in Spain. In his 1998 homily at their beatification, the late Pope John Paul II prayed that they may draw to Visitation houses "may vocations who will follow the sweet and gentle spirit of Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Jane de Chantal." And so we continue his prayer for vocations as we invoke them daily at the end of morning prayer. Below is a prayer to obtain favors -- for private use only -- approved by the bishop of Madrid. Please join us in asking for the intercession of our Holy Sisters of Spain!

"Most loving Heart of Jesus! You have willed to choose, in Your beloved Visitation, seven Sisters who have had the happiness of shedding their blood and giving their life for You. Deign to glorify Your servants by hearing our prayers and granting us the grace we ask of you though their intercession, if it be for Your greater glory and the good of our souls. Amen."

Recite three Gloria Patri in honor of the Holy Trinity.

Sacred Heart of Jesus,

I place my trust in You!

15 November 2007

The End of Ordinary Time

As we draw closer to the end of the Liturgical year, the Solemnity of Christ the King, the Feast of St. Andrew and the beginning of Advent, it seems a good moment to examine the "ordinary." St. Francis de Sales, as many saints before him and many after, believed that the most direct route to holiness was a daily faithfulness to the ordinary tasks required by each person's state in life. And so, Ordinary Time can be a reminder for us that even the "ordinary" moments of our Liturgical year can be lived with extraordinary fidelity and devotion.

Fifty-five years before being elected Pope and one year before being ordained a priest, Angelo Roncalli wrote the following on 29th January, the former date of the Feast of St. Francis de Sales:

"Today was a perfect feast, I spent it in the company of Saint Francis de Sales, gentlest of saints. What a magnificent figure of a man, priest and bishop! If I were like him, I would not mind even if they were to make me pope! . . . My life, so the Lord tells me, must be a perfect copy of that of Saint Francis de Sales, if I wish to bear good fruit. There is nothing extraordinary in me or in my behavior, except my way of doing ordinary things -- 'all ordinary things but done in no ordinary way.' "

11 November 2007

Winding Down

With just three weeks remaining in Ordinary Time, we are reminded, in today's Gospel, to keep our eyes fixed on the kingdom of heaven. In the longer form of today's Gospel, when Jesus is confronted by the Sadducees who, not believing in the resurrection of the body, ask a technical question about a seemingly-unlikely scenario, he directs their attention (and ours) elsewhere. Instead of entering into a discussion about the proper heavenly spouse of a woman who was seven times a widow, Jesus reminds us that heaven is altogether unlike our earthly life. We know very little about what the resurrection of our earthly bodies will be like, but we do know that the Lord promises a share in his resurrection to those who share in his cross.

There may be another lesson that lies hidden in today's Gospel. In addition to theme of the resurrection, perhaps the theme of "redirection" might speak to us as well. Sometimes we find ourselves in conversations which are difficult, as Jesus was in his confrontation with the Sadducees. Perhaps we sense that the person who has questioned us is less curious about what we believe and more interested in exposing it for the purpose of belittling it. We may have no evidence of this, but sometimes our soul can be disturbed by a challenging confrontation and we may feel threatened. Let us follow the example of Jesus and not be discouraged; let us point the discussion (and those who have challenged us) toward the promise that awaits us.

"Take good care not to fall into any discouragement when you are murmured at or criticized. I assure you that the business of finding fault is very easy and that of doing better very difficult."
St. Francis de Sales

07 November 2007


Many readers may have been aware of this, as the AP press release came out a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday it made the cover of the PRINT version of the "Washington Post." Tempting as it is to begin a social commentary, the power of this story speaks for itself (and brings a ray of hope!) We've attached several links.

Washington Post Article (Funny thing about it, the page "aborted" twice while uploading. Coincidence?)

Newsbuster's positive commentary on Vargas' Post article

Her Uncle has a blog and he posted about her.

God be praised!

