29 December 2008

Spiritual Blindness

Just as the darkness of night can make it difficult for us to see where we are going on an unlit road, so the spiritual darkness of hatred, anger or jealousy can blind us to the places where the Lord wishes to lead our hearts. In today's first reading, St. John tells us that "whoever hates his brother is in darkness." Harboring feelings of hate, revisiting memories which provoke us to feel angry or enviously resenting the good fortune of others are all recipes for a spiritual fender-bender -- or worse! Negative energy blinds us to the presence of the Lord in our hearts. It turns our thoughts and concerns in on ourselves and, as a result, we become insensitive to the needs of those around us. Today's Gospel gives us an example of what can happen when we resist the temptation toward negativity. We learn that it had been revealed to Simeon "by the Holy Spirit" that he would not die before he saw the Messiah. Only one who is not caught in the snares of spiritual blindness can be poised to receive such good news from the Holy Spirit.

Certainly we are not in the same position as Simeon, awaiting the birth of Israel's Messiah. But we, too, must keep ourselves open to the Lord's message in our lives. The Lord continues to speak to the hearts of those who seek Him. In the little everyday matters which might tempt us to cultivate negative thoughts, let us ask the Lord for the grace to put aside all that is negative and all that will impede our ability to be open to the Lord's voice in our hearts.

"If I am beset with pride or anger, I must above all else strive to cultivate humility and gentleness, and I must turn all my religious exercises,—prayer, sacraments, prudence, constancy, moderation, to the same object."
St. Francis de Sales

25 December 2008

Christmas AD 2008

We cheated. We sang Christmas Carols during the third week of Advent; but we couldn't resist! The Young-Lum family came to visit and we had a sing-a-long complete with signs for all the days in the "12 Day of Christmas." The audio (well sung, but poorly recorded on a digital camera) is from our sing-a-long last Friday.

Also captured in our two minute video are shots from our "troublesome tree." The tree in our Assembly room fell over and the angel went flying across the room. It appears she injured herself on a nearby bookcase. Sister Mary de Sales rushed her to the infirmary for some super-glue surgery on her broken wings. Although we do not have any post-op shots of the angel, we do have a picture of a small giraffe ornament who managed to survive the crash and remain upright. Amazing! Some other important preparations include the ordinary tasks of cooking, cleaning, walking the dog and answering the phone. Do enjoy a two-minute Christmas visit.

A happy and holy Christmas to all our readers!

21 December 2008

The Rising Sun!

With this fourth Sunday of Advent, we come to the fifth of the Great O Antiphons and we reach back over 350 posts and share a piece from our archives, posted on this day in 2005.

As the calendar is currently arranged, this antiphon is sung on the shortest day of the year. The rising sun, the Oriens, from the Latin verb orior is translated as the "Branch" in the book of Zechariah, which the angel of the Lord announces (3:12). The title Oriens as well as the two which follow, everlasting light and Sun of justice, all link Christ, present with God at the beginning of the world, to the sun which came to be on the fourth day of creation. This same light is experienced as the fulfillment of what Yahweh promised to the people of Israel; for Zechariah, father of St. John the Baptist, announces that God, "from on high will bring the rising Sun to visit us, to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death" (Lk1:78-9).

Nature's brightest star is but a mere indication of the brightness of the light of Christ. To the people of Israel, the Branch, the one who rises from the stump of Jesse, is the longed-for-Messiah; to those preparing to celebrate the Incarnation of the second person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Branch is the Messiah who has come and who comes again each year, in the hearts of Christians.

As we prepare our hearts to welcome the Lord, let us clothe ourselves in the light which flows from the Sun of justice. Let us seek justice in all our relationships. Justice is what we owe to one another; some relationships are equal -- marriage, siblings, peers, co-workers, etc.; in other relationships it is proper that it be "unequal" -- parents and children, teachers and students, employer and employees, etc. When we examine our relationships, we may find that we "owe" a little more to some people than we ordinarily give. Advent is a wonderful time to ask for the grace to be more generous in our relationships with one another. Let us thank the Lord for the different relationships in our lives and let us strive to be true sons and daughters of the Sun of justice. Come, Lord Jesus.

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae et sol iustitiae: Veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris et umbra mortis.
O Rising brightness of everlasting light and Sun of justice: come and enlighten those sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death.

17 December 2008


Although the "Lion of Judah" didn't make it into the titles used by the Church in the O Antiphons which begin today, we hear in today's readings how the house of Judah is the privileged family from which will come the "Flower of Jesse's Stem" and the "Key of David."

As we begin this sacred octave which prepares our hearts for the coming of the Messiah, we are given seven titles of our Lord upon which to reflect. It is significant to note that each of these Antiphons, divided into two parts: first the title, addressing the Messiah to come and then the second part which begins, in Latin, with the imperative "Veni." Come! We invite the Messiah to come to us each day. We beg him to to set us free, to show us the way, to break our chains, to come quickly!

This is a wonderful pattern for us to consider in our prayers. After addressing the Lord and describing some attribute of his greatness, these antiphons petition Him to come among us. How very much this is needed today. Let us invite the Lord into our lives, our hearts, our world, our families, our relationships. Come, Lord Jesus, come!

O Wisdom, you who proceed forth from the mouth of the Most High, stretching from end to end, ordering all things strongly and sweetly:
Come to teach us the way of prudence.

13 December 2008

Dreams Come True

Dreams, that is, for the people whom this hero is helping. Several weeks ago we encouraged shameless voting for our alumna and, "community crusader" Liz McCartney who was nominated as one of CNN's top 10 heroes of the year. Having earned more votes than her nine fellow activists, Liz' St. Bernard Project received the $100,000 award from CNN. Below is Liz' very gracious 40-second acceptance speech.

If you'd like to read more about Liz' work visit the write-up on our school's website and check out the snappy new look on the St. Bernard Project's own website. If you'd like to help the SBP ... or you're just looking for a good deed to do during this Advent season, you can visit the SBP wishlist where wishes can come true for as little as $25 for faucets, $50 for plumbing tools and bigger gifts of $12,000 can rebuild an entire house. Kudos to Liz and her 8,000 volunteers: olive branches of hope to the flood victims of New Orleans!

09 December 2008

To Love Like God Loves

In today's Gospel we have the familiar parable of the lost sheep. It may not speak to the experience of those of us whose daily lives do not involve the agrarian chores of shepherding and care of animals but surely it speaks to our sense of the practical. It makes no sense to leave behind 99 sheep to seek out one lone lost animal. In fact, one might be tempted to wonder about the quality of the lost sheep if he couldn't manage to stick with the flock in the first place. This, however, is probably not our Lord's intention in telling us this parable. It is the unreasonableness of God's love that He wishes to show us. God loves us so much that he would leave behind the flock to go in tender search of any single lost soul. The parable does not suggest neglect for the rest of the flock; it suggests lavish -- and perhaps even undeserved -- love for each single member of the flock.

