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