28 June 2007

Garden Babies

For several weeks now, we've been enjoying fresh lettuce and string beans -- and the squirrels have been nice enough to limit their taste-testing to a finite number of plants so that we, too, may enjoy the harvest. Just this week, three of our fruiting plants put forth their "first fruits" ... and at risk of boring our readers with plant photos, we have some baby pictures to share. (Click on an image to enlarge it.)

This is a baby watermelon. The markings on its skin are delicate and exquisite!

This is a baby cucumber, a distant cousin of the watermelon.

This is a baby tomato, most likely a "Tiger Tom" variety. When mature, it will be slightly smaller than a tennis ball, quite round for a homegrown heirloom tomato and it will have yellow stripes on its reddish orange skin. Almost too attractive to eat!

24 June 2007

"E" is for Everlasting

"E" is for everlasting, like the down-to-earth wisdom that one finds in the "Spiritual Conferences of St. Francis de Sales." As part of our monthly spotlight on St. Francis de Sales, we feature Sister Mary de Sales and her favorite work by her namesake: the "Spiritual Conferences."

The "Spiritual Conferences of St. Francis de Sales" (commonly referred to in Salesian circles as "The Conferences") are, perhaps, one of the least well-known works of the patron saint of journalism. The 21 conferences were talks that St. Francis de Sales gave to the early sisters of the Visitation; they were not composed for publication. In fact, the conferences were all delivered orally and recorded by our early sisters. Many parts of the conferences seem to be in response to questions which the sisters asked; other parts appear to be spiritual talks which were delivered on a special occasion. The sources for the conferences are from two of our early sisters, Sister Claude-Agnes Joly de la Roche and Sister Marie-Marguerite Michel who, despite little time for leisure, recorded the conferences as faithfully as their memories allowed. Each sister had a different style of writing, the former had a knack for preserving the theological points and organizational structure of a conference and the latter, a preference for anecdotes and practical examples.

Pictured above, Sister Mary de Sales poses with a well-used copy of the conferences. Sister loves the practical day-to-day examples that illustrate the gentle spirit which which St. Francis de Sales encouraged us to live. With good reason, they are her favorite works by Our Holy Founder.
"You must not, then, be astonished or discouraged when you commit some fault or imperfection before your sisters . . . . You may have been guilty of some fault of silliness, it is true; but it was before your sisters, who love you dearly, who can very well bear with you in your faults, and who will feel more compassion for you than indignation against you."
St. Francis de Sales
Conference IV (On Cordiality)

21 June 2007

Belated Fathers' Day

Today's Gospel has the Lord teaching us the "Our Father".... and we're seizing the opportunity to post a belated Fathers' Day tribute. One of our faculty members shared this video with us and we thought it was too good not to share with our readers. There are many videos about this amazing father-son team; this one is from the NBC "Today's Heroes" series. It is a remarkable story about a father's devotion to his son. It is a little over five minutes (but it may require more than five tissues!)

17 June 2007

New Additions!

O Happy occasion: on Friday evening, in a ceremony in choir before Vespers, we received two postulants who will begin their formation this coming week. Geraldine and Catherine received medals of St. Francis de Sales and assumed their places in choir just prior to second Vespers for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.
Pictured below, Geraldine receives her medal from Mother Philomena while Catherine, right, looks on:

Catherine and Geri, below, pose in the novitiate library with Sister Mary Berchmans, the Mistress of Postulants.

Please help us pray in gratitude for our new additions: for them and for more additions!

15 June 2007

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart

Photograph of the widow in our Chapel of the Sacred Heart by Michael Hoyt, used with permission and gratitude.
When the Lord asks "What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?" we have no record of a response from his audience. We are so accustomed to this parable, however, that the Lord's response may not strike us in the same way it struck his hearers the first time the story was told. No one in his right mind would leave ninety-nine sheep to search for the lone stray. If he did, he would probably lose many more sheep -- to say nothing of his job! Such a practical concern never plagued the mind of the Good Shepherd; his only concern is love. To show the expansive love of his Most Sacred Heart, our Lord uses this most extraordinary example of his care of each member of his flock. Not a single one of us is beyond the reach of His care and His grace.
"Let us be charitable and humble in our thoughts as well as in our words. If we are more faithful to this, the Sacred Heart will be more liberal of His graces than He has ever been."
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

12 June 2007

Nursery School Progress Report

Since our nursery school graduation (23 tomato transplants moved from the monastery into the vegetable garden) several weeks ago, we have seen great growth. We have had several visitors -- hungry squirrels, perhaps -- who have performed some quality control tests, sampling the lettuce and fennel plants during the first few weeks of their growth. They have assured us that the produce is safe to consume and fortunately, they have found an alternate source of food, allowing us to share in the fresh lettuce and green beans! Sister Mary Roberta is pictured below washing fresh lettuce and below her is a shot of the garden from the tomato patch. Stay tuned for summer garden updates!

08 June 2007

From the Mailbag (II)

We have another question from the mailbag (comment box, really) and it's a great one! A guest wrote in and asked the difference between a Feast and a Solemnity. In responding in the comment box, we realized that there are much more articulate explanations in an article from "The Catechist." Click here to read their snappy explanation.
Just as a side note, there are times when a particular country, diocese, religious order, etc., has permission to celebrate a certain Memorial or Feast with greater solemnity. In our case, we celebrate the "Feast" of the Visitation, the "Memorial" of St. Francis de Sales, and the "Commemoration" of St. Jane de Chantal as Solemnities. In addition, we celebrate the "Commemoration" of St. Margaret Mary as a Feast. It keeps us (and our chaplains) on our toes!

04 June 2007

The Poor Among Us

Today's first reading begins our week-long reading from the book of Tobit (the book formerly known as Tobias). The stories in this book take place in the city of Nineveh after the Assyrians had captured Israel. Tobit sends his son Tobiah into the streets to find a poor person with whom he may share his festive meal. This act of munificence leads Tobit to a greater act of charity when, later in the reading, he buries a dead kinsman despite the heckling of his neighbors.
Tobit himself was an exile and, in his good fortune of having a fine dinner prepared for him, he seeks to share it with one who is less fortunate than he. For many of us, we are able to be generous to the poor around us by participating in programs which are organized to feed the homeless or homebound. Our students, faculty and staff collaborate with a number of different outreach initiatives to feed the hungry. In addition to those who are physically or economically poor -- for whom programs are established -- we have others in our midst who are poor in ways that often go unnoticed. Every workplace has someone who is a little more "left out" of things than others. These, too, are the poor. Their poverty may be more private than one whose poverty is physical or material but, often, it can be more painful. Let us reach out to the poor among us who are sometimes a great deal closer than we expect.
"Converse willingly with the poor, be pleased to have them near you, be often in their company."
St. Francis de Sales