This coming Thursday in the Office of Readings we will hear a selection from St. Peter Chrysologus which speaks of a longing to see God: "Hinc est quod amor qui cupit videre Deum, et si non habet judicium habet tamen studium pietatis." The Breviary renders it loosely: "A love that desires to see God may not have reasonableness on its side, but it is the evidence of filial love." One could fill a page with translations and interpretations of "pietatis" but that ancient Roman sense of "responsibility to the God(s)" carried with it a sense of loyalty, tenderness and kindness. And so, if we desire to see God, to imitate that love with which He loves us, let us put aside the temptation to measure our love for one another by what seems reasonable to us. Let us show our love and our kindness to one another by being unreasonably tender as the Lord was when he went in search of the lost sheep. Imagine how different our families, workplaces, parishes, etc., could be if each person felt as loved and as cared-for as the lost sheep in the parable. Together, ewe and we can change the world, one lost sheep at a time!

05 December 2008

Wait ... an Advent Thought!

On Wednesday evening we were treated to a wonderful Advent hour of reflection. Our Sister Archivist dusted off the Advent Sermons of St. Francis de Sales, combined it with a touch of some more contemporary authors and wove it together with her own rich style of reflecting on our Salesian heritage. Her theme: the art of waiting. We share an excerpt from sister's stellar presentation. Among other words of wisdom, Sister suggested that "waiting" is not a very popular activity today:

"Since we are uncomfortable waiting, our impulse is to fill in the time with cell phones and iPods. We have to stay, but we want to get out of the place where we are waiting -- most of all, by doing something . . . . It is important to note that all the figures appearing on the first pages of Luke's Gospel are waiting. Zechariah and Elizabeth are waiting. Mary is waiting. Anna and Simeon have been waiting in the temple for years! The whole opening scene of the Good News is filled with people patiently waiting. . . . And these to whom promises have been made are waiting actively. They aren't just sitting on their hands, awaiting THE moment. They know that what they are waiting for is growing from roots in the ground on which they are standing. The secret of waiting is the faith that the seed has been planted, that something has begun. St. Francis de Sales encourages us to live fully in the present moment. Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Anna and Simeon are all ACTIVELY waiting, fully present to the moment, fully confident that something is happening within them."

01 December 2008

Come, Lord Jesus!

As we begin this most sacred season of Advent, we might stop to consider what a rich invitation it is for us to examine our own journey. We who seek Christ are all pilgrims on this side of eternity. During this season of preparation, our journey takes us to Bethlehem where we shall marvel at how the Lord comes among us as a child.
Those of us who live in monasteries do not travel a great deal, but when we do, we are struck (sometimes in more ways than one) by the rules and regulations that have been added at airports: shoe removal, food and liquid prohibitions, baggage limits, etc. Recently applied airline regulations may give us some insight into this journey of ours during the season of Advent.

Moses took off his shoes after the Lord appeared to him in the burning bush. He was standing on holy ground. Airports may not be holy ground, but our heart's journey to the manger where the Holy Family is gathered is a journey which can help us to grow in holiness. When we prepare ourselves for the Lord of Lords to be born anew in our hearts, we lay aside all that is unworthy of so great a visitor. Our hearts, if they are ready for the coming of Christ, will be made holy by Him whom we welcome.

Fortunately for us, we do not need to carry large bags when we travel: our wardrobe is simple and our needs are few. One cannot help but to notice, however, that the number and size of bags one may now carry on board an airplane continues to grow smaller. This, too, provides an insight into our pilgrimage to the manger in Bethlehem. When we journey toward Christ we cannot carry extra baggage. Such "baggage" might be: resentment, fear, anger, jealousy, discouragement, etc., and they are all roadblocks along our way. The more baggage we have, the more difficult it can be to stay on the road that will take us to Bethlehem. When we are not weighed down with baggage, we are also free to help others along the way. Let us set out, this Advent season, to throw down our baggage (or at least check it at the curb) and hurry for God is with us and He awaits us at the manger.

28 November 2008

Belated Halloween Video

We are a little belated in sharing these highlights with our readers, but we trust that they are still as amusing as they were almost a month ago. Our dear Sister Raphael shares her birthday with the celebration of All Hallows ... and she enjoys every minute of it. This year, our Sister Mada-anne -- in a creative monologue -- appeared to Sister Raphael in a one-nun-skit as a talking lighthouse. (Sister Raphael is very fond of lighthouses!) Later in the skit, the rest of the community donned masks of Sister Raphael. Amid the frivolity and eutrepalia Sister Raphael was heard to exclaim, "I'm being faced with myself!" Do enjoy a two-minute visit to Sister's birthday party!

24 November 2008

Renewal of Vows

On Friday, as we celebrated the Feast of the Presentation of Mary, we observed our custom of renewing our vows during Mass and signing our vow book during the day. Pictured above is the 1816 vow book as it waits for the next sister to approach it to rewrite and sign her vows.

Having the book out of its glass case for a day is a real treat. One stumbles upon many fascinating pages as she follows the handwritten numbers in the top-right corner of the pages to locate her own page. The very beginning of the book bears the traditional inscription of every Visitation vow book which is taken from the original manuscript in Annecy, written by St. Francis de Sales in 1611. Below is an excerpt from one of our Holy Father's aspirations for Our Order:

"O true God, who will grant me grace for the Almighty to hear my desire that He Himself should write this book, so that I may carry it on my shoulders and put it about me as a crown? . . . Yes, Lord Jesus, hear the cry of my heart for your servants: may you yourself write in this book, and may no Sister ever write her name in it except by your inspiration and in response to your call . . . . In all my soul's aspirations to you I shall call out all the names written in it, and this roll-call will be a hymn of joy and praise to offer up to your Divine Providence as a bouquet of sweet fragrance."
St. Francis de Sales

20 November 2008

Shhhhhh .... Sisters at Prayer

"Every year, on November twenty-first, Feast of the Presentation of Our Lady, after three days of recollection, all the sisters publicly renew their religious vows, although simply as an act of devotion."
Constitutions of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, chapter XXXII

It may be "simply as an act of devotion" but is, indeed, an important day in the life of our monastery. The 1816 vow book, in which the founding sisters of our monastery wrote their vows, comes out of its glass case and is placed on a table in front of the altar. During Mass we all recite a short renewal formula and then, all during the day, the sisters have a chance to sign their page in the vow book. We even have a visitor's page for sisters who are away from their monastery on this feast and renew their vows with us.

