28 March 2007

Belated Jubilee

This past Saturday we celebrated the Golden Jubilee of our dear Sister Mary Austin. She is pictured above in the kitchen (hence the apron!). There are many things for which our community is grateful on the happy occasion of her Jubilee but at the top of the list are Sister's gentle presence, her devotion and her love.
On a more practical level, we admire (and some of us even envy) her culinary skills. Treats and desserts seem effortless. Perhaps one of her more skillful desserts was a squash cobbler that most of us thought was an apple pie. Someone who was working in the kitchen leaked the secret ingredient by teasing that we were having vegetables for dessert. Sister had most of us fooled -- and enjoying our "apple pie" when we learned the truth! Last but not least, Sister Mary Austin is always ready to take on a partner for a game of Canasta -- play at your own risk -- shark on the loose!
We are a bit tardy in sharing this wonderful event since three of our number left bright and early the next morning to be with our Sisters in Brooklyn for a Solemn profession (pictures forthcoming!)

24 March 2007

"B" is for Birds

In keeping with our effort to spotlight St. Francis de Sales on the 24th of each month, we are treated to a word from our resident sacristan (and zookeeper), Sister Leonie Therese. Sister Leonie is pictured above with St. Francis de Sales – and Soltico the canary is in her hands. Here she shares with us her delight at how St. Francis de Sales writes about creation:

“I like how St. Francis de Sales was very protective of God’s creation and all things in nature – animals and plants alike. He uses them to tell stories and give examples which reveal God’s love for us and his goodness. In writings about him we are told that the birds used to fly into his hands while he was praying the Divine Office. He saw in each creature the potential to give glory to God simply by its existence. From the birds that sing to the cows that give milk (and cheese and butter) St. Francis de Sales saw creation as reflecting the beauty of its creator.”

“It is a sin to harm animals’ lives for the sole satisfaction of injuring them because it robs them of the joy of mere existence which is bestowed upon them by God for his glory.”
St. Francis de Sales

19 March 2007

Coming Soon to a Chapel Near You: Jesus!

We realize that the violet vestments at Mass indicate that we are in Lent - not Advent - but we can still say that Jesus is "coming soon" to our Chapel of St. Joseph in the retreat passage of our newly renovated monastery.

As we celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph, we will have a procession up to the 4th floor chapel to dedicate it and repose the Blessed Sacrament. Below is a photo of the picture of St. Joseph on the east wall of the chapel.

Pictured below is the altar, awaiting the arrival of the tabernacle (pictures forthcoming). In the foreground of the picture is a prie dieu which was used by the first sister, Mother Josephine Teresa "Alice" Lalor, who began our monastery in 1799 with Archbishop Leonard Neale.

The Chapel of St. Joseph is such a beautiful place to pray, we suspect that our own sisters may be lining up to spend a weekend in the retreat passage!

"Saint Joseph had a very great share in the treasure, Our Lord and Master, which he guarded in his house!"

St. Francis de Sales

15 March 2007


In today's first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, we hear a harsh report about the Lord's chosen people: "This is the nation that does not listen to the voice of the Lord, its God, or take correction." Accepting correction graciously is a challenge for anyone. It can be very difficult to listen to someone delineate our faults accurately and it is even more difficult if we perceive that the correction is unmerited. Be it an accurate or inaccurate reproof, the Lord will bless us for listening patiently to one who seeks to correct us. If a correction is issued kindly as a gesture of love it is much easier to try to accept it graciously -- a grace in itself! Though we should be slow to correct our neighbors, let us pray for the grace to accept correction in a spirit of gratitude.
"It seems a great thing when we accept correction from our Superiors. But from equals, one cannot bear it: the heart swells and reacts because this one who is my equal has no authority to admonish me . . . . it is here that we find one of the principal points of humility and perfection of the Christian life."
St. Francis de Sales

10 March 2007

Save the Baby Humans!

Recently, as our Visi moms have been working diligently to prepare for our annual dollars-for-scholars fund-raising gala, they received the offer of a golden retriever puppy to be included among the items for the auction. This seemed to be a wonderfully lively addition to the 100+ items for the auction until early this past week. Our school administration as well as our gala chairperson were inundated with hundreds of emails from animal rights activists clamoring that this was an unethical manner of treating a puppy. Among the 300+ emails that our Sister Mary Berchmans received was a surly reproach suggesting that having the puppy as part of the fund raiser was tantamount to having homeless people as part of the live auction. In response to the uproar, our administration issued a very well-stated response and withdrew the puppy from the auction. As we pondered this situation, many of us wondered if those who became angry over this well-intentioned auction item are as passionate about saving baby humans as they are about puppies. Below is a very touching rap-video which is pro-life, (pro-baby humans!). Do share it with others if you like it. It may speak to our young people in ways that we cannot imagine. If it does not appear at the bottom of this post, click here to view it.

07 March 2007

Irksome Temptations

It is a consolation, in one way, to read in today's Gospel that even the disciples themselves were not above the temptation of resentment. As the mother of James and John asks Jesus to reserve for them places of honor in his kingdom, Jesus hints at the suffering which awaits him. One can almost imagine the early-Church grapevine as news of Zebedee's wife and her request filtered down to the rest of the group. Matthew tells us that, "When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers." Surely we can all relate to how the ten were feeling. Perhaps we have been passed over for a promotion or a special assignment at work; perhaps we have watched as someone whom we estimate to be unqualified or inexperienced is given an opportunity to move ahead at work or in school. Negotiating a variety of different emotions in the face of such an experience is very natural, as the apostles show us. Irksome

Even though the Gospel does not provide us with an insider account into how each of the ten apostles felt about the two whose mother asked that they have places of honor, it might be safe to guess that their emotions ranged from anger and resentment to envy and jealousy. And knowing that such strong reactions, especially envy and resentment -- within a small group such as the apostles -- are are recipe for discord and unrest, Jesus is quick to respond. Urging the disciples to seek to be servants instead of lords, he paints a very different picture of places of honor in his kingdom. When we notice, in the depths of our hearts, a stirring of these unsettling emotions, let us be encouraged that many before us have battled these temptations.
"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. . . .In short, these lesser temptations -- anger, suspicion, jealousy, envy, levity, folly, vanity, deception, impure thoughts -- are the continual trials of the most fervent and devout persons."
St. Francis de Sales

03 March 2007

Via Crucis - part II

This is a continutation of our previous post about the symbols which are etched into our crosses. The front side, pictured above, has the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek. (Click here for a prior post with some more information.) The double cross above the "H" symbolizes union: our union with Christ and the union of Christ with His Church. The two flames (on either side of the cross piece) represent the living fire of love that animates our lives. The three nails represent the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The olive branch eminating from Mt. Sinai, which is found on both sides of the cross, reminds us daily of God's peace and his mercy.

"The Everlasting God has, in His wisdom, foreseen from eternity the cross He now presents to you as a gift from His inmost Heart."
St. Francis de Sales