28 June 2008

The Two "Raphaels"

Pictured above is our venerable Sister Raphael whose age is a poorly kept secret despite the lack of a single gray (or white) hair on her head! Permit us simply to remark that her years are closer to 100 than they are to 90! In Sister's lap (and visibly inspecting his namesake) is Baby Raphael, son of Spanish teacher, Giovanna. Baby Raphael is a "student" at Visi daycare and enjoys visiting his mom between classes ... her classes, that is!

Above, Sister Immaculata looks on as the "Two Rapheals" enjoy a moment together (and Baby Raphael enjoys a graham cracker.) It is a treat having the day care children so close on campus; their presence is always a joy to behold!

24 June 2008

Foundation Day!

Two hundred and nine years ago today our monastery was founded. We share here an excerpt from the letter which Archbishop Leonard Neale wrote to our Monastery in Annecy, France on March 6, 1817, in an attempt to formally establish us as a Monastery of the Visitation and to receive information about the daily life and customs:

"The total want of such schools as were calculated to impart to the female Youth of this country, both the accomplishments suited to their respective stations in life, and also the Christian principles and sound piety . . . When behold! it pleased the Divine Providence to inspire some women who were under my direction, to unite and consecrate their abilities and time to the education of young females. . . . This work commenced on the 24th of June, 1799, and has been most faithfully carried on with great zeal and patience, and a most ardent desire of becoming members of the precious Order of the Visitation of our Lady, and a lively confidence that God in his infinite goodness would not fail to crown their ardent wishes with success!"

18 June 2008

Baby Beanies

At risk of boring our faithful readers, we thought we would share the miracles that God works in the vegetable garden. We've been enjoying fresh salad for a few weeks now ... but we are excited to see the eschatological sign of more fresh vegetables on the horizon. Above is a picture of a baby string bean (purple variety).

Despite torrential rains earlier this week, the tomatoes plants are still standing strong. Thanks to some 90+ days last week, the tomato flowers have begun to set fruit in great quantities.

This is a particularly big "baby" among the tomato patch.

Last, but not least, pictured above is our herb garden, located on the north side of the vegetable garden. We have added one or two boxwoods a year for the last few years and this year we "rounded out" the remaining spaces along boarder of the herb garden. (The sporadic adding of boxwoods accounts for the great variety in their sizes!) The birds frequent the bath in the center (when they think the bipeds aren't looking) and splash around during the day. Behind the herb garden is the parsnip and carrot patch. Of all the miracles that take place in the garden, perhaps one of the biggest miracles is that the squirrels can't find more of the vegetables among the ubiquitous weeds!

15 June 2008

Free Gifts

In today's Gospel the Lord tells us that because we have received without cost we should give without cost. It is easy to associate that maxim with material items. We can consider that all the things we "have" are really ours to "use" -- and that they are gifts from God -- and so we should share them freely. True enough.
One could, however, go a bit further and suggest that what we have received "without cost" from the Lord is his mercy and his love. We have done nothing to earn these gifts. And it is these same gifts we are to give "without cost." We do not need to wait for someone to "earn" our affection, our kindness, our willingness to overlook shortcomings. It is easy to act this way toward those we love and those whom we respect; it can be a challenge to act this way toward those for whom we do not have such positive feelings. Let us ask for the grace to be grateful for this "free gift" and for the grace to share it with those around us -- at no cost!

"The sweet support of our neighbor consists in gently bearing with him in the trying things he does and says, in all that goes against the grain and is distasteful to us, in not wondering at his failings and imperfections and in no wise entertaining any depreciation of him or dryness of heart against him . . . but bearing in our hearts a tender and loving compassion which will soften us towards him."
St. Jane de Chantal

11 June 2008


Mother Mary Berchmans confers a crescent pin during the graduation ceremony last Tuesday.

Sisters process toward the tent for the graduation ceremony on McNabb field.

U.S. Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, addresses the graduates.

At 11.00am last Tuesday morning the graduation procession, led by administration, sisters, faculty and the Board of Trustees, approached the tent on McNabb field. Just a few moments later, the graduates entered to Elgar's familiar processional.
The Honorable Margaret Spellings had thoughtful, humorous, serious and appropriately brief words of wisdom for the soon-to-be graduates. Amid her remarks, she spoke about the Salesian "little virtues" (which we hope our graduates have learned!) She remarked that "These same virtues have been the hallmark of this school for centuries. In a world full of change, the traditions and values of this institution remain constant -- and they're now more important than ever." She referred to the Holy Father's words during his visit in April and voiced agreement with his sentiment that we live in an age of great promise. In ending her remarks, she quoted one of her favorite sayings, "Well behaved women rarely make history." She qualified it by warning the graduates to behave but not to edit themselves, not to wait for anyone's permission to begin using their education.

Following the witty and insightful address the graduates were awarded their diplomas and their crescent pins. The weather was beautiful -- not as beautiful as our graduates, however, but perfect for the occasion. We pray that our newest crop of alumnae will bring "little virtues" to every corner of creation as they embark on new adventures.

A belated, but heartfelt, thanks to our Publications Director, Billie, for the snappy photos!

07 June 2008

Preaching Season

We've got the four seasons, planting season, harvesting season, sports seasons . . . when is "preaching season?" It's always preaching season!
A previous translation of today's first reading used to read, "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season . . ." Surely there are times when it might not be welcome if we were to reference the Gospel in a very direct manner. For instance, it might not be well received, when being cut off in traffic, to announce to the driver of the offending vehicle, "The first shall be last!" Our actions, however, can also be an instrument for preaching the Gospel to those around us.
If we accept the misfortunes that befall us with a calmness and a resignation that belies a deep trust in the Lord's care for us, we may very well attract the attention of those around us. When the vicissitudes of daily living do not leave us untied and anxious, gradually it may pique the curiosity of those who work with us and live with us. In doing so, we have already begun to preach the Good News. Perhaps this might stir in our neighbors a desire to cultivate a similar posture. We may even find that we are answering questions about our relationship with the Lord, about our prayer lives, about going to Church. It is always preaching season ... especially for quiet sermons delivered by our good example.

"Do you wish to know how I test the value of a preacher? If the listeners go away saying, 'Today I will do better'; not by their saying, 'What a wonderful sermon!'"
St. Francis de Sales

03 June 2008

A Foundress in our Midst!

Last summer, Sister Marla Marie Lucas, a Parish Visitor of Mary Immaculate moved into a guest room just off our retreat passage. She's been a friend (and frequent retreatant) of our monastery for close to 30 years. (She started coming when she was five!) During her time with us the Holy Spirit was very much at work. Yesterday, 1st June, Sister Marla Marie became the foundress of the first Maronite Rite Catholic Congregation for women, founded in the United States. She came to supper in her new habit (see above) which has the Maronite Cross embriodered on the scapular (thanks to the creativity of our own Sister Leonie Therese).

You can read all about this budding congregation here and you can visit Sister's blog here. But you can read all about Sister Marla right here ... because we've been living with her.
Sister Marla Marie is a very prayerful religious and a very "fun nun." She is always quick with a smile or a joke and when she joined our community for a meal, she fit in so well, we hardly thought of her as a guest. Despite the formidable challenge of founding a religious community in today's culture, Sister Marla never loses sight of Him for whom she works: the light in the St. Joseph Retreat Chapel is often on late at night and early in the morning. Sister is faithful to prayer and faithful to her daily Holy Hour. On top of everything else, Sister makes a mean apple cobbler.

It has been a blessing for our community to have Sister Marla Marie as a friend for these many years and it has been a privilege to support her in this exciting new mission.