It is fitting -- and particularly meaningful for us -- that November 21st has also been named a day "pro orantibus" -- for those who pray and, in particular, the Church prays for cloistered religious. We leave off here with a prayer from St. Francis de Sales' instructions as he founded our Order:

"Grant, O Jesus, holy and sweet love of our souls, that the year in which each Sister shall inscribe her oblation in this book may be a year of sanctification for her; the day, a day of salvation, the hour an hour of lasting benediction."

16 November 2008

AU: Amazing University Students

Just yesterday we were privileged to have 12 AU (that now stands for "Amazing" university students) join us for a day-long discernment retreat. In the morning the group looked at the three vocations of marriage, religious life and a committed single life and in the afternoon they filled their tool bags with some "tools for discernment."

Among the first things that these young women learned (and it wasn't even on the outline for their retreat day) was that there is never a dull moment at the monastery. Yesterday was also our annual Gold-White intramural field hockey game where students battle for "team points" in a hockey game after a rousing pep rally and dance contest. The AU retreatants were informed that they were to be rooting for the gold team; it was a natural choice since the sisters who spent the day with them are all members of the (winning) gold team. We were a bit sad to learn that one of our amazing students was strong-armed into being a white-team supporter.

Please note the large blue area at the bottom of the group picture. It might amuse our faithful readers to know that there were two cameras on self-timer set to photograph the group; one camera was on a 5 pound box of Twizzlers, atop a tin of popcorn and the camera that caught this picture was resting upon a 5 gallon water-cooler jug, balanced on its narrow end. Can readers guess which two subjects in the picture below were the two who came running (er, diving in one instance) into the picture with seconds to spare?

12 November 2008

A Peek at the Bazaar

We should probably have titled this post, "A Peek at the sisters at the Bazaar" for we share here some "action" shots of our "Salesnuns" at work. We are sorry not to have pictures of the sisters on the moonbounce but the "take of your shoes and your glasses" sign scared some of us away. Maybe next year!

Mother Mary Berchmans talks to an alumna about the Visitation history book she is selling.

Sister Leonie Therese makes friends and sales. (The camera just missed her modeling one of her brightly-colored scarves!)

Sister Anne Francis minds the "Vocation Visibility Booth" and offers free copies of our ten-minute vocational DVD as well as "Prayer Warrior" magnets.

Sister Maureen assists a customer at her table. So many cards to choose from ... so hard to decide which ones to buy!

A sincere thanks to all our Visi moms (and dads) and volunteers who helped to make Esprit de Noel 2008 such a success!

08 November 2008

Bazaar Weekend

Don't worry, we haven't adopted green habits or striped stockings; this is the Esprit de Noel Elf who can be found on just about every signpost on campus. She directs shoppers and volunteers to food, vendors, the (very popular) used book sale and other features of our annual Christmas Bazaar, one of our school's first fund-raisers of the year.

Among countless vendors, one can find the sisters selling their own creations. Sister Leonie Therese is raffling off a hand-painted night table and peddling her embroidery work; Sister Rosemarie is raising money for the Mercy Project, which helps families in her native village of Lare in Kenya; Sister Maureen has added a host of new items to her stationery creations and Mother Mary Berchmans can be found selling copies of the Visitation history book, recently updated and republished in 2004. Stay tuned for pictures of the sisters at work at the bazaar!

04 November 2008


Thanks to the diocese of Wilmington, Bishop Malooley, and his predecessor, Bishop Saltarelli, for issuing (and re-issuing) this prayer. Pray! (and vote!)

If you haven't already seen it (or heard it), EWTN hosted a 13-part series on St. Thomas More. Although it was only available through 31 October, Jay Anderson has the files available here.

Litany of St. Thomas More,
Martyr and Patron Saint of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers

V. Lord, have mercy
R. Lord have mercy
V. Christ, have mercy
R. Christ have mercy
V. Lord, have mercy
R. Lord have mercy
V. Christ hear us
R. Christ, graciously hear us

V. St. Thomas More, Saint and Martyr,
R. Pray for us (Repeat after each invocation)
St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers
St. Thomas More, Patron of Justices, Judges and Magistrates
St. Thomas More, Model of Integrity and Virtue in Public and Private Life
St. Thomas More, Servant of the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Christ
St. Thomas More, Model of Holiness in the Sacrament of Marriage
St. Thomas More, Teacher of his Children in the Catholic Faith
St. Thomas More, Defender of the Weak and the Poor
St. Thomas More, Promoter of Human Life and Dignity

V.Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R.Spare us O Lord
V.Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R.Graciously hear us O Lord
V.Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R.Have mercy on us

Let us pray:

O Glorious St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, your life of prayer and penance and your zeal for justice, integrity and firm principle in public and family life led you to the path of martyrdom and sainthood. Intercede for our Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, that they may be courageous and effective in their defense and promotion of the sanctity of human life - the foundation of all other human rights. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

31 October 2008

Reaping a Harvest of Righteousness

As we begin reading St. Paul's letter to the Philippians, we are reminded of our call to cultivate the soil of our hearts so that it may be well tended enough to grow the "fruit of righteousness." At first glance, the word "righteousness" may not appeal to us as a quality we would like to nurture but when we think of it as being "full of doing the right thing" it may seem more appealing. Very often we know what we should do or how we should act and, being human, we probably also find that we fall short of "doing the right thing" when left to our own devices. Asking God for the help we need to deal with each day's challenges -- those which we can foresee and those which take us by surprise -- is the first step toward cultivating a harvest of righteousness. When we put our hearts at the Lord's disposal by asking for His help, there is no limit to what the Lord can do with us. His grace can help us to respond lovingly in situations which we find difficult; He can make us His instruments in situations we might never have imagined if we had not allowed the Lord to use us for His good works.

St. Francis de Sales encourages us to put our hearts before the Lord every morning before we begin our day and to offer to the Lord all that we will do or undertake. He also encourages us to examine our hearts at the end of the day: two very ancient spiritual practices. His explanation of the end-of-day examination is a happy reminder about the importance of keeping the soil of our hearts well-tilled and ready for His hand to sow the seeds of righteousness.

"If you have done anything good, offer thanks to God; if you have done amiss in thought, word, or deed, ask forgiveness of His Divine Majesty, resolving to confess the fault when opportunity offers, and to be diligent in doing better. Then, commend your body and soul, the Church, your relations and friends, to God. Ask that the Saints and Angels may keep watch over you, and with God’s Blessing go to the rest He has appointed for you. Neither this practice nor that of the morning should ever be omitted; by your morning prayer you open your soul’s windows to the sunshine of Righteousness, and by your evening devotions you close them against the shades of hell."
St. Francis de Sales

27 October 2008

U Haul Update!