03 November 2007

A Humble Soul

Although he is only an "optional memorial" today's commemoration of St. Martin de Porres could not have had a more appropriate Gospel. St. Martin truly sought the lowest and most humble work available to him. He began his association with the Dominicans as a servant when he was a young boy. At age 24, thirteen years later, he made his religious profession as a brother.
Among the sick for whom he cared in the Dominican Monastery's infirmary were stray cats and dogs and, if legend serves us well, other (less-popular) small mammals. The on-line greeting card service sponsored by the Franciscans has a rodent (cartoon) card in honor of dear St. Martin, who also happens to be a patron for those bothered by uninvited rats and mice. Scroll down to see the entire card -- it is a very sweet card, emphasizing the good works of this humble saint.
"Humility and generosity are so closely joined and united to one another that they never are and can never be separated. There are persons who deceive themselves by a false and foolish humility which prevents them from looking at the real good which God has planted in them. In this they are quite wrong, for the gifts which God has bestowed on us ought to be recognized, esteemed and highly honored."
St. Francis de Sales

30 October 2007

Trick or Treat!

Travel with us for 2 and a half minutes! As promised, we have a little video account of the Visi Vocation Van's trip to the Franciscan University of Steubenville. We gratefully acknowledge the use of free music and sound effects thanks to PacDV.

You may also find this video on YouTube.

26 October 2007

Fair Play

This post hails from Stuebenville, Ohio -- the city of Murals. Readers can rest assured (as can our community) that the "Visi Vocation Van" arrived at the Super 8 last night with all passengers and cargo intact -- Deo Gratias. Last night we paid a visit to the 24-hour Eucharistic Adoration chapel of St. Mary of the Angels. Outside the chapel, Sister Rose found a beautiful nativity scene which is located near the tomb of the unborn child -- a very moving outdoor oratory.

Sister also discovered that our modest accommodations include wireless Internet service -- so we can share a few photos of our adventure along the way!

At 6.30am Mass, we were delighted (but not surprised) to find a chapel full of students and visiting religious. The Vocations Fair began at setting up at 9.00, welcomed students at 11.00 and ended a little after 5.00. Below is a picture of our table.

There were many interesting exhibits at the fair. The Salesians, (not picture in the photo, located directly to our left) were giving away yo-yos and the Benedictine monks of St. Vincent's Archabbey were spinning yarn (in addition to recruiting vocations!)

After the fair ended a number of vocation directors and students gathered for Adoration in the Chapel of St. Mary of the Angels. We should have a short video with highlights from the fair posted sometime next week. Stay tuned to see Sister Rosemarie try her hand at a yo-yo!

24 October 2007

I is for Infectious

This month's spotlight on St. Francis de Sales is from the pen (er, keyboard!) of our Sister Maureen de Chantal. One could say that Salesian Spirituality is infectious ... and anyone who spends any time with Sister Maureen is bound to discover this!
Forty years ago, I was a student here at Visitation. Back then, I knew that St. Jane de Chantal and St. Francis de Sales had founded the Order, but there was little or nothing taught about Salesian spirituality in any formal way. The spirit of our Founders as well as the Visitation charism were both something that we “caught” from the example of the sisters. Their lives demonstrated a love of God and a gentle love for each of us, and we were grateful. At that time one of my teachers gave me a holy card with a quote from St. Francis de Sales on it:

"Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. The same Everlasting Father who takes care of you today, will take care of you tomorrow, and every day. He will either shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations."

Thirty-two years after graduating from Georgetown Visitation, I returned, this time as a postulant. Last December I made my solemn vows. I know much more about St. Francis de Sales now, and I try to live his practical spirituality every day: Live in the present moment, be aware of the presence of God in my every day ordinary life, offer Him each moment and action in my life. And I share it – with love- with my students.

May God be Praised!

20 October 2007

Mass Exodus!

