29 December 2009

Christmas Ass is Retired

Perhaps some of our readers might remember last year's nativity billets where Sister Mary Blogger drew card no. 19, the "Christmas Ass." If you do not, don't be scandalized, just click here for the story. This year the sister erstwhile known as a beast of burden has been promoted to one of the shepherds. Although no one drew the infamous card no. 19, we did have two sisters who drew other animals, the lamb and the ox, to be exact. See picture below for the ox and lamb ... who kept time (cue Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.)

There are several shepherd cards to be drawn among the billets for the Court of the King and Sister Mary Blogger drew the following card:

No. 4
The Shepherds
Keeping watch over their flocks
(Saint Luke, II, 8.)
At the court of the King JESUS you will have the office of the Shepherds who kept watch over their flocks.

Remark that it is to poor, laborious, vigilant men that GOD first reveals the mystery of His birth. If you wish to partake of divine communications, detach yourself from the goods of earth, love labor, and watch over the flock confided to you; that is, over your heart and over all the powers of your soul.

Practice -- Vigilance
Aspiration -- O my JESUS, be Thou the guardian of my soul.

25 December 2009

Christus Natus Hodie!

We did it again! We cheated. We sang Christmas carols during the third week of Advent. This year our "Library Angels" and their musical companions were just stellar. Last Friday, some of our sisters gathered with our librarian (who manages to avoid the camera -- but for a cameo appearance seating people during "O Holy Night") and her angels as well as some alumnae and their families. As in the past, the hit of the afternoon was the "12 Days of Christmas" complete with illustrations and individual solos ... or in the case of the "partridge and the pear tree" ... it was a "Tree-O." We share three minutes of our fun time last Friday as we wish our readers a happy and holy Christmas.

22 December 2009

Thirteen Years Later

After the fire of 1993, which consumed the inside of our school building and drenched the chapel which connects the monastery to the school, we had our sacred spaces -- our chapel and our choir -- rebuilt and rededicated. On 21 December 1996, His Eminence James Cardinal Hickey blessed and reconsecrated the familiar space where we gather six times a day. With the permission of the Office of Liturgy and in accord with the general norms provided by the Table of Liturgical Days, the 21st of December is a Solemnity for our community: a six-candle, Gloria and Creed, white vestments, proper office, and pull-out-all-the-stops (okay, except the oboe stop, that one sounds funny) kind of solemnity. We have a great deal for which to be grateful and marking the anniversary of our chapel's rededication is a special way to do that. Below is a snippet from the second reading at Office of Readings yesterday. It is from a homily given on the day after the rededication: the fourth Sunday of Advent 1996. Serendipitously, the theme from the Song of Songs is always particularly special for us on the 21st of December since it is the first reading given to us by the Church -- to say nothing of an equally-befitting Gospel!

"I would like to speak about what takes place in this chapel today which continues to make it a holy space. My image here are the two principal characters in the Song of Songs . . . . You know the story well. It is a love story. They spot one another and it's love at first sight! Then they lose one another and search frantically throughout the city looking for each other. When at last they meet, they embrace and speak, heart to heart, these poignant words: 'Tenui nec dimittam!' -- I have hold of you and I will never let you go! . . . . That same story, in one way or another, is the story of each sister here. . . . They speak of their mutual love many times each day in this sacred space. . . . In addition to community gatherings here, each sister finds herself in this space in quiet and brief moments many times throughout each day, from very early in the morning to deep into the night. . . . For it is here where the Beloved awaits them."

Very Rev. Lewis Fiorelli, OSFS

18 December 2009

O Lord and Leader!

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: Veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
O Lord, and Leader of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the red fire of flame and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with outstretched arm.

This antiphon refers to two accounts, in the book of Exodus, where God reveals Himself to Moses. The second encounter, when God gave the Law to Moses, is a very poignant encounter. The old covenant is ratified and the exchange between God and man is filled with imagery of fire and light. The fire which the Israelites saw atop the mountain was but an indication of the light that was to come in Christ.

The second part of the antiphon, "come and redeem us with outstretched arm," is an echo of Yahweh's promise to Moses that "I will free you from the burdens which the Egyptians lay on you. I will release you from slavery to them, and with my arm outstretched and my strokes of power I will deliver you" (Ex 6:6). The promise made to the people of Israel in the Old Testament is seen in its fullness when it is considered in light of Christ's redemptive death. As the people of Israel awaited freedom from their captors, so the Church awaits the birth of the Messiah.