The secret is out: the U Haul did not contain 8,000 lbs. of meatballs from September's "Monastic Meatball Supper" but it did contain the 8-foot nun-poster where visitors could "picture" themselves with us. Students who stopped at our table had the opportunity to have their picture taken as a Visitation Sister. Travel with us for 2 minutes to the Finnegan Field House at FUS for the largest Vocation Fair in the country. And pray with us that seeds sown will bear fruit.

Special thanks to Lucia Bortz for organizing the event and for the men of the Pre-The program at FUS who served as guardian angels for unloading and loading cars. Our "Noisy Neighbors" had a bigger set of speakers than we and their "rock music" outblasted our DVD's Gregorian Chant, but they were great company for the day (and they gave out cool T-shirts!)

Free music on our 2-minute video courtesy of AudioTreasure.

23 October 2008

Meatballs on the Move

It's that time of year again ... when our sisters head to the Franciscan University of Steubenville's annual vocation fair. This year, our monastery's cargo load has grown, as the (dubiously) accurate picture suggests. We haven't packed our community into the U-Haul (FUS asks that each community only send two participants) but we've packed a few new things. In fact, since we couldn't transport the meatballs from the Monastic Meatball Supper which we hosted in late September, we decided to take the next best thing from the supper (not the brownies, either -- there were none left) ... stay tuned to see what the Visi Vocation Van has in tow. Or, if you're local, stop by Finnegan Field House at FUS for a look at our display and close to 100 others as well!

19 October 2008

Voting Early and Often

Is anyone else tired of the campaign rhetoric? Here's someone else for whom you can cast a vote and your vote can help make a difference. Georgetown Visitation Alumna Liz McCartney's "St. Bernard Project" has helped to rebuild over 150 homes in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Liz and her project have been selected as a contender for CNN's Hero for 2008 -- an ordinary person who is changing the world. Click here to read about her nomination. Click here to vote (often, please!) And click here to visit the St. Bernard Project homepage. If Liz is selected the St. Bernard project will receive $100,000 from CNN.

15 October 2008

Spiritual Poverty -- Blog Action Day 2008

It seems appropriate, as we approach the Feast of our Holy Sister, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, that our contribution to the "Blog Action Day 2008" conversation about poverty touch on the often-misunderstood gift of spiritual poverty. It is not our intention to exhaust this rich topic; we hope, rather, to shed some light on what it might mean to be blessed because we are "poor of spirit" -- a poverty, it seems, which could impact the world one heart and one soul at a time.

For those of us who do not have to worry about having enough to eat, it is hard to pray "Give us this day our daily bread" and understand what it feels like to be needy. We have clothes on our back and food on our tables -- for which we should be grateful ... but are we spiritually self-sufficient, too? Are we so spiritually comfortable that we no longer need to ask for our daily bread?

Have you ever tried to put leftover mashed potatoes in a Tupperware that was just a bit too small? No matter how hard you try -- even if you get a cover that fits -- there are always some mashed potatoes that ooze out from under the lid. One learns the lesson that when something is FULL nothing can be added to it. And so it is with our spiritual lives: only when we stand empty before God can He fill us with Himself. When we are spiritually poor we are disposed to receive all that God wants to offer to us.

Maybe we have a family member with whom we have a strained relationship or perhaps we have a coworker with whom we have had a long-standing disagreement. If we are honest with ourselves, we probably have our own ideas about how we can manage these relationships. We might think we know how we should respond but we might feel unable to do so and so we find other means of negotiating these relationships. This is the beginning of spiritual poverty. The prayer of the spiritually poor person is: "Please, Lord, when I go to work today, help me to be loving to so-and-so. I am unable to do so on my own." There is no thought for tomorrow. There is no "savings account" for spiritual riches. The spiritually poor person asks, each day, for what he needs. Only when we stand naked and empty before the Lord and ask for all that we need can we be heirs to the kingdom of heaven.

"If you are in the depths of poverty, stripped of all and of self, go and lose yourself in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He will enrich you and take delight in clothing you with his own perfection if you allow him to act."
St. Margaret Mary

14 October 2008

St. Francis de Sales on Virtues and Flowers

A snapshot of the monastery garden in fall color and a thought from St. Francis de Sales about virtues and flowers -- otherwise known as the passage we call: "Doing small things with great love."

"Do you seek the higher things, such as prayer and meditation, the Sacraments leading souls to God and kindling good thoughts in them? Do all these good works according to your vocation; but meanwhile do not neglect your spindle and distaff. I mean, cultivate those little virtues which spring like flowers round the foot of the Cross, such as ministering to the poor and sick, family cares, and the duties arising therefrom, and practical diligence and activity; and amid all these things cultivate such spiritual thoughts. . . . Great occasions for serving God come seldom, but little ones surround us daily; and our Lord Himself has told us that 'he that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.' If you do all in God’s Name, all you do will be well done."
St. Francis de Sales

10 October 2008

Blog Action Day 2008

In 2007 it was the environment, in 2008 it is poverty. Blog Action Day is a non-profit event which started as a "what would happen if all blogs discussed one important topic on the same day" kind of an idea and blossomed into a successful event. Last year over 15,000 blogs posted about "going green" in October 2007. The engineers behind Blog Action Day encourage bloggers to keep their posts consistent with the nature of their blog and post about the topic in a way which is commensurate with that genre. Some of their suggestions include:
  • A Design Blog might analyze a set of charity posters and how they convey their message
  • A Tech Blog might look at pro-poor technologies and projects like 1 Laptop Per Child
  • A Political Blog might examine the relevant agendas of leading candidates
  • A Sports Blog might look at recent charity activities of a major sports franchise
  • A Business Blog might discuss how businesses can utilize ethical practices to boost their bottom line
Not surprisingly, there were no suggestions for what religious blogs might do. Stay tuned and find out next Wednesday! If you are a fellow blogger, looking to get involved, click here to sign on.

06 October 2008

Another Field of Dreams

Last Sunday we wrote about one Field of Dreams and this Sunday our school community participated in an event on another field of dreams. This dream is about eliminating hunger! Georgetown Visitation teamed up with Gonzaga College High School for our tenth annual "Gleaning of the Fields" service project. The day included Mass under the gleaning tent, work, work, work, lunch and more work. The event was organized through the Mid-Atlantic Gleaning Network and took place at the Gleaning Warehouse in Cheltenham, MD. In years past students, parents and faculty have gleaned (and sorted) countless of pounds of sweet potatoes, peaches, cucumbers, apples, greens, etc. Above, Sister Leonie Therese is busy harvesting some of this year's vegetables. All gleaned foods are given to local food agencies which to feed the hungry of our area.