On Thursday morning, we will have a double-departure. Several sisters will be headed to our Federation Meeting just outside of Wheeling, WV and our Sister Rosemarie and Sister Anne E will head to the Franciscan University of Steubenville for their annual vocations fair. As usual, our artwork does not accurately represent all details; we must admit that our "Visi Vocation Van" does not have our monogram on the side ... but readers can be certain that, true to the picture, Sister Rosemarie will be doing a lot of praying in the car -- especially if Sister Anne E is behind the wheel.

To learn more about the FUS Vocation Fair, click here for their press release.

16 October 2007

Feast of St. Margaret Mary

Setting up the Choir for the Great Feast!
On 27th December 1673 St. Margaret Mary had an unusually quiet day in the infirmary, where she worked as an aide. With a little more time than usual on her hands, she slipped into the Chapel to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. It was then that Our Lord blessed her with her first revelation of His Most Sacred Heart.
In her own words, she tells us:

"And so once, when I was before the Blessed Sacrament and had more leisure than usual, for the duties given me left very little, I found myself surrounded by this divine presence, but so powerfully that I forgot where I was and who I was, and I abandoned myself to this divine Spirit, surrendering my heart to the power of His love."
Very few of us are privileged to have such experiences of the Lord (at least on this side of eternity!) but all of us are invited to seek him as earnestly as St. Margaret Mary did. Perhaps one of the most significant aspects about this first revelation is that St. Margaret Mary had a few extra minutes on her hands and sought to spend them with the Lord. There are so many different things which vie for our moments of free time. Let us follow the example of St. Margaret Mary and direct our spare moments -- of mind and heart -- to His Most Sacred Heart.

15 October 2007

It's Not Easy Being Green

....but it's good!

Today has been designated "blog-action" day, to raise awareness about caring for the environment. We're not usually into the changing tides of trendy-blogging, but "green" is a worthy cause which is important to those of us who strive to live simply and waste as little as possible. This past Thursday our school celebrated Founders' Day and in her talk about "Thoughtful Concern for Others," Sister Mary Berchmans spoke about becoming more "green" in our daily life around school. At the first mention of it, a round of applause began.

A plug for Sister Mary Berchmans' "green-credibility": just about every memo or announcement that Sister posts on the monastery bulletin board is printed on the back of a recycled piece of paper. Sometimes the information on the back is more interesting than the information on the front (just kidding!) Sister used to use the back of the school bulletin for printer paper, but since the school bulletin went "green" last year, there are very few paper copies to be had. Please join us (and 15,000 other blogs) in encouraging others to talk about (and pray for) the preservation of the environment.

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

11 October 2007

Make Straight the Way of the Lord

It may seem early for an Advent theme, but some among us are making "straight paths" even amid the mild fall that we are experiencing here in Washington DC. Sister Rosemarie has been hard at work using leftover bricks to build a path in leading up to the statue of Our Lady in the monastery garden. In the far right hand corner, Nicholas the dog, takes a break from "snoopervising" and enjoys a warm fall morning.

As Sister Rosemarie builds a "path" to Mary, it is welcome reminder for us -- during this month of October -- that approaching the Lord through his Virgin Mother is a powerful way to pray. Our dear sister may be a long time finishing her path to Mary (at least until she finds a masonry saw to tidy up the edges of her bricklaying) but the rest of us can approach Our Lady instantly in moments of trial and moments of joy as we pray for the grace to be as faithful to the will of God as she was.

"Let us then, have recourse to Mary, and as her little children, cast ourselves into her bosom with perfect confidence; at all times and on all occasions let us invoke her maternal love, and strive to imitate her virtues."
St. Francis de Sales

07 October 2007

Every-birdie Gets a Blessing

On October 4th, Msgr. Duffy came 1/2 hour early for Mass so that he could bless the monastery menagerie. Sister Leonie Therese, our faithful sacristan also doubles as zoo keeper for our furry and feathered friends who live in the wardrobe (sewing room). Above, Horace the hamster inspects the ceramic animals surrounding the statue of St. Francis (who was enthroned on an ironing board for the occasion!)