What are some of the ways in which we can be held captive today? When we lose focus and replace Christ as the center of our work, our family, our ministry, etc., we are at risk of becoming a prisoner. Even something which is very good in itself, can cause us to lose focus. We can become so involved in one aspect of our life that it affects our relationships, our families, our ability to maintain balance and moderation, etc. Even a "good work" can be dangerous to our freedom if we do not keep Christ at the center all that we do. Whether we are students or teachers, parents or children, caregivers, social workers or soldiers ... we are free as long as we keep Christ at the center of all our actions.

14 December 2009

Christmas Entertainment

Looking for a family-friendly classic that isn't warn out with air time? A monastery favorite is the one-hour opera (English) by Gian-Carlo Menotti. This Christmas story about a crippled boy whose family provides hospitality to the magi on their way to Bethlehem is as inspiring as it is charming. To be accurate, we happen to own the 1978 VHS edition by Kutler (and not the RCA recording of the original NBC production, as pictured above.) This quaint holiday tale will be our movie of the month this coming Friday for locals who would like to join us for pizza and a movie before all-night adoration. Movie starts at 7.15pm.

10 December 2009

Religious Roadwork

You might stump the helpful worker in the orange apron if you walked into home depot and asked for a tool to help you "lower a mountain."

We hear so often, during this most sacred season of Advent, about the call to make straight the way of the Lord. We're told to fill in the valleys and level the mountains. And in today's first reading from Isaiah, we hear that the people of Israel, the beloved people of God (yes, believe it or not "worm" and "maggot" are terms of endearment ... lost somewhere in translation) will be made into an instrument to help along the roadwork: a sharp, new, double-edged sledge.

The Lord promises the impossible and asks us to trust Him. We are invited a clear a path for His coming. We are asked to discard all that is unworthy of the coming of the Lord. Perhaps we could think of that path as the road which leads to our heart. What do people encounter when they meet us? What kind of response do others receive when they ask us for a favor? Better yet: How do we greet those who inconvenience us? Are the mountains of our impatience and the valleys of our irritation stumbling blocks which might hurt someone who seeks our attention? Maybe we can't shave down all our mountains in one Advent season, but perhaps we can find a way around those we can't conquer right now -- a tunnel, perhaps -- which might help us to make a level road for all those who approach us. And when the waiting is over, may the newborn King find a smooth journey to our hearts.

"Fill up the valleys; that is, fill your heart with confidence and hope because salvation is near at hand. The sight of our great faults brings with it a certain ... shock ... which unnerves the heart and often leads it to discouragement. These ... ditches and valleys must be filled up for Our Lord's coming!"
St. Francis de Sales

06 December 2009

A Conspiracy Afoot!

If you are not one of the 900,000 plus people who have viewed this video, it's worth the two and a half minutes. Not all of us are in an position to raise money to make global changes, but all of us are in a position to give more "presence" to those around us this holiday season -- and beyond. If St. John the Baptist were alive today, he'd probably be a "conspirator" too. Hat tip -- er, veil tip -- to our good friend, Christy, who had this video posted as her Gmail status message yesterday! Thanks, Christy!

"True servants of God preach and teach those whom they guide only so as to lead them to God, as much by their words as by their works. This is what St. John does today."
St. Francis de Sales

02 December 2009

Indulge Yourself

Indulge yourself: come pray with us!

After two great announcements on the Zenit news service, (click here and here to read them) our Federation President, Mother Susan Marie from our Monastery of Brooklyn, has written a lovely response telling readers of our up-coming jubilee year and the plenary indulgence available to those who pray in a Monastery chapel during in coming year.

Here in Georgetown, we will be kicking-off the jubilee year on 24th January 2010 with a 10am Mass in our Nolan Center. All locals are welcome to join us for the occasion.

"Be strong, firm, constant and unchanging . . . . so that nothing may separate you from your heavenly Bridegroom who has united you with one another; may nothing take away from you that union which alone can keep you united with Him, so that, all of you having only one heart and one soul, He Himself may be your only heart and your only soul."
St. Francis de Sales
Introduction to the Book of Rules, 1618

28 November 2009

Trio of Things to Celebrate

This past Thursday was a day chock-full of celebration! In addition to the usual Thanksgiving festivities, it was the birthday of our retreatant, Cynthia and the Feastday of our Mother Mary Berchmans. (Poor St. John Berchmans is often overlooked ... and this year he landed on Thanksgiving!) As a gift for Mother, our friend Stephanie (pictured above with Mother) produced this very exquisite sketch on silk-screen. The lettering around the picture is repeated below.
Holy Mary, Mother of God and Virgin, I choose thee this day for my queen, patron, and advocate, and firmly resolve and purpose never to abandon thee, never to say or do anything against thee, nor to permit that aught be done by others to dishonor thee. Receive me, then, I conjure thee, as thy perpetual servant; assist me in all my actions, and do not abandon me at the hour of my death. Amen.
St. John Berchmans

As we
approach this most sacred season of Advent, we can have no better model to follow than Our Lady. She trusted in the Lord's promise even when earthly wisdom might have protested. When she uttered her "fiat" she gave back to the Lord her claim on shaping her life. And with the word "Yes" she changed the world. Forever. Deo gratias!