In our urban culture, metaphors about planting and harvesting -- in the Gospels and other writings -- can be lost on those of us who do not work with our hands as our ancestors might have. St. Francis de Sales encourages us to leave the harvest to the Lord after we have made our best efforts to pursue virtue in our lives. The "work" is ours to do and the harvest is His to produce:

"God has ordained that we should employ our whole endeavors to obtain holy virtues, let us then forget nothing which might help our good success in this pious enterprise. But after we have planted and watered, let us then know for certain that it is God who must give increase to the trees of our good inclinations and habits, and therefore from his Divine Providence we are to expect the fruits of our desires and labors, and if we find the progress and advancement of our hearts in devotion not such as we would desire, let us not be troubled, let us live in peace, let tranquillity always reign in our hearts. It belongs to us diligently to cultivate our heart, and therefore we must faithfully attend to it, but as for the plenty of the crop or harvest, let us leave the care to our Lord and Master."

St. Francis de Sales

02 October 2008

Our Guardian Angels

Have you ever found it difficult to pray for someone with whom you have difficulty getting along in everyday life? Sometimes it is easier to commend people to the Lord in prayer when we feel kindly disposed toward them. It can be difficult to pray for someone who has hurt us or rejected us. Perhaps, the next time this happens, we might try to pray to the guardian angel of the person for whom we are struggling to pray. Each of us has a guardian angel who is there to protect us and guide us. It can be a bit easier for our clay feet and sometimes-delicate hearts to pray to the angel of a person than to pray for the person himself. Over time, one of the fruits of our prayer may be that we realize one day -- without ever knowing exactly when it happend -- that we are praying, without hesitation, for someone who has hurt us or offended us.

St. Francis de Sales referred frequently to angels in his spiritual writings and especially in some of his meditations. We share here a short exhortation from his writings on saints and angels:

"Seek to be familiar with the Angels; learn to realize that they are continually present, although invisible. Specially love and revere the Guardian Angel of the Diocese in which you live, those of the friends who surround you, and your own. Commune with them frequently, join in their songs of praise, and seek their protection and help in all you do, spiritual or temporal."
St. Francis de Sales

28 September 2008

Field of Dreams

...if you build it they will come. And come they did: in droves! All summer long the dump trucks drove up St. Joseph's drive to deliver dirt, seed, sod and other needed ingredients to help make the (re)dedication of our Moore Field a dream come true. This year's Sports Saturday found us blessing the newly-completed soccer (and soon to be softball) field. In addition to evening the slope of the field and adding length to bring our soccer field closer to regulation proportions, the field renovations also made room for "mezzanine" level seating for soccer and softball fans. Prior to the renovation, fans either watched from the upper deck (also known as the St. Joe's parking lot) or the field level bleachers (provided one could run -- or slide -- down the hill without sustaining an injury). Now, between our upper deck and field level seating, there is a lovely "terrace" with Adirondack chairs and low-rise bleachers. With accommodations this good, we might need crowd control at Moore Field! The development office and the athletic department make a great team!

Mr. Kerns (with Moore field behind him) invites the soccer and softball coaches to come forward as Mother Mary Berchmans prepares to read a prayer during the ceremony.

Also in attendance, among some of the sisters, was Nicholas, the monastery guard dog who is sporting his softball uniform shirt.

We don't know what St. Francis de Sales thought of soccer and softball, but he did have a few things to say about recreations which include "field sports." As always, the message of moderation is clear in his words of wisdom:

"It is a great mistake to be so strict as to grudge any recreation either to others or one’s self. . . . Walking, harmless games, field sports, etc., are such entirely lawful recreations that they need no rules beyond those of ordinary discretion, which keep every thing within due limits of time, place, and degree. So again games of skill, which exercise and strengthen body or mind, such as tennis, running at the ring, chess, and the like, are in themselves both lawful and good. Only one must avoid excess, either in the time given to them, or the amount of interest they absorb for if too much time be given up to such things, they cease to be a recreation and become an occupation."
St. Francis de Sales

24 September 2008

Leftover Meatballs

Sunday was a Salesian double-header for us. We had our Salesian family Mass at 10am, attended by over 200 guests and our meatball supper in the evening which drew some 30 plus locals for Vespers and supper. Highlights included Sister Philomena's top-secret response to the "What do the nuns do all day?" question ... we can't tell secrets on the internet but inside sources report that "dancing" was part of her response?!?! Curious readers will have to attend next year's supper or stay tuned for an up-coming excerpt from her comments. :)
A pre and post-supper attraction was the "Picture Yourself with Us" display where guests were able to pose as part of a life-sized group of sisters and see what they might look like in a habit. Nearly all the guests took a turn "stepping-up" to the display. In fact, in addition to the many women who tried in on for size, three men joined in the fun. Among them, a certain head-of-school and a venerable Monsignor -- we promise not to tell the archbishop which Monsignor.

Below, author (guest and set-up helper) Dawn Eden prepares to pose as a Visitandine.

Below, one of our alumnae tries it on for size.

One observer suggested using the picture as a "change of address" postcard (not to mention a change of wardrobe notification as well!) Some guests looked a bit more natural than others when posing ... pictured below is one for whom the ensemble seems to be a good fit. Even St. Jane de Chantal (standing behind her) appears to be smiling in agreement.

20 September 2008

Nuns With Clubs

No, it's not a game of bridge or even of hearts . . . it's our school's annual club fair!

Normally each freshman preregisters for a co-curricular club of her choice but our upperclassmen are free to "shop around" at the club fair with dozens of co-curricular clubs such as Model United Nations, Science Fair, Booster Club, Triathalon Club and the Environmental Club. Also on display at the club fair were after school clubs and "full time clubs" such as "The Wicket" (school newspaper) and the chorus.

Sisters were well represented at the fair with Sister Leonie Therese recruiting new members for her art club and Sister Maureen de Chantal, pictured below, discussing the Salesian Leadership Club with a potential member. Sister Mary Roberta and Sister Philomena (see below) signed up a record number of girls for the Thursday after school Rosary club and Sister Anne E is squinting into the sun as she attempts to lure students to the dodgeball table with a bag of twizzlers. Stay tuned for future posts about nuns with clubs!

