31 January 2007

Our Saintly Cousin

John Bosco and the many religious, priests and laity who take him as their patron are some of our favorite relatives here in the Salesian family. Most people associate the adjective "Salesian" with this great saint who cared deeply for young people -- and rightly so. For Saint John Bosco put his humble catechetical program under the patronage of Saint Francis de Sales and thereby gave root to an esteemed and valued branch of our Salesian family tree.

Perhaps one of the more humorous (and human) anecdotes that comes down to us about this saint, fondly referred to as "Don Bosco" is his escapade at the abandoned church near the mill. Having taken his motley group of boys to the local parish Church, Bosco was soon "unwelcome" by the pastor due to the shenanigans that one can expect when gathering young men. Finding an empty Church near a mill, Bosco moved his group and soon enough the mill workers were complaining about the youngsters. The bishop sent two priests to visit St. John Bosco and to invite him to take a "ride" in a carriage which would be arriving shortly. Bosco suspected a plot and graciously agreed. When the carriage arrived he carefully suggested that the two priests precede him into the carriage and, slamming the door, instructed the driver to take them to the local asylum -- the very place they intended to send him! In the days before email, faxes, digital images and text messages, the asylum had no idea which priest they were expecting and the two who arrived at the institution were a long time talking themselves out of an extended stay. With a wink and a smile this cheerful friend of young people narrowly escaped an unexpected "vacation."

A few words from from his own pen regarding youth:

"Give them ample liberty to jump, run, make a din as much as they please. Gymnastics, music, theatrics, hikes, are very effective methods for getting discipline; they favor good living and good health."
St. John Bosco

28 January 2007

And Sew on and Sew forth

Yesterday, our Visi moms held a sew-a-thon to complete curtains for most of the rooms in the monastery. They had an amazing crew of "cutters," "sewers," and "runners" who cut, stitched and delivered the finished curtains to several "stations" in the monastery. (We'll have pictures of the fruits of their labors as soon as they're hung -- a great improvement over the bedsheets we used to use as curtains.)

Little by little, as pictures are returning and statues appearing (to say nothing of curtains made with love) the monastery is beginning to feel like home again. Amid the inevitable inconveniences such as not being able to use the dishwasher or washing machines (calling for very creative solutions!), we are grateful for the many kindnesses shown to us by our benefactors. And it is in the spirit of our Holy Father's exhortation that we strive accept the blessings and (the hopefully temporary) challenges which we discover daily:

"Do you ask what I desire should remain most deeply engraved upon your mind, so that you may put it in practice? Desire nothing, refuse nothing. . . let us receive with perfect evenness of mind all that the Providence of God may permit. May God give us the grace to do this."

St. Francis de Sales

24 January 2007

Solemnity of St. Francis de Sales

This year's Solemnity of St. Francis de Sales is a very different sort of Feast for us; for it finds us settling into our newly renovated Monastery. Despite the little inconveniences to which we need to attend, the joy of being home in the monastery far outweighs any of the unfinished details. And, once again, at risk of boring our readers, we share some pictures from this great event.

On Monday afternoon, prior to our first night in the "new" monastery, we had a formal blessing of all the rooms. Pictured below, Sister Anne Francis, Sister Mary de Sales (candle bearers) and Sister Leonie Therese wait while the rest of the procession visits the Chapel of St. Joseph on the retreat wing for its blessing.

The blessing of the monastery proceeds through the novitiate hallway.

The procession passes the infirmary and approaches the professed sisters' dormitory wing.

More pictures forthcoming!

21 January 2007

Happy Campers!

The days are growing closer! For those of our readers who have been following our journey to the promised land -- during our ten months (who's counting!?) in exile -- we have a few pictures of some very happy campers who can see the end of the exile approaching on the horizon. Pictured below, Sister Mary Austin pauses to do some spiritual reading in a new chair.

Sister Bernardine, below, gives her seal of approval on one of the new chairs in our assembly room. We're not sure we will recognize the room without a complete set of "unmatching" chairs!

On Saturday, many of our Visi Dads came and moved boxes, arranged furniture, assembled beds (and some moms were seen doing heavy lifting, too) while Moms and daughters helped clean and unpack. While many worked hard, some of us, er, worked hard at entertaining our cheerful helpers. Below, Sister Mada-anne seizes the opportunity to pose on an empty statue pedestal.

. . . and Sister Anne E thinks she's Augustus Caesar -- though she looks a lot more like she's trying to hail a taxi than the noble style of Polyclitus' spear carrier. Fortunately for the community, the Blessed Mother will soon be atop that pedestal. Stay tuned for more pictures.

