31 January 2008

Let There Be Peace . . .

About a year ago, we welcomed home our Sister Rosemarie from a visit to her village of Lare in Kenya. As most readers who follow the news are aware, following recent elections there has been a great deal of unrest and violence in Kenya. One very thoughtful reader recently wrote in asking about the situation. We share a link to a very insightful interview that Sister Rose gave to "The Globalist." It sheds light on the political situation in ways that other media coverage do not. Click here to read sister's interview.
If you would like to learn more about the Mercy Center project in Sister's village of Lare, visit their website by clicking on the link provided. Since its foundation, the Mercy Center has brought water and health care not only to the villagers but to many who live in surrounding areas for whom the Lare community resources are the only ones accessible to them.
Please join our community in prayer for the people of Kenya.

27 January 2008

Et Secuti Sunt Eum

And they followed him. We hear those words in today's Gospel about the four fishermen who were approached by Jesus. For many, this is a familiar account about the call of the first apostles and their prompt response. This encounter between Jesus and the fishermen is often used as the quintessential "vocation story" when speaking about or praying for vocations to the priesthood or religious life.
It is true that this radical call of Jesus -- to the fishing brothers -- to leave behind their former way of life, their family and all things familiar is very similar to the experience of responding to the Lord's invitation to follow Him in the consecrated life. It is also true, however, that each of us hears this call on a daily basis. The call of Jesus to leave behind what is familiar, comfortable and routine is not reserved only for major life-changing decisions such as marriage, religious vocations and career changes.
The Lord calls us daily to follow Him more closely. He calls us to respond gently and kindly to someone who has been unkind to us. He asks us to find reasons to excuse the shortcomings of those with whom we work and those with whom we live. He invites us to see His face in the sufferings of a sick family member or a sad and lonely coworker. He looks favorably when we bite our tongue in the face of harsh words. It is not always easy to respond to the Lord's call to leave behind comfortable ways of reacting and behaving but by virtue of our baptism, we become sharers in the Lord's work of preaching the kingdom. Our response to the Lord's call in the quotidian activities of our ordinary days will draw others closer to His kingdom.
"Resignation is nothing else than a laying aside of oneself, and of all one's wishes; or, if you prefer it, an entire surrender of all that we are, into the hands of God."
St. Jane de Chantal

24 January 2008

Two Gentle Bishops

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of our Holy Founder, Saint Francis de Sales. He is sometimes referred to as "The Gentleman Saint" because he was known for his kindness and humility. Serendipitously, on the eve of this grand celebration we were paid a visit by another gentle bishop. Pictured below with Mother Philomena and next to his aunt, our Sister Stanislaus, is Bishop Paul Coakley of Salina Kansas. On his way back home from the March for life, Bishop Coakley stopped by for a visit. We featured him a couple of years ago, shortly after he received our cross of affiliation. Click here for the link to our archives.

Bishop Coakley is pictured in the confessional. (Don't worry, there are no hidden cameras in the confessional ... just an annoying camera-nun who exited promptly after snapping a picture!)
For locals who would like to join in our celebration, Mass for today's Solemnity will be celebrated at 4.30pm in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart, followed by Vespers in the choir.
We share a very down-to-earth piece of advice given by Saint Francis de Sales in a conference to our early sisters; it is just as valuable and applicable today as it was nearly 400 years ago:

"If there should be a sister so generous and courageous as to wish to arrive at perfection in a quarter of an hour by doing more than the rest of the Community, I would advise her to humble herself and to submit to a restraint upon her zeal, so far as to extend the space of time to three days, taking the same course as all her sisters."