16 September 2008

God the Visitor

In today's Gospel we hear the townspeople's reaction to the miraculous healing of the widow's son. The crowd proclaims that "God has visited his people." For Christians, it is not hard to see the larger context which points toward the approaching death and resurrection of our Lord. In the "smaller picture," however, the townspeople tell us something insightful in their reaction to the miracle they witnessed: it is easy to forget that God is always with his people.
Surely the crowd's reaction is one of joy -- at the widow's grief consoled, of surprise -- at the Lord's power over death and, possibly, of fear. One can almost get a sense of the crowd looking toward God because God answered their prayers (or, at least the prayers of the widow of Nain). There is a temptation to use the word "miracle" only when the God does our will: when our prayers are answered. Is it no less a miracle when we do His will? Sometimes it means accepting the circumstances that befall us -- those things which we cannot change -- the vicissitudes of daily life that St. Francis de Sales so aptly named God's permissive will. God indeed visits his people: always. God is always with his people; it is for us to accept the reality that His ways are not always our ways, but He is no less with us amid suffering than He is amid consolation. If anything, our suffering affords us a space in which to welcome Him even closer.
"Now, whatever we accept simply because it is God's will is acceptable in His Sight, so long as we accept it heartily and out of love:—the less of self the more of God — and a single-hearted acceptance of God's will purifies any suffering very greatly."
St. Francis de Sales

12 September 2008

The Terrorist in Our Basement

Seven years ago this day found us at a loss for words. How does one explain what happened on that Tuesday morning which began as usual but unraveled into tragedy before lunch. The following day we had a school Mass to pray for healing of all those affected by the terrorist attacks. In the month that followed the 9/11 attacks, one of our sisters, giving a tour of the monastery crypt, was struck by the life-history of one of the crypt's "permanent residents."
Buried in a sarcophagus (pictured above surrounded by Latin students and their teacher) -- which is inscribed in Latin and littered with oddly-placed French accent marks -- is the Rev. Joseph-Pierre Picot de Limoëlan de Clorivière, called the second founder of our monastery on account of his success in erecting buildings and his expertise in educational leadership. He can also be called a "terrorist." Prior to coming to this country and studying for the priesthood, Father Clorivière was responsible for the death of over 50 innocent bystanders as part of a failed-attempt to assassinate Napoleon on Christmas Eve 1800.
On this side of eternity, we will never know what happened between Clorivière's involvement with Royalists, the fateful night which caused him to go into hiding for several months before escaping to the United States and his ordination as a priest. One, however, can only surmise that some profound conversion and transformation of life took place. This history does not ease the pain of 9/11 but it does instill a renewed sense of wonderment at the mysterious ways of the Lord. For we can never predict what will become of someone who opens himself fully to the Lord's will. Having a "terrorist" as our second founder and the namesake of one of our three monastery bells (a story for another post) makes it difficult to condemn those who commit acts of violence; it is not ours to condemn, it is only ours to commit them to the Lord's justice and mercy -- in prayer and in deed.

08 September 2008

Hellooooooo Hannah !

If we were counting the "never a dull moment in the monastery" posts, we'd be up to five or six by now. Yesterday, we were visited by Hurricane Hannah who arrived around 8.30am and left in the late afternoon. When she departed she took our electricity with her. We share some pictures from our adventures in the dark.

Above, Sister Leonie Therese washes supper dishes with the help of a flashlight. We had a few large flashlights around the refectory to help light our supper since our refectory windows are under the second floor porch and receive little afternoon light. Our choir was too dark for Evening Prayer so we prayed in our Assembly room where northerly windows provided ample light to sing the office. Below, Sister Jacqueline uses her flashlight to read the newspaper to Sister Raphael in the St. Joseph workroom.

Sister Philomena adjusts the impromptu-chandelier (mounted area light) so that Sister Rose can see well enough to sign a thank-you note to one of our generous benefactors.

04 September 2008

Shameless Promotion

Many folks have been heard to wonder: “What do the nuns do all day?” We thought we'd put an end to some of the wondering and invite people to pray with us and have supper while we share a bit about the life of our community. The evening will include Vespers, supper and a short program. Attendees will have an opportunity to “picture themselves” as a sister of the Visitation and will receive a souvenir Monastery stadium cup. Locals who would like more information or to sign up can email us at GVMonastery (at) gmail.com. Non-locals can email for a copy of our Monastery DVD; we can't package up the spaghetti and meatballs (and nuns) but we can send along the "window into our life" part of the evening.

31 August 2008

Carrying Our Crosses

In today's Gospel, we hear Jesus tell the apostles the cost of discipleship: the weight of the cross. There were no options presented, Jesus made clear that the road that leads to His kingdom is the way of the cross. Without making light of the sufferings of those who are afflicted with serious illness or those who struggle with addiction, it is important to note that crosses come in many shapes and sizes and not all crosses are equal -- but all crosses are fit for for the shoulders which bear them.

For those of us who may not be burdened with immense crosses, let us bear well those which come our way -- the little inconveniences of traffic jams and jammed copiers, irritable coworkers and tension-filled relationships -- the small but often painful trials of day-to-day life. As we bear these (relatively) minor crosses, let us imitate Simon of Cyrene who helped Our Lord bear his cross. Perhaps there is someone in our life whose cross is visibly larger than ours. Like Simon, let us lighten the burden by being attentive and solicitous. Sometimes the realization that someone cares enough to notice a neighbor's cross -- and to offer assistance -- is, in itself, a healing balm. Few words are as disarming and as endearing as, "May I help you?"

"Do not desire crosses, unless you have borne those already laid upon you well—it is an abuse to long after martyrdom while unable to bear an insult patiently. The Enemy of souls often inspires us with ardent desires for unattainable things, in order to divert our attention from present duties . . . . Do not desire temptations, that is temerity, but prepare your heart to meet them bravely, and to resist them when they come."
St. Francis de Sales

27 August 2008

Mother's Day

It's not the traditional Mothers' Day we celebrate in May, but one may think of this memorial of St. Monica as a Mother's Day of sorts. St. Monica, mother of the doctor of grace, surely earned her heavenly crown in bearing the trials of her wayward son. Many a mother, no doubt, can relate to her plight: begging the Lord to touch the heart of her son. She wanted to give him the one thing that we cannot give to each other, the One Thing necessary for a life of happiness: a relationship with the Lord. And so she entrusted him to the Lord in prayer -- again and again.

We can sometimes feel helpless when faced with friends or family members whose lifestyles seem to be self-destructive or harmful to those around them. Let us be consoled to know that even the saints have wrestled with this same feeling of frustration. In fact, trusting our loved ones (and those we wish we could love more) to the Lord is a wonderful way to imitate the saints, whose trust in the Lord's ways was, at times, their only consolation on the pilgrim journey toward eternity.