17 January 2007

A Cut Above the Rest!

As we make final preparations for our move back into our renovated monastery, we have the opportunity to make new door tags. One of our monastic customs is to have a saint's name and a virtue on the door of each sister's room, as well as that of our common rooms and offices. Pictured below, Sister Mary de Sales prepares the engraving machine for the virtue "courage."

Many years ago, when she was director of athletics, the price of engraving skyrocketed from 2 cents a letter to 15 cents a letter. Sister recalls being so frugal that the year the price increased, the "Ping Pong Runner-Up" trophy read, "PPRU." (Apparently sister was working on a 60 cent budget!) Given the cost of engraving, Mother Cecilia thought it was a great idea for Sister Mary de Sales to learn how to engrave. And learn she did.

One anecdote that Sister tells with a chuckle is how, as a student at Visitation, Sister Mary de Sales, on a national spelling test, scored in the lowest 10% of the nation. She recalls being late to field hockey practice because she had to go to an after-school spelling class in Mother Mary Leonard's office. That Sister is "spelling-challenged" is no secret in community -- and it was Sister Mary Paula who, upon hearing that she was taking up engraving, said to Sister Mary de Sales, "Now it will cost you money to misspell a word!" Lo, these many years later, Sister is still a poor speller but she is a very fine engraver! Pictured below is the plate for Room 405: the virtue is courage and the soon-to-be-engraved saint is our Holy Sister, Saint Margaret Mary. Stay tuned for more pictures!

13 January 2007

Moving Along

The countdown has begun! The finishing touches are being completed and the "new" monastery is beginning to look like a home. Sister Mary de Sales, pictured below, is showing off the novitiate hallway. (The red signs, to the right, are not going to stay on the doors; they are there for the day when the movers bring our furniture back.)

Sister Anne E, below, is testing out a chair in the "new" teachers' workroom. Before long, there will be a desks to go with the chairs. . . and the room will be filled with books and supplies (and papers to grade...) Stay tuned for more pictures in the coming weeks as we hope to be living in the monastery by the Solemnity of our Holy Father, St. Francis de Sales, later this month.

11 January 2007

Spreading the Good News

The former-leper in today's Gospel was asked to present himself only to the priests and not to tell anyone about his miraculous healing. Instead, he does just the opposite. If we may overlook his failure to obey Jesus' wishes, we can find in this leper a good example of how we should respond to the gifts which we receive from the Lord.

In our culture, where rugged independence is praised, esteemed and encouraged, we are not often comfortable telling everyone about a little (or big) grace we have received from the Lord. There is something in the message of the media which exhorts us to be fiercely independent and self-made beings. And yet the Lord would have it otherwise. He invites us, constantly, to tell him our needs and to ask for them. When we receive a blessing, a happy surprise, let us not keep it quiet, but let us share it with those around us. Let us make known the wonders of our God!

"As regards your smaller consolations and joys, I wish you not to be so reserved about them, and, when the occasion presents itself, to speak of the frankly and simply to one another."
St. Francis de Sales

07 January 2007

The Wise Still Seek Him

The magi left the royal court of Herod and followed the star to Bethlehem where it rested upon a stable. The wise men traveled from what was likely a palace to a humble stable where they paid homage to the newborn Messiah. Earthly riches did not cloud the discerning eyes of the magi; they encountered the Lord in a fragile baby, born in a stable. They knew that this was an altogether different kind of royalty, but one very worthy of their gifts and their journey.

We can learn from the magi -- that the Lord is found in the most ordinary of circumstances, in the most humble of places: where we least expect Him to be. Let us, like the wise men, seek the Lord at all times. Let us be vigilant to keep our eyes on all that points toward him, all the "stars" of our life that lead us ever closer to his presence.

"When the magi kissed the feet of Jesus, they kissed the feet of God."
St. Francis de Sales

03 January 2007

Trivia but not Trivial!

Today is commemoration of the Holy Name of Jesus, a feastday which was reinstituted by Pope John Paul II after being dropped from the Roman calendar during the 1969 revisions (the Feast erstwhile known as the "Feast of the Circumcision.")

The letters "IHS" are ubiquitous in Churches, on altars, on vestments, etc. and they are sometimes mistakenly represented with periods between the letters (I.H.S.) as an acronym for "Jesus Hominum Salvator." Originally, however, they were intended to represent the first three (capital) letters of the Most Holy Name of Jesus in Greek (Iota, Eta, Sigma).
"How are we to pronounce the sacred name of Jesus? . . . It is not enough to say it with your lips; it must be engraved upon your heart."
St. Francis de Sales