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."

22 August 2007

Queenship of Mary

Today, as we mark the Octave day of the Assumption, we commemorate Mary's coronation as Queen of Heaven. In doing so, we share a few thoughts from our late (and great) Pope John Paul II:

"In Mary shines forth God's sublime and surprising tenderness for the entire human race; in her, humanity regains its former beauty and the divine plan is revealed to be stronger than evil, capable of offering ever new possibilities of life and salvation. What great horizons are opened by this mystery! To the women of our time, who search -- sometimes intensely -- for their authentic dignity, she who is 'all beautiful' shows the great possibilities of the feminine genius when it is imbued with grace."
Stay tuned for updated pictures of the "Mary make-over." Coming soon!

18 August 2007

The Journey of a Solemnity

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of our Holy Mother Saint Jane de Chantal. Poor St. Jane has had her feast transferred more times than one might imagine. She was originally celebrated on 21 August (her death date and the birthday of St. Francis de Sales). When Pope St. Pius X was canonized, she was moved to 12 December. Most of the rest of the Church outside of North America currently celebrates her feast in December. In dioceses of North America, when Our Lady of Guadalupe was elevated to a Feast, St. Jane de Chantal was suppressed. Our sisters in the United States petitioned the bishops to reinstate the feast. After a few different dates were discussed, 18 August was selected for its proximity to her death anniversary.
In addition to a Solemnity for our community, we mark the birthday of Mother Philomena and the Feastday of Sister Maureen de Chantal. The "feasting" began with pancakes for breakfast (thanks to the early birds who were rattling around in the kitchen before dawn) and will continue throughout the day.
"In all your good works you should unite yourself to the will of God's good pleasure, and in your faults and imperfections, you should unite yourself to His permissive will gently, quietly, and with peace of mind."
St. Jane de Chantal

17 August 2007

Mary Make-over

The statue of Our Lady that resides in our refectory is receiving a custom make-over. Our sacristan, Sister Leonie Therese, sporting her green floral apron, and our postulant, Catherine, wearing a more demure ensemble, are shown applying a second coat of white paint. Rumor has it that there will be some new finishing touches applied to her crown. Stay tuned for more pictures!

"Honor, venerate and respect with special love the holy and glorious Virgin Mary, who being the Mother of Jesus Christ our Brother, is also in truth our very mother."
St. Francis de Sales

13 August 2007

Terrorist in the Family

No, this is not about Father Cloriviere -- who really was a terrorist -- who is buried in our crypt (we'll have to write about him sometime!) This is about our very own, sweet and innocent Sister Jacqueline. (We do not use the "labels" provided by this new version of blogger ... but if we did, this post would be in the "life-in-the-monastery-is-never-boring" category.)

It all began as a normal day. Last Thursday, Sister Jacqueline and four other sisters went to the airport to travel to Minneapolis-St. Paul for our annual Salesian conference. When she attempted to check her luggage at curb-side checking, she was informed that she was under surveillance. Inside the terminal the woman at the check-in desk printed a letter from Homeland Security informing her that she was on a "list" and that she would have to be cleared when she returned from her trip. Needless to say, she was in a state of mild shock. Sister, however, was very happy to see security measures in place (especially as a resident of Washington DC) and, although alarmed, she was not irritated by this inconvenience.

Amazingly, when she arrived in Minnesota, she learned that her very own nephew (with whom she shares her last name) had the same experience when he last traveled. Could it be that the Burke family history has a spotted past? Perhaps. William Burke of 19th century England was noted for procuring cadavers for medical students -- hence the word "burke" (in the dictionary) means to "smother someone" (the means by which this distinguished Burke created his cadavers!)

Sister Jacqueline is known for giving bone-crushing hugs but we are happy to report that we have not had any casualties at home!

09 August 2007


We didn't wear shells around our necks, but we might have wished we had fans around them, as the temperature hit a mid-day high of 104F. Despite yesterday's oppressive weather, our Archivist, Sister Mada-anne led a small group on her "Southern Maryland Tour" of our monastery's roots in the United States.

We began with a visit to the Carmelites at Port Tobacco. Charles Neale, brother of Leonard Neale, brought them to the Maryland in 1790. The first few months of their foundation, they spent at Neale family estate, Chandler's Hope, just a short distance from their current location in Port Tobacco. We are pictured below with some of their community in their library. Click here to learn more about this delightful community.

Our next stop was St. Ignatius Church, where we attended 12noon Mass and enjoyed our picnic lunch in the (air conditioned) dining room of their manor house. Click here to learn more about St. Thomas Manor. Manor houses were built when it was illegal for Catholic Churches to be open to the public in the state of Maryland. The "house" was private but it permitted one to gain entrance into the Church or Chapel attached to it.

Below is a view of the cemetery at St. Thomas Manor. Among the early Catholic families buried there including members of the Neale family, the Digges family, and the Matthews family, one will find a large memorial to the Jesuits who came over on the Ark and the Dove in 1641.

Our last stop -- for prayer, quiet and a history lesson -- was St. Francis Xavier Church in nearby Newtown. Below, Catherine exits the Church as we begin our journey home.

05 August 2007

Small and Modest

Small and modest -- that's the tomato. A very humble "first fruit" of our garden. (To be accurate, the lettuce and cucumbers have been arriving for weeks, but they're fresh tomatoes which delight both the cook and the rest of the community!) At risk of abusing the patience of our readers, we share a couple more garden shots:

"Tiger Tom" is an heirloom variety. This plant was "born" in our second floor storage room (since the former room for seed-starting is now an electrical closet!) This was Tom's baby picture from our previous "Garden Babies" post.

It wouldn't be fair to say that the "Tom" is the only modest one in the picture. Mother Philomena, former biology teacher, examines Tom's unique stripes.
Support natural family planting: grow open pollinated varieties!

01 August 2007

Hidden Treasure

Today's Gospel about the merchant in search of fine pearls and the man who finds the hidden treasure point our souls toward the Kingdom of God. They remind us of the inestimable riches awaiting those who heed carefully the Gospel message.

A short excerpt from the Exhortations of St. Jane de Chantal calls our minds and hearts to a similar posture of responding to the Lord:
"To have chosen Jesus for the only object of your love,
is to have promised that your hearts shall have no other affections
than to please Him, to love and serve Him,
and that all your desires shall be for Jesus,
all your solicitudes for Jesus,
all your thoughts for Jesus,
in a word, all your soul and all your facilities for Jesus alone,
Whom, of your pure, unrestrained and free will,
you have chosen for the only Spouse of your hearts,
and the sole object of your love."

For those who have changed their lives after encountering the Lord, He, indeed, is the pearl of great price.