24 November 2009

Ever New

This could be an advertisement for the "old technology" meeting the new.

At the conclusion of Saturday's Mass for the Feast of the Presentation of Mary, some of our sisters took the opportunity to sign the vow book. (It needn't be done immediately after Mass but some prefer to sign the book earlier in the day than others -- just so long as each sister has a chance to sign the book before the day is over.) Our venerable Sister Raphael, at 99 years young wheeled herself over to the book and, leaning on the lectionary for balance, signed the ancient vow book. A pen and a 197 year-old book -- it would seem -- qualify for "old technology."

Enter the new technology. As some of us watched Sister Raphael sign her vows we mused about how nice it would be if we had a camera to capture the moment. One of our Oblate seminarians who had joined us at Mass to renew his own vows was quick thinking and reached for his iPhone. Thanks to our very own Michael Castrilli, OSFS we have these lovely photos of Sister Raphael to share. In addition to our photo-snapping seminarian we were joined by three other Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. It was a delightful "family reunion" for a splendid Feast day.

"This is the way, my dear Sister. Grace will never be wanting to us if we are faithful in seconding its attractions; thus will God bless us and our labors."
St. Jane de Chantal

20 November 2009

For Those Who Pray

... that's a literal translation of "Pro Orantibus" which is what the Vatican celebrates on Saturday 21 November, the Feast of the Presentation of Mary. Since 1955, the Church has dedicated the Feast of Our Lady's presentation as a day to pray for those whose contemplative vocations give them the great privilege of being available to pray for others.

Here in our monastery of the Visitation of Georgetown, we are blessed with the best of both worlds. We are steeped in a 400 year monastic tradition (okay: 399 years, 5 months, and 14 days to be exact) and our particular monastery was founded in 1799 for the dual apostolate of prayer and education. So, while we observe a monastic horarium and monastic customs, the "work" we do each day is done -- for the most part -- both in the monastery and in the school. It is a unique blend of contemplative life and the apostolate of education.

This beautiful feast is especially meaningful for us for two reasons:

First, since it is "pro orantibus" day, we are very mindful of the number of people who call, email, write letters, send faxes, etc., with special intentions. And we are grateful for the Church's prayerful support of this precious responsibility of praying for those in need.

Second, 21 November is a very special day for us since it is the day upon which all Visitation sisters around the world renew their vows. Each sister will rewrite and resign her vows (the short formula) in her monastery's vow book. Our vow book dates from 1812 and has the vows of every sister who has even been professed in our house -- or who has ever been visiting on this feast (we have a special page in the vow book for guests, visiting sisters who happen to be with us on this day.)

As is the custom of our Order, all Visitation monasteries observe a mini-retreat for the three days prior to the renewal of vows. Do pray with us as we prepare to reecho our "Yes" to the Lord on Saturday morning!

16 November 2009

Our Friendly Neighbors

We were delighted to welcome members of Georgetown University's Catholic Daughters for a day of reflection on Saturday. After a morning of praying and listening to a spiritual conference ... and before their afternoon spiritual walk-n-talk, the group assembled some foam turkeys in the spirit of Thanksgiving: both the up-coming holiday and in a spirit of gratitude for the many blessings we receive in our daily lives.

How many Georgetown students does it take to assemble a foam turkey? Many, it seems. Turkey-making isn't as easy as it looks!
This is a pretty turkey in progress; her other eye is just about to be attached. She's wearing her finest collar for the day of reflection!

This poor turkey lost an eye during assembly. His owner wanted to emphasize that, despite his loss, he is still a "thankful turkey." A subtle reminder to all of us not to forget to count our blessings -- even during challenging times.

12 November 2009

Advent Approaching

It's hard to believe that Advent is just around the corner. Today's first reading whets our appetite for the first of the Great O Antiphons which we will sing on 17 December:

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: Veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
O Wisdom, you who come forth from the mouth of the Most High, and reaching from end to end, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

We are reminded that the Lord, to whom the title of "WISDOM" is applied, is the great choreographer of creation. And the image of him ordering all things "sweetly and mightily" is a poignant -- and delicate combination -- of attributes. The created world around us is not the only place where the Lord's order can be seen. The circumstances which surround us -- the "soup in which we find ourselves," to use an expression from St. Francis de Sales -- are also part of Wisdom's work. It can be easy to acquiesce to the Lord's ordering of circumstances when they are pleasing to us; it can be a challenge, however, to accept them when they interrupt our own order and our own plans. Let us, this day, pray for the grace to accept the circumstances that the Lord orders, trusting that his might and his sweetness will assist us. Let us entrust our day -- and our lives -- to his divine Wisdom.