"Before giving birth to St. Augustine, St. Monica offered him repeatedly to God’s Glory, as he himself tells us; and it is a good lesson for Christian women how to offer the fruit of their womb to God, Who accepts the free oblations of loving hearts, and promotes the desires of such faithful mothers: witness Samuel, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Andrea di Fiesole, and others."
St. Francis de Sales

23 August 2008

Practicing What We Preach

It can be very easy to observe the deeds of another person and begin to fix our scales for a weigh-in. Perhaps our thought process might tempt us to say, "Well, who is he to say that? He never does what he asks other people to do." Or, perhaps we see someone doing something and we may be tempted to think, "Gee, she's got a lot of nerve raising her voice at him ... after all, she's the one who is always reminding us not to lose our temper with our coworkers." It is almost impossible not to be tempted in this way when we observe the behaviors of those around us. There are, perhaps, a couple of practices which may help us to resist these temptations.

When we feel affection or sympathy for a person, we are much more likely to make excuses for behaviors which might provoke unkind remarks or thoughts when we observe them in another person. We cannot like everyone to the same degree. We are human and we are naturally going to be more attracted to some people than to others. Practice making excuses, in your mind, for everyone: friends, acquaintances, and even our "enemies" -- those people in our lives who disturb our sense of peace. This practice of "making excuses" -- or giving the benefit of the doubt -- does not mean that we have to condone or support things which may be wrong or harmful but only that we seek to curb our tendency to speculate about the motives of our neighbors.

The second practice which may help us to resist the temptation to judge the actions of others is to recall the many instances in our own lives when our actions and our words may not be as commensurate as we might wish they were. This may serve to remind us to be as gentle with our neighbors as we would like others to be when looking upon us.

In today's Gospel, Jesus warns people about the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. Let us take seriously the virtue of practicing what we preach. If we say that we are Christians who seek Lord's will for our lives we cannot help but to be aware that critical thoughts and a sharp tongue do not mix well with the exhortation that we do not judge our neighbor. Let us be attentive to the actions of those around us so that we may be aware of their needs but let us ask for the grace to develop the habit of not considering the motives for our neighbors' actions.

"Be who you are and be that well
that you may bring honor to the Master Craftsman whose handiwork you are."
St. Francis de Sales

19 August 2008

The Prayer of a Saint

Despite the fact that yesterday was "officially not" the Solemnity St. Jane de Chantal, we did observe the feast since we had not enough time to prepare for the new date. At the end of Mass, our celebrant read us the responsorial psalm as a reminder of the words that our Holy Mother held dear as her favorite psalm:

Psalm 131
O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor haughty my eyes
Neither do I aspire after great things or matters above me.

Indeed I have behaved and calmed myself,

As a little child on the lap of its mother,
as a little child, so is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord, both now and for ever.

It may not at first strike us as the most inspiring verses of the psalter but a cursory look at St. Jane de Chantal's life provides insight as to why she was so attracted to these words. The lap that held her children also held the dying body of her husband, as she was widowed at age 28. Ultimately, she outlived all but one of her children, her beloved spiritual director, St. Francis de Sales and the three sisters with whom she founded our Order in 1610. She knew great loss and great suffering but, more important, she knew the Lord. Surely one who held a child on her lap was touched by the image of being held close to the Lord whom she trusted. The words of one whose soul knew great sadness but whose heart was very closely united to him who loved her:

"Divine love takes its sword to the hidden recesses of our inmost soul and divides us from ourselves. . . . love is strong as death. For the martyrs of love suffer infinitely more in remaining in this life so as to serve God, than if they died a thousand times over in testimony to their faith and love and fidelity."
St. Jane de Chantal

15 August 2008

Joy Comes With Dawn

Some of us around here never turn down free help (or good company). Wednesday afternoon found Dawn Eden helping in the monastery vegetable garden. On her way over, Dawn had just received a package with her book, "The Thrill of the Chaste" hot off the press from the Polish Dominicans. It's exciting to think that readers worldwide will profit from Dawn's powerful work!
In addition to providing quality weed-pulling (and vine-untangling) skills, Dawn brought a cheerful perspective about the cycle of life that one finds in the garden. It it sad to evict the (albeit) fruitless squash vines which seem to serve as appetizers for the tomato-sampling squirrels but in the long-run, it just might benefit the rest of the garden. Quiet, reflective time in a garden -- even amid marauding squirrels -- can provide a wealth of opportunities to reflect on both the beauty of creation and the countless miracles of nature which surround us daily. When one considers that man was created in a garden, it should come as no surprise that man cannot help but to find God in a garden.

"Besides all this, I bade you gather a little bouquet of devotion, and what I mean is this: when walking in a beautiful garden most people are wont to gather a few flowers as they go, which they keep, and enjoy their scent during the day. So, when the mind explores some mystery in meditation, it is well to pick out one or more points that have specially arrested the attention, and are most likely to be helpful to you through the day."
St. Francis de Sales

11 August 2008

We Are What We Love

As we commemorate the Memorial of St. Clare today we call to mind the manner in which history tells us that she realized her vocation. St. Francis of Assisi came to preach during Lent 1212 and when St. Clare heard his words, she was so moved that she desired to follow his manner of life. Something touched her heart and she left all that she knew and all that awaited her as the daughter of a prominent count.
Life-changing sermons do not come our way everyday but heart-stirring sentiments may cross our path in a spiritual book, in a Gospel passage, in a homily, in an encounter with a friend etc. Let us follow the example of St. Clare and allow our actions and our lives to be changed when our hearts are moved. Let us allow what attracts us to affect how we live.

A few words from (the other) St. Francis on the great St. Clare:

"Behold, I beseech you, the heart of St. Clare: it so delighted in our Savior's passion and in meditating on the most holy Trinity, that it drew into itself all the marks of the passion, and an admirable representation of the Trinity, being made such as the things it loved."
St. Francis de Sales

07 August 2008

Shocking News!

This is not an April Fools' joke, it is true!

Yesterday, we placed a phone call to the editor of the Ordo which is published for the Archdioceses of Washington and Baltimore and the diocese of Wilmington. It seemed that they made a mistake about the date of St. Jane de Chantal's commemoration (an optional memorial for the Church and a Solemnity for us) which is listed as 12 August in this year's edition of the Ordo. When our faithful librarian inquired about the matter, she was told that it is a very confusing situation and that the editor would send along an explanation via email. Thinking, of course, that already-confusing changes made to this feast might have caused the publishing company to make a very understandable mistake, we waited patiently for the email which (we imagined) might offer an apology for the mix-up and the misprint. For surely any change to the feast of our Foundress would have come to the attention of our monasteries before it was put into effect ... or, at least, shortly thereafter!

Alas, the email arrived -- a gracious and informative one, at that -- and, to our surprise, we learned that the Solemnity of our Holy Mother, St. Jane de Chantal, has, in fact, been moved to 12 August. Not only has it been moved, but it was moved -- it seems -- almost 6 years ago and this is the first time we have heard the news. Pass the whipped cream, this humble pie needs a little topping!