Prior to the blessing, all those present sang "All Creatures of Our God and King." Pictured above are Mother Philomena and Nicholas (sporting his breast-cancer awareness collar), Sister Leonie, holding Lorenzo and Valentino and Catherine holding Horace. Father blessed the furry creatures (and nearly bathed one of the bipeds trying to sprinkle holy water on an escaping hamster) first and then the four birds (three monastery birds and one who is a boarder for a friend of the community who is in the process of moving). Below, Catherine enjoys a moment with Horace (who was not exactly amused that the blessing took place during his nightly sleep!)

03 October 2007

An Attractive Falsehood

It would seem, judging from the experiences of the young women with whom we are privileged to work -- and the rapidly-progressing technological world around us -- that there is a very attractive falsehood (read: lie) being offered by popular culture. The falsehood, which can appear under many forms, is this: if you keep all your options open (for as long as possible) you can shape a life which will be free of suffering and sacrifice.
Today's Gospel poses a sharp contrast to this tempting offer. Most folks who have lived long enough to make a few "real-life" decisions have learned that every decisive choice which is made entails closing other doors and excluding other opportunities. Choosing one college means excluding the possibility of attending other colleges. Getting married to one person means not marrying another person. Choosing to pursue a career in one field excludes other career options. Following Jesus closely means working constantly to change behaviors which are contrary to the Gospel virtues. Today's Gospel reminds us that there is no life of joy that does not have suffering and sacrifice as part of its daily drama.
The missing link, it would seem, between the empty lie that society offers -- a life of no suffering and no pain -- and the Gospel call to follow the Lord is joy. When we are happy with the choices we have made those things which may be marked as "sufferings" are far less burdensome when considered in light of an abiding joy. Most parents acknowledge that the joy of having children requires many sacrifices on their part; those same, however, parents also agree that the joys of raising children far outweigh the sacrifices they have made. And so it is with those who have left behind former ways to follow the Lord. The "painless" life the world wants to offer is a life of indecision; opportunities never seized are joys never experienced. The abiding joy that the Lord offers comes at a price, a dear price, but the joy is out of this world!
"The virtue of cheerfulness requires that we should contribute to holy and temperate joy . . . which may serve as a consolation and recreation to our neighbor so as not to annoy him with our knit brows and melancholy faces."
St. Francis de Sales

28 September 2007

Stopping Traffic

Last week some of our sisters stopped traffic on 35th Street. The sight of a few nuns (one with a camera) gathering on street corner caused cars to stop before arriving at the P Street stop sign. One car even stopped long enough to stick a cell phone out the window to take a picture of the group!

Our Sister Archivist teaches a formation class on the history of our community as well as the (inseparable) history of the Catholic Church in the country. Last week she conducted a walking tour of the streets in our immediate vicinity. Among the architectural notes and historical accounts, sister unveiled a mystery about metal images on some houses in our neighborhood. Due to the devastating risk of rapidly-spreading fire, associations formed in the 18th century to respond to this. Homeowners paid a fee to belong to a "Fire Association" and they displayed the insignia of their association on the outside of their house. When a fire broke out, it was evident from the metal symbol which fire association could be expected to respond. Many houses in our neighborhood still bear these historic symbols.

Just down the street from us are two connected houses, each of which belonged to a different association.

Above is a close-up of a fire association insignia. Some plaques even have pictures of hoses on them. Considering how many times our walls have been ravaged by fire, one would think that we might have belonged to every fire association that existed!

24 September 2007

H is for Hospitality

This month we feature our infirmarian, Sister Anne Francis, who describes (and lives!) one of her favorite "little virtues" of St. Francis de Sales: hospitality. (If you are a new reader and are not familiar with our monthly spotlight on St. Francis de Sales click here to read our February entry.)

