30 May 2008

Let's Pray Two

That's not an accidental misuse of a homonym for "too" -- it's a reference to Ernie Banks' famous quip, "It's a beautiful day, let's play two!" (If you don't know who Ernie Banks is, click here.)
Following Sunday's beautiful Solemnity of Corpus Christi, this eighth week of Ordinary Time is punctuated by the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Feast (Solemnity, for our Order) of the Visitation of Holy Mary. In a way, this "doubleheader" may be seen as a seamless celebration.
The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus invites us to contemplate and imitate the deep and abiding love of the Lord which was made manifest in Jesus Christ. When the son of God took flesh and pitched His tent among us, His heart visibly became vulnerable to the continuum of human emotions. It knew pain, sorrow, rejection and betrayal. It experienced joy, delight, peace and it radiated love. This gentle and humble Jesus calls us to bear his yoke; he invites us to enter into his Most Sacred Heart. The door is narrow; we must leave behind our judgments, anger, jealousy, and all unkind or negative thoughts, words and deeds. Only those free of this baggage may enter fully because only those who are truly free can imitate the Lord's gentle and humble manner of selfless living. For most of us, our daily pilgrimage to the Heart of Jesus is one of "coming and going", as we struggle against temptations which bring unwelcome baggage.
It seems fitting, in a way, that the Visitation follows on the heels of the Heart of Jesus. Mary carried, in her womb, this Most Sacred Heart. She bore His flesh in her Immaculate body, for she bore the graces of his gentle and humble yoke from the moment she said "Yes" to the angel. In Mary's visit to her cousin, Elizabeth, she personifies all the qualities of one who dwells always in the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Let us make a daily journey to someone in need. Let us go, in prayer -- if not in person -- to one who is in need of comfort, company or something we might be able to offer. Let us journey toward that Most Sacred Heart of Jesus by seeing and responding to those around us who are in need. When our hands are extended to help those around us, they have no opportunity to carry the baggage which will keep us from pitching our tents in the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

And let's pray, too!

"We shall be steeped, as it were, in sweetness and gentleness toward our sisters and our neighbors in general, for we shall look upon all these souls as resting in the Heart of our Savior."
St. Francis de Sales

25 May 2008

The Miracle of Bolsena

As if the Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament is not enough of a mystery to ponder, one may add the institution of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ -- the feast erstwhile known as "Corpus Christi" -- for yet another layer of complexity.

Legend has it that in the 13th century, a German priest, on pilgrimage to Rome, was celebrating Mass at the tomb of St. Christina in Bolsena when, at the words of the consecration, the host began to bleed. Historians dispute the accuracy of this account since no mention of the miracle appears in the 1264 Bull instituting the feast. The corporal, onto which the blood of Christ dripped, is preserved in a reliquary in the Cathedral of Orvieto, a neighboring town to Bolsena where Pope Urban IV was residing at the time of the miracle.

Because abundant details of this miracle do not appear in writing until two centuries after its occurrence, many historians have dismissed this as an "urban legend." A cursory check of biblical history, however, might suggest that the accuracy of oral tradition is far greater than its paper trail counterpart. In fact, anyone who has grown up in a culture, a tribe, a family in which stories of grandparents, great-grandparents and other relatives are told and retold, can appreciate how these "urban legends" point toward great truths. The details may be wrong, but the essence is intact.
So why is there a picture of naked people at the top of this post? It is a panel from Luca Signorelli's "Last Judgment" which appears in the chapel opposite the one in which the reliquary of the Corpus Christi miracle is enshrined. It is curious to notice that the "saved" are coming out of the ground, limb by limb, as angels (not shown) are carrying others to heaven. Michaelangelo is said to have spent time in Orvieto, studying the four murals of Signorelli's "Last Judgment" before beginning his own opus of the same name.

Whether this "Umbrian" legend is true or an exaggeration of a smaller event is, perhaps, of little consequence when one considers the truth to which it points. There is a large (blood) stained corporal in a reliquary in the Cathedral of Orvieto which has drawn countless pilgrims for over 7 centuries. Across the way, in the Chapel of St. Brizio, are the exquisite murals of Signorelli, depicting the last judgment and the end of the world. If but one pilgrim returned with a renewed faith in the Lord's presence in the Eucharist and a renewed hope in the promise of salvation, we would do well to praise the Lord for the mysterious ways in which He works and the myriad instruments He uses.

"O, my very dear Sisters, how you should be overwhelmed with joy when you are visited by this Divine Savior in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar and by the interior graces . . . and words which He speaks to your hearts."
St. Francis de Sales

21 May 2008

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like ...

... graduation! When Sister Mary de Sales is not around in the afternoons and is seen emerging from the basement before Evening Prayer, we know that graduation is on the horizon. One of the harbingers of our commencement exercises is the all-school awards ceremony that takes place two nights prior to graduation. For years now, our Sister Mary de Sales is the engraver for all the prizes given on awards night (and it seems as though there are more prizes each year!) Above, Sister works at a St. Margaret Mary Spirit award and below, her fingers trace the letters.
Sister Mary de Sales' handiwork can be seen all around the monastery as she has engraved the saints' names for each room and the sisters' name plates for our doors. Click here to read about how she started this adventure.