It seems that when the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe became more popular in Europe (as it did many years sooner in the Americas), the universal church moved the date to 12 August for the whole Church in the 2002 publication of the "Roman Missal" -- still not available in English. After the 2002 change was made, the USCCB wisely decided not to move this traveling feast of St. Jane de Chantal immediately (especially when our current liturgical books do not reflect this change.) In 2007, however, the USCCB decided to bring the Liturgical Calendar for the United States into closer conformity with the General Roman Calendar, hence the change.

Many thanks to the good folks at Paulist Press for their time and (shocking!) information. :)

03 August 2008

Asking the Impossible

Sometimes it may seem as though God asks us to do something impossible. It might have seemed that way to the disciples when Jesus told them to feed the hungry crowd. When we are faced with a challenge, it is easy to forget that the Lord does not ask us to do more than we are able to do but he does ask us to trust Him. He took the five loaves and two fish from the disciples and multiplied them to feed a crowd. He will take our humble gifts and stretch them to do His work if we are willing to hand them over to Him. Handing over the loaves and fishes was not a "big" deed; the Lord worked the miracle out of the "littleness" of the disciples' offering.

This notion of offering our small actions can be applied to our daily life. Perhaps there is a coworker with whom we would like to cultivate a better relationship. At first we may not feel able to have a meaningful conversation or even a polite conversation, for that matter. Reaching out in small ways such as smiling, showing courtesy with a simple greeting, making eye contact, etc., can have a deeper and more profound effect than we realize. The Lord can use our good will and our sincere intentions for His good purpose. Sometimes small kindnesses are enough, over time, to unlock a strained relationship. We do not have to do great deeds if we are willing to trust the Lord with the small deeds we are able to offer.

"While I am busy with little things,
I am not required to do greater things.
St. Francis de Sales

30 July 2008

A Nun Walked into a Bar . . .

It sounds like the beginning of a joke. It could be, but in this case, it is not. On 12 August, one of our number will be speaking about "Freedom vs. Obedience" at the Office of Young Adult Ministry's (Archdiocese of Washington) Theology on Tap program. We'll keep readers guessing who it is (unless you'd like to download the flyer.)

We might consider for a moment what our holy father, Saint Francis de Sales, might say about this. Considering that he earned his title "Patron Saint of Journalists" not by the voluminous writings he produced but, rather, by his act of slipping handwritten copies of his sermons under the doors of those who did not attend Mass, we would like to think that he might welcome an opportunity to share the faith in a setting where Church-goers and non-Church-goers alike gather to listen, discuss, and be challenged in their daily living.

Any locals who attend will most likely see sister drinking a glass of her signature "room temperature" water but we have a little joke about nuns and beer we would like to share, given the content of this post. We take no offense at this and hope that the same is true for our readers. Enjoy!
While shopping in a food store,
two nuns happened to pass by the beer, wine, and liquor section.
One asked the other if she would like a beer.
The second nun answered that indeed, it would be very nice to have one,
but that she would feel uncomfortable about purchasing it.
The first nun replied that she would handle that without a problem.
She picked up a six pack and took it to the cashier.
The cashier had a surprised look, so the nun said
"This is for washing our hair."
Without blinking an eye, the cashier reached under the counter and put a
package of pretzel sticks in the bag with the beer and said "The curlers are on me."

26 July 2008

A Day in the Life . . .

. . . of a retreatant: pray, eat, rest, read, walk outside, repeat. So far this summer we've welcomed 6 retreatants and we expect a few more before the school year starts up again. A cursory check of the above picture shows one of our magnolia trees, our second cemetery (iron crosses in the back left) and an outdoor swing (back right). A careful study of the picture, however, reveals a happy retreatant in the tree.

If a retreatant's schedule is of interest to any of our locals, email us to schedule some quiet time for prayer and rest (and some pretty good food!)

"We pray best before beauty!"
St. Francis de Sales

22 July 2008

"Bean" Busy!

Some of us have "bean" busy in the garden: feeding the mosquitoes (and spiders) as well as the squirrels. Once upon a time, in a garden very close by, the bipeds and squirrels could race for ripened fruit. And then, just a few years ago, the squirrels became more simple, less picky, and they began to eat the fruit just as it began to ripen. Now, the squirrels have decided that they are tired of sharing their fruit with the selfish bipeds who live in the building which lies in the shadow of their trees . . . and they have decided to eat green tomatoes (unfried, too!) So, the bipeds have worked out a very equitable solution: the squirrels can have ALL the tomatoes that have teeth marks in them (which are MANY!) and the bipeds can have all those that don't. Needless to say, the kitchen windowsills are loaded with ripening tomatoes (since the tomatoes are picked as soon as they reach their full size and just before they develop teeth marks.)

A somewhat defeated Sister Anne E holds up a half-eaten tomato.

On a brighter note, it seems that our squirrel friends do not like peppers, onions, leeks, basil, lemon verbena or sage. Above, Sister Leonie Therese prepares to trim the "rosary beans" (technically called "red-seeded asparagus string beans") which mature between 12" and 18". They look nifty tossed into spaghetti and they can also be braided and baked as a side dish. Thankfully, our furry friends have not yet discovered them!

18 July 2008

A "Moving" Feast

In dioceses of the United States, the Commemoration of St. Camillus de Lellis is moved from the anniversary of his death, 14th July (to allow for the Memorial of Bl. Kateri), to the 18th. As we recall this patron of doctors and of the sick who himself suffered from in infirm leg, an injury sustained in battle, it is a good reminder for us to recognize and to minister to the sick among us.
Some of us are daily surrounded with the physically sick who need our care. Others of us may not have the physically sick in our midst but surely we have people in our lives who suffer from spiritual or emotional maladies. It is not always easy to care for those who suffer. Often a person who is physically ill or who is spiritually sick and, perhaps, feels rejected or hurt can be unpleasant when approached. Yet, when one considers that it is Christ whom we serve in our suffering brothers and sisters, the inconvenience of an ill temper or the sting of having our kindness rejected or received ungratefully is easier to bear. The Lord will not ask us how our service to His people was received ... He will ask only how it was rendered. St. Francis de Sales suggests that performing our acts of charity -- all our actions, really -- in a spirit of devotion will help us to accept the sometimes challenging circumstances which we may encounter when caring for the sick.
"The world, looking on, sees that devout persons . . . minister to the sick and poor, restrain their temper, . . . and do many other things which in themselves are hard and difficult. But the world sees nothing of that inward, heartfelt devotion which makes all these actions pleasant and easy."
St. Francis de Sales