When arriving in the infirmary, one is greeted as though she is the only person in need of help. Sister Anne Francis manages many details from bandaging wounds and dispensing medicine to making appointments and filing records. Amid her many duties in the infirmary, Sister is always gracious and hospitable to each visitor who arrives. The lettered sentence (circled in red) is a Scripture verse which could very well be the motto of the infirmary:

Sister shares her thoughts on hospitality as one of the most important "little virtues" that we can cultivate. This virtue touches our daily life because our love of our God and our love of our neighbor cannot be separated. She explains that it helps us to empty ourselves of our preoccupations and to make room for our neighbor.

"Because our neighbor is in the image and likeness of God, created in order to communicate with the Divine Goodness, to participate in His grace and to enjoy His glory."
St. Francis de Sales

21 September 2007

The Second Coming of Chris

No, that's not a typo in the title. This is yet another little incident in the "Life is Never Boring in the Monastery" category.
We've had a great many workmen around the monastery lately who have been trying to finish up items on our punch list. (If you are a new reader and you don't know about our renovation, click here, here, here and here to read some past posts about the exciting improvements to our monastery's interior.)
One of the most important details about the daily arrival of workmen is where they will be working in the monastery and at what time. (There's nothing like trying to do your spiritual reading in your room and having a workman arrive with a ladder and a drill and a constantly-ringing cell phone!) Each evening, when Mother gives out the obedience, announcing any events for the coming day there is often a notice about which workmen we can expect in the monastery for the coming day. This past Monday, Sister Mary Maintenance was in a bit of a hurry when she typed out the list of workmen. After listing a few subcontractors, the notice read, "Christ from Whiting Turner will be arriving at 7.30am to supervise the work being done in the basement and the attic." Before Mother read the announcement she said, "Sisters, I have wonderful news for you! You'll never guess who Whiting Turner is sending tomorrow!!"

As you might be able to guess, the young man pictured above is Chris and he's been the project engineer on site for the last few weeks. When Chris arrived here on Tuesday morning, he was greeted with a few chuckles and a bit of teasing and he's been a great sport -- to say nothing of being a great supervisor.
St. Francis de Sales on the coming of Christ into Jerusalem:
"All were moved at his coming. . . .His gentleness and humility captivated their hearts."

17 September 2007


Born just 25 years apart, St. Francis de Sales and St. Robert Bellarmine were contemporaries. When St. Francis de Sales was being examined for suitability as coadjutor to Bishop de Granier, St. Robert Bellarmine was a one of the examiners who posed 35 theological questions for the young provost to answer. Their paths crossed again when St. Robert helped St. Francis de Sales obtain official approbation for our Order!

In addition to celebrating the Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, we celebrate today the Feast day of our Sister Mary Roberta. When not teaching her homeroom to sing in rounds or shelving library books, Sister Roberta can be found assisting in the business office.

Sister must be opening an envelope that contains a donation -- surely it must not be a bill!

13 September 2007

Night Prayer

September 9th is the anniversary of the death of our founding sister and the first superior of this house, Mother Josephine Teresa ("Alice") Lalor. Each year, we celebrate Night Prayer in our crypt where she is buried. We tried to capture (discreetly) a taste of this in a little video. The crypt does not lend itself for good movie making hence, the lighting, sound and overall quality of the video leave a great deal to be desired. Nevertheless, this 90 second video provides a little window into this very beautiful annual tradition.

09 September 2007

First Day Photos

On Wednesday we shared how a local PEPCO power outage caused us to have our first (unofficial and unplanned) emergency evacuation. Since it was the first day of school, students had not yet been assigned their fire drill groups and, instead, assembled as one large group. Thanks to our staff of our publications office (who never leave the building without a camera -- even in case of an emergency!) we have a couple of nifty photos to share. Above, the large group assembles and enjoys a few moments of down time following the reading of the daily bulletin (which would have taken place in homeroom had the power outage not precluded it.) Below, a happy group of freshman sport their name tags and some bright smiles.

A word from St. Francis de Sales on the abandonment to God's will in moments of crisis (written during his spiritual crisis at age 19):

"Whatever may happen, O God, you who hold all things in your hand, whose ways are justice and truth, whatever you may have decreed concerning me . . . I will love you always, O Lord, at least in this life, if it is not given to me to love you in eternity!"

