28 December 2007

Angel on My Shoulder

"No, she's not heavy, she's my angel! "

As we continue celebrating these holy days of the Octave of Christmas, we pause for a moment to share some of the lighter moments of our Christmas. Pictured above, Sister Catherine, our postulant, finds an angel -- oddly resembling an egg -- on her shoulder. On Christmas morning, each place in the refectory was marked by an egg-angel. Below, they gather for a group photo.

Anticipating the busyness of the (very short) fourth week of Advent, we decorated the Christmas tree in our assembly room on Saturday evening during recreation. Below, Sister Rosemarie (who did the lion's share of putting up the tree and stringing the lights) adjusts an ornament.

Sister Mary Roberta steps up and reaches the top of the tree with ease -- something that some of us would need a trampoline to do!

Last, but not least, our Sister Mada-anne (true to her work as an archivist) is pictured below recording gifts we have received so that we may properly thank our kind benefactors. The lovely tree pictured above was one of the first gifts we received this season!

"Simplicity towards God consists in seeking Him only in all our actions, whether we are going to Office, or to the refectory, and then to recreation; we us go everywhere to seek God and to obey God." ... even to decorate the Christmas tree! St. Jane de Chantal

24 December 2007

Spotlight on the Savior

In February, we began our monthly "Spotlight on St. Francis de Sales" which featured a different sister on the 24th of each month. This last installment, a little Christmas message, is from the heart of our Sister Rosemarie. She is pictured here (in action) in the kitchen, one of the many places where she serves our community faithfully. Her reflection begins -- as many of her spontaneous-supper-sermons do -- with a quotation from the Gospel:

In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God, all things were made through him. . . . And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. As children of God, we have many reasons to rejoice for the son of God has come among us as a man and yet he is God. He has come to reveal the face and the love of God to all of humanity. People of all races, all nations, know that God is with us -- even those who choose not to believe. St. Francis de Sales describes how creation and the Incarnation are the "two births of the world." They show us "the two natures of the Word made flesh and the eternal Father's goodness to us in making His son a member of our human race." We rejoice at this time because it is through the Incarnation that Our Salvation was wrought. Jesus as man and as God has shown us the way back to the Father. We are now God's sons and daughters because of Jesus' union with us. He has wonderfully fulfilled the very purpose of the creation of man. We also rejoice with our Blessed Mother because her yes to God brought about the fulfillment of His promise. And so let us rejoice with the shepherds as we welcome the newborn King. Let us also rejoice with the angels as they sing their hymn of praise, "Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth." For today He is born: Christ our Lord.

A blessed and holy Christmas to our faithful readers. With love from your Visitation Sisters of Georgetown.

22 December 2007

Eleven Years and Counting!

Amid these privileged days before Christmas, we have a very special Solemnity which we celebrate on the 21st of December. In 1996 our Chapel of the Sacred Heart was rededicated by James Cardinal Hickey after its restoration following the 1993 fire that destroyed our school building and damaged the Chapel. Each year, when we celebrate this solemnity, we light the six festive candles (pictured above) on the walls of the chapel and choir, marking the places where the walls were anointed with chrism oil. At Office of Readings today the second reading was from the homily on the day following the rededication, the fourth Sunday of Advent 1996. We share here an excerpt from this well-crafted reflection:

"The chapel associated with Georgetown Visitation Monastery and Academy has been here for almost two hundred years. We can't really dedicate or consecrate it! Those hundreds and hundreds of Sisters who have prayed in this space, who have taught in this academy, and who have lived in this Monastery -- they have dedicated it, consecrated it, hallowed it. . . . Their bodies lie here -- a few beneath this building but most in the earth just up the hill. . . . Their prayers, as well as their long years of toil and suffering, continue to bless us still. . . . The fact of faith is what makes this chapel a place where those who come here to meet with God, speak with God, learn from God, and leave God only to find Him again in those they serve and among those with whom they live. God is found here because God loves here -- and he is loved here in return. He is loved in both prayer and in life, day in and day out, year in and year out -- always!"
Very Rev. Lewis Fiorelli, OSFS

18 December 2007

Christmas Comes Early!

As the Church begins these solemn days of preparation for the Nativity of Our Lord, beginning with last night's first of the "O Antiphons" we were treated to a festive afternoon: a fitting way to begin -- ever so quietly -- celebrating the Incarnation. Yesterday, following the last period class, students from our library association gathered around the piano in one of our school's parlors and shared with us an hour of sing-a-long Christmas carols. Mother of an '07 alumna, Virginia Lum, took requests on the piano; she encouraged the singers and even organized an impromptu round of "Do You Hear What I Hear" with the Sisters and students from '08 and '09 forming the echo choir. Cookies and punch topped off a wonderful afternoon. We are grateful to our librarians, our stellar musician (who played most of the songs from memory!!) and all those who participated.

"Had Our Lord not become incarnate, He would have remained always hidden in the bosom of His Eternal Father and unknown to us."
St. Francis de Sales

14 December 2007

Bring Your Own Beads!

Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Chapel for Wednesday's Feast.

"Bring Your Own Beads" is what BYOB stands for on Wednesday afternoons in our chapel. Recently, a few moms, a few students and any available sisters have been gathering on Wednesday afternoons for an impromptu praying of the Rosary after the last period class lets out. This past Wednesday, being the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe was an especially beautiful occasion to gather in prayer.

For a short time, the Feast of Our Holy Mother, Saint Jane de Chantal, was celebrated on 12 December (and still is in most countries outside of North America). Prior to the elevation of Our Lady of Guadalupe to a Feast, it was a Memorial which, in our houses, was not recognized due to the Solemnity of Our Holy Foundress. Our sisters recall, with a chuckle, the response of our Sister Barbara, of happy memory, who was an Indian; despite being from Mexico, she had no Spanish or Mexican ties at all. She was native to the very area in which her kinsman (loosely speaking) Juan Diego was born. When "Happy Feast Day" greetings were exchanged with her on the 12th of December, she would grit her teeth and say, "It is NOT the feast of our Holy Mother; it is the Feast of the MOTHER OF GOD!" Dear Sister Barbara was vindicated when Our Lady of Guadalupe was elevated to a Feast in dioceses of the United States and Saint Jane de Chantal relocated to 18 August.

10 December 2007

Coming Home for Christmas

Long before liturgical reforms of the Pope Gregory I, when the Church was but a few centuries old, the season of Advent was a time when catechumens prepared to enter the Church. The season of Advent had a penitential nature, much like the season of Lent, as a time of preparation for those who were to be baptized. Even though the preparation period for catechumens now takes place during the season of Lent, we can still think of Advent as a time of "coming home" -- for us or for those whom we know.
In today's Gospel, we hear how the men who were bringing a paralyzed man to Jesus were not able to access him on account of the large crowd. Most of us know people who are separated from Christ or the Church for one reason or another. The symbolic "crowd" that posed an obstacle for the men carrying the paralyzed man might take a different form in the lives of those whom we know. Perhaps we have friends or relatives who have suffered an unpleasant experience in the Church and feel unwelcome. Sometimes adults who were not well catechized do not understand fully some counter-cultural Church teachings; misconceptions and misunderstandings are the "crowd" that keeps them from drawing closer to Christ. Advent is an opportune time to reach out to those we know who have become separated from Christ or the Church. We are not always in a position to evangelize or catechize but by our own example and our prayers, we can help others come home to the Lord during this sacred season of Advent.
"This is the grace that I desire for you, my dear souls: that you remain very near to this sacred Savior who is about to gather us all around Himself in order to keep us always under his most holy protection."
St. Francis de Sales

06 December 2007

St. Nicholas

As we celebrate today the patron saint of sailors, children, unmarried girls, bakers and pawnbrokers, we take a moment to mention one of the (many) traditions associated with his legend.
When his popularity spread to Northern Europe, the celebration of his feast was marked by children leaving a shoe outside their doors, hoping for a treat in the morning. Perhaps the American custom of hanging stockings evolved from this European tradition!? In our school's homeroom bulletin for 5 December, students were informed that each homeroom could expect a surprise from the Student Government if one shoe (or boot, perhaps?) was left outside the door at the beginning of homeroom. Stay tuned for a report on the surprise!
Fun and games aside, St. Nicholas is honored for many miraculous deeds. The miracles attributed to him -- from saving sailors to delivering dowries -- point toward the kindness he showed those whom he served. Some legends recount the miraculous raising to life of murdered children; others suggest he battled Arius face-to-face. On this side of eternity we will not know the truth about this fourth century bishop of Myra, modern-day Turkey. We can be sure, however, that his fidelity to the office of bishop and his faith in Jesus Christ were steadfast.
For parents (and others) looking for a good Christian message and some balanced St. Nicholas vs. Santa resources, click here.

02 December 2007

The First Sunday of Advent

Above is a fuzzy snapshot of the Advent wreath in our choir. The candles were a bit fuzzy, but the sisters in the picture were even fuzzier, so we thought it best to leave them out. :)

Since it seems to be a trend among blogs to celebrate birthdays, we mark two years and one day today since "Live + Jesus!" was born. When we began, the word "blog" was new and unfamiliar around the monastery; 288 posts later, it has become a household word. Sisters can be heard saying, "That would be a great picture for the blog!" or "Don't put this on the blog!" It began as a means of sharing our spirituality and it has been a source of blessings as it has connected us to countless friends among our readers.

We share here a few words from one of St. Francis de Sales' Advent sermons in 1620:

"Fear [of the Lord] and hope ought never to be without one another. Fill up these valleys formed by fear with confidence. Lower the mountains and hills. What are these mountains but presumption and pride, which are very great obstacles to our Lord's coming. . . . Make straight the way of the Lord, that is, acquire an even disposition; an even disposition is the most pleasing virtue in the spiritual life, one for which we must work continually."