17 May 2008

Give Life

This Sunday, local parish, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Vienna, VA is sponsoring a bone marrow registration drive for one of our recent alumnae, Elizabeth White.

Elizabeth is an '02 graduate and just eleven months ago was diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. She is in need of a stem-cell bone marrow match. Elizabeth teaches second grade at OLGC. To read a bit more about Elizabeth, click here.

The National Marrow Donor Program has waived the $52 registration fee for this drive. If you are a local reader, consider stopping by: registration begins with a swab of cells from your cheek to test determine tissue type.

Please join your prayers to ours for this most promising young woman.

13 May 2008

Our Lady of Fatima

Today we celebrate the Commemoration of Our Lady of Fatima. At left is a copy of the beginning of the third secret as it was recorded for Bishop of Leiria. There is much which can be said of this most extraordinary appearance of Our Lady. It is an especially attractive devotion because its revelation occurred so close to the times in which we are living.

During his tenure as Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Benedict XVI offered a theological commentary on the revelations of Fatima. We share here his concluding remarks:

I would like finally to mention another key expression of the “secret” which has become justly famous: “my Immaculate Heart will triumph”. What does this mean? The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Saviour into the world—because, thanks to her Yes, God could become man in our world and remains so for all time. The Evil One has power in this world, as we see and experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But since God himself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom towards what is good, the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word. From that time forth, the word that prevails is this: “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). The message of Fatima invites us to trust in this promise.

09 May 2008

Unfailing Grace

In today's Gospel, the Lord tells Peter that when he grows older, he will "stretch out his hands" for someone to lead him places he would rather not go. For each of us who strive to be followers of Jesus Christ, we do not have to consider the challenge of being led "where you do not want to go" as something which awaits us in our golden years.

For Peter it was a foreshadowing of the death he was to suffer when he stretched his arms upon his own cross. For us, it can be the daily moments of foregoing our own preferences for the sake of someone else. It can be the challenge of overlooking the irritating qualities of someone with whom we work or study. For many, the feeling of being led somewhere they might not choose to go can be the experience of growing in the grace of forgiveness: being moved to pray for the well being of those who have harmed us.

Let it not escape our notice that the Lord punctuates this discourse with the ever-familiar invitation: "follow me." When we are faced with moments that take us places where we do not want to go, let us ask for the grace to remember that each of these experiences will take us one step closer to the Lord whom we follow.

"Grace never fails us, never leaves us, unless we leave it. Our good God waits for us patiently in our delays; he unceasingly calls us even though we don't answer him; he knocks at the very door of the heart that is shut to him."
St. Jane de Chantal

05 May 2008

Homespun Humor

Will the REAL Sister Philomena please stand?!

After 18 years of service as superior, our dear Sister Philomena deserved more than just a word of thanks. Last night, in her honor, the community comedians teamed up and produced a short play entitled, "New Work Ahead for Sister Philomena" which portrayed several suggested work assignments which may (or, more likely, may NOT) be in Sister's future. Sister Philomena is pictured at right with Sister Jacqueline (playing the role of Sister Philomena) at left.

Among the jobs "assigned" to Sister in the play were: assistant to the cook, helper to Sister Mary Maintenance (hence the tool belt and protective helmet), community exterminator and habit-maker. Sister Philomena was a great sport while jokes and witty observations marked each "new job" description. The star of the show -- without a doubt -- was SUPERBUG, played by Sister Rosemarie. SUPERBUG made her way into just about every scene, tormenting the new community exterminator, who chased her with a wooden spoon.

We never did get into Blogger's "labels" feature, but if we were using them, this might be entitled, "Life in the Monastery is Never Dull: Part IV."

"In all our actions, whether we are going to the Office or to the refectory and then to recreation; let us go everywhere to seek God."
St. Jane de Chantal

02 May 2008

Breaking News!

With praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God, we are happy to announce that on 30 April 2008, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and in the presence of Bishop Martin Holley, auxiliary bishop of Washington, DC, we elected SISTER MARY BERCHMANS to serve our community as superior for the next three years. (Mother Mary Berchmans standing at left; Mother Philomena seated at right.)
We are most grateful for Mother Philomena's 18 years of service in leadership. She completed her sixth term of three years this past week: 1978-81, 1981-84, 1990-93, 1993-96, 2002-05 and 2005-08. (Our Constitutions do not allow a sister to be elected for more than two consecutive terms.) Collectively, that totals over 6,500 days in office!
Mother Mary Berchmans and Sister Philomena were in school together here at Visitation and they are both proud members of the Gold Team. Perhaps this succession of Gold team leadership will bring them some luck as the White Team has won both the field hockey and basketball games this year. (Click here or here for a bit about our Gold/White rivalry.)

"The Superior shall keep a watchful eye on the community, that all the sisters may breathe peace, concord, union and the most amiable service of Jesus Christ."
St. Francis de Sales