05 September 2007

First Day Fiasco

Sister Anne Francis captures students' attention during homeroom in St. Joe's hall.
We really should use the Blogger labels ... but since we don't, we'll guess that this is the fourth or fifth post that could be considered part of the "Life in the Monastery is Never Boring"category:

Our first day of school began with the usual excitement and anticipation (and anxiety); all was "normal" until 10 minutes before homeroom (9.30am) when our neighborhood experienced a power outage. Students and faculty were instructed to assemble on the lawn and await instructions. Students assembled efficiently and quietly for announcements and a make-shift "homeroom bulletin" ... a homeroom of 450 or so!
After a delightful half-hour "break" students and faculty were dismissed and encouraged to return to their emergency-lighted classrooms for third period. Within a half-hour of returning to class, the power was restored.
Neither faculty nor students regretted the welcome -- albeit unexpected -- "down time" during the first day of school.

01 September 2007

Make-over Complete!

Two weeks ago we showed the "Mary Make-over" in progress. Yesterday, the final product was unveiled at breakfast. The statue is so beautiful that the pictures (almost) speak for themselves.

The newly refinished statue.

A view of our refectory with Our Lady at the helm.

Mary's newly refinished crown.

If we stand still long enough -- some of us might get a "make-over" too!

28 August 2007

Tolle Lege

Today we celebrate the Memorial of St. Augustine. Our Sister Jacqueline is a big fan of his and she shares here her love of this great doctor of the Church:
The influence of St. Augustine could be significant in our society today because he lived in a culture that is very similar to ours: there was much affluent, people were worldly, educated, and the pursuit for power was rampant. Every piece of this brilliant young man fit well into the lavish world of the Roman Empire into which he was born. And then the love of Jesus, though his mother's enormous and continual prayer, broke through to him and St. Augustine met the Lord. With all his erudition and his expansive personality, his circle of influence was huge. The number those who were affected by his conversion was proportionate to the great number of friends whose company he enjoyed.
The story of his falling in love with Jesus Christ -- his "Confessions" -- has been vital in the faith journey of many other seekers through the ages whose lives needed to be anchored in the love of Jesus Christ. When St. Augustine was converted, it was a stunning moment, he heard a voice in the garden: "Take and Read" ... and upon taking up the Scriptures, he was seized by writings of St. Paul.

Two quotations from his "Confessions" -- are but the tip of the iceberg!

"Look on me, Lord Jesus, and love me. Let me love you with my whole being as one set on fire by you."
"I sought a way, God, to gain the strength which I needed to enjoy you but I did not find it until I embraced the mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who is above all God, blessed forever. He was calling me and saying, 'I am the way of truth. I am the life.'"

When a choosing a rule for our Order, it is no accident that St. Francis de Sales chose the Rule of St. Augustine. He was touched by St. Augustine's deep love of Jesus Christ and he set that intimate personal love as the fabric of our way of life as Visitandines.

"Abide steadfastly in your determination to cling simply to God trusting in His eternal love for you."
St. Francis de Sales

24 August 2007

"G" is for Gracious

In this month's spotlight on St. Francis de Sales, Mother Philomena shares warm memories about an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales whose life and work exemplified the virtues so esteemed by Our Holy Founder.
Father Joseph F. Power, OSFS, founded the DeSales Resource Center in 1980 and served as its director until his untimely death in 2002. In 1982 the Resource Center sponsored the first annual Salesian Conference; the annual conference, having just celebrated its 25th year, now bears his name. Father Power's gracious and humble presence was an open invitation for both the scholarly and the interested to ask for his help.
At the 1985 Salesian Conference in Allentown, PA, Father Power spoke about the teachings of St. Francis de Sales. We share here a few spiritual nuggets from Father's presentation:
"Follow your heart in prayer."
"Present and represent your poverty to God."
"Pray as you can, not as you can't."
"When you lack time, call on Him in your heart."