21 January 2008

Two Men of Peace

When you live in the same community you share everything, including germs and blogposts. :) As we honor the memory and the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and prepare for the Solemnity of St. Francis de Sales, we share here a gem from our Sister Mary Berchmans' (newly-resurrected) blog:
The month of January offers us several reminders which encourage us to live a more concentrated, spirit-filled life. The celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday on January 15 and the feast of St. Francis de Sales on January 24, as well as the March for Life on January 22, offer us reminders about significant moments in the life of our church and country which are directed toward preserving and strengthening human life.
Dr. Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" is a clarion call to "act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with our God. This letter contains poignant reminders of the basic issues of human life, issues often reflected in the teachings of Francis de Sales.
Dr. King writes: " I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the south is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality."
The spirituality of Francis de Sales has a deep appreciation for the innate dignity of the human person who is created in the image of God. From this basic assumption flows the essence of this spirituality: to "Live Jesus" in a spirit of optimism.
Francis underlines the thought that gentle nonviolence is a light that illumines life, it is the way of being a person and dealing with persons which Jesus lived and taught. It is the only way we can make sense out of the challenge to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us.
You can view this post on Sister's blog here. And you can visit "Visitation Connections" in our sidebar or by clicking here.

17 January 2008

A Man of The Desert

The Church commemorates St. Anthony the abbot today. Having retired to the desert as a young man Anthony found that disciples and seekers who wanted to learn from him "crowded" his solitude. It is very difficult to keep a good thing hidden. In a way, his experiences are not altogether unlike today's (serendipitous) Gospel account where Jesus asks the man whom he healed not to tell anyone. Jesus' solitude and privacy became scarce once the word spread.
Sometimes we can feel that our personal space is becoming crowded by circumstances beyond our control. Saint Francis de Sales often suggested to busy men and women who sought his counsel that they cultivate a habit of making a quiet offering, in their hearts, to the Lord amid whatever chaos and noise surrounds them. We cannot always control the circumstances that befall us, but we can protect our hearts from becoming troubled by entrusting them to the Lord. For interior silence is as important as any exterior tranquility we can observe.

"We ought to have a very zealous love for the keeping of silence. This virtue . . . is the mother or prayer, and the guardian of the heart."

St. Jane de Chantal

13 January 2008

The Last Day of Christmas

As we celebrate the Feast of the Lord's Baptism, the last day of the Christmas season, we have one more gift for which we are grateful. Yesterday, our archivist received a file of papers and letters pertaining to the Ann Mattingly miracle of the early 19th century.
Ann Mattingly was a guest and friend of our community who would frequently make retreats in our monastery. She was a young widow and the sister of the sixth Mayor of Washington, Thomas Carbery. In an era before there was great awareness, Mrs. Mattingly discovered a lump "the size of a pigeon's egg" which signaled a serious case of breast cancer. Documented medical reports indicate that she received the most state-of-the-art treatment available in her day: mercury and hemlock ointment. (We've come a long way!)

A young priest in Germany, Prince Alexander Leopold Hohenlohe, (pictured above) was well known for the gift of healing; he had been contacted by priests from nearby Baltimore. At the request her pastor, the Rev'd Dubuisson (also a chaplain to our community), Mrs. Mattingly began a novena to the Most Holy Name of Jesus and was to receive communion on the 10th of March at 3.00am EST (9.00am in Bamberg, Germany), the time that Prince Hohenlohe agreed to pray for her cure. After acute suffering and difficulty swallowing communion, Ann Mattingly was miraculously and instantaneously restored to health. She rose from bed and knelt to give thanks to God for this gift.

The house in which this miracle took place is pictured above. It was located at the corner of 17th and C Streets, NW and demolished in 1903. Pictured below is the rosary case which belonged to Ann Mattingly. It was painted by one of our sisters.

08 January 2008

Queen of the Bean!

