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!