The wise men arrived! On Sunday morning, the three wise men approached the manger from the north (despite taking a southerly route to the stable!). They are featured in our video. In addition, we held our annual "queen of the bean" party. The sisters took turns spontaneously toasting (or roasting!) the new queen. After supper, thanks to one of our faithful benefactors who provides an assortment of individual gifts each year -- ranging from slippers to puzzle books -- we had our annual "grab bag" gift opening. This year, however, commandeered by Sister Mary Berchmans, each sister was assigned a famous person in the life of St. Jane de Chantal and she had to say something "in character" to receive a gift. The persons ranged from the well known St. Francis de Sales to the short-lived Charlotte de Chantal. A short video chronicles the festivities and a couple of the toasts follow below.

An Attempt at a Limerick

There once was a sister from the sacristy
Whose good luck has brought her aristocracy
She paints and sews and cheers our days
She runs and jumps but always prays
Royal decor she created -- plus or minus
Which turned out to be for her own Royal Highness
The bean that she drew has earned her a hat
She looked astounded and said, "What means that?"
The queen, the queen
You've drawn the bean!
Her first decree was for a dish of ice cream
To which the nations let out a loud scream
All hail the royal sister from Medellin
Our beloved Sister Leonie the queen!

The Epiphany celebration would not be complete without a cinquain from our Sister Mary Berchmans:

Our Queen
Therese serene
Always looking to see
Where she can lend a helping hand

"Recreations are indispensable not only to ensure wholesome relaxation but also to foster true family spirit."
Constitutions of the Order of the Visitation

05 January 2008

An Unusual Journey

Since nether mapquest nor AAA have access to the interior of our monastery, we shall try to describe for our readers the journey of our three wise men without the visual aid of a map. (Google earth, however, has a frighteningly close shot of our monastery garden and parking lot -- see bottom of post!)
Shortly before Christmas, three wise men appeared outside the confessional. Since they were facing away from the confessional door, we did not think that they were "camping out" to be first on next week's confession line. ("Confession-line-campers" usually leave rosary beads on a chair ... but we won't mention any names!) As the Octave of Christmas progressed, the three (slow moving) statues approached the sacristy door and make a right hand turn into the ante choir. For a few days it looked as if the magi were lining up early for Saturday evening's procession into choir. Wrong again! This afternoon, they were spotted climbing the window sills which line the path from choir to chapel. It appears that these very slow travelers did not want to hold up traffic in chapel and were thoughtful enough to travel along the windows instead. By Vespers tonight, they should be approaching the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, from which they can see the manger.
We will make no attempt to spiritualize the journey of our wise men -- we share it for the amusement of our readers. Stay tuned for a picture of the travelers at their destination. ETA: Sunday morning at 11.00am!

"When the magi kissed the feet of Jesus, they kissed the feet of God."
St. Francis de Sales

01 January 2008

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

We have the fathers of the Council of Ephesus to thank for affirming the title, "Mother of God" which we celebrate today. As we come to the end of the Octave of Christmas, we pause for a moment to reflect upon Mary's role in the Incarnation, her unique privilege of being the bearer of God. None of us will have the opportunity to give birth to the incarnate Word of God but we daily have the opportunity to share another of Mary's great titles, "One who does God's will." In Mary's "yes" to the Angel she gave mankind hope of restoring its union with the Father. Each time we say, "yes" to God's will for us, we build up the body of Christ. Every unseen yes and is seen by God; every yes we say in the ordinary day-to-day circumstances gives us strength to say that same yes in the face of bigger challenges.

The great 7th century defender of the faith, St. Maximus, compares loving God by saying "yes" or "no" to His will as being like wax or mud in the presence of the sun of Justice: ". . . just as mud is dried out by the sun and the wax is automatically softened, so also every soul which . . . is far from God is hardened as mud. . . . however, every soul which loves God is softened as wax, and receiving divine impressions and characters it becomes the 'dwelling place of God in the spirit.'" Each time we choose to say "yes" to God's will for us -- even in the little events that befall us daily -- we become a bit softer and a little more receptive to the bearing the divine impression.

"Oh, then, my dear Sisters, be most careful to model your lives on hers. Be meek, humble, charitable and kind and magnify the Lord with her during this life!"

St. Francis de Sales