"There is nothing so gentle as true strength and nothing so strong as true gentleness."
St. Francis de Sales

08 November 2009


WOW! Our friend, NC Sue at "In Him We Live and Move and Have Our Being" was thoughtful enough to consider us as a "Gorgeous Blogger" in her post of 30 October. We are, admittedly, a bit late in our acceptance and conferral of our own six "Gorgeous Blogger" titles.

As part of the award, we will be telling you six things about ourselves which are little known and then recommending six other blogs for this honor.

In no particular order, here are six random facts about our monastery:
  1. The oak beams which support both wings of the monastery are all hand-cut and are held together with hand-fashioned nails (you don't find those at Home Depot!)
  2. Sunday, in season and out of season, is ice-cream for dessert at dinner. Heaven help the dispenser who runs out of ice-cream!
  3. The community is evenly (and hopefully charitably) divided along "GOLD TEAM" and "WHITE TEAM" lines. This Saturday is the fall Gold-White contest ... Sister Mary Blogger doesn't want to be biased, but she's got a tiger print-tie to take to the game with her!
  4. In our monastery cemetery, one will find the graves of the Foisy sisters; they were blood sisters who joined our community and received the religious names, "Sister Mary Ambrose" and "Sister Mary Augustine." They happen to be cousins of Blessed Andre Bessette.
  5. Prior to our renovation in 2006-2007 most of us slept on beds which were donated to us from hospitals after the Civil War ended.
  6. Our vow book, in which every professed sister writes her vows, dates to 1816 and has the name of every sister who has ever professed her vows (or renewed her vows) in our house!
Here are six Gorgeous Blogs worth visiting:
  1. Our monastic buddies up in the Garden State, the Dominican Sisters of Summit!
  2. The fabulous flower garden at Little Flowers by our local friend, Elizabeth.
  3. Our "repeat-offender" whose made her annual retreat with us several times has a beautiful blog about life as a consecrated virgin.
  4. It's hard to resist the wonderful reflections of Sister Genevieve Glen, OSB who has penned many of the hymns found in the "Magnificat" for which she serves as editor of the daily offices.
  5. We enjoy the adventures and reflections of Sister Veronica at Franciscan Footprints.
  6. Lastly, the "Gorgeous" blog is no longer continued but has ended for a "Gorgeous" reason ... and the nifty title was too good for this grammarphile to resist. Do have a peek at Quantitative Metathesis.
Thanks to our friend, Sue, for the award. We look forward to reading six things about some of our fellow bloggers.

04 November 2009

The Sophomores Cometh!

Yesterday marked the first of several visits we'll be having with members of our sophomore class. In a series of seven gatherings of 15-20 students, our campus ministry staff is introducing the second-year students to different ways of praying with scripture. They receive some background information on the Liturgy of the Hours, attend daytime prayer, eat dinner ("lunch" to them) with us and then, after lunch, they learn about Lectio Divina. Pictured above, the sophomores and sisters gather for a brief introduction before grace.

"Simplicity towards God consists in seeking Him only in all our actions, whether we are going to the Office or to the refectory . . . let us go everywhere to seek God and to obey God."
St. Jane de Chantal

31 October 2009

Happy 99th Birthday

No, that's not a Halloween costume, it's a bit of a photographic embellishment to mark our dear Sister Raphael's 99th birthday today! Sister offers (almost) a century's worth of wisdom marked by her characteristic wit and humor. Among sister's witty remarks is the "gold standard of citrus." When a sister offers our local nonagenerian a piece of orange or grapefruit at a meal other than breakfast, her reply -- with a smile -- is: "Gold in the morning, silver at noon and lead at night. No thank you, dear."

As a librarian for many years, Sister Raphael has a great love for books. In addition, she is insatiably interested in maps. Perhaps, somewhere in her past, a great-ancestor was a cartographer! Please join us in thanking God for sister's good humor and good health. We hope to be adding a third digit this time next year!

27 October 2009

Steubenville Video -- Finally!

It's taken us quite a while to collect our happy memories from this year's vocation fair at FUS. Part of the reason we are almost a month late in sharing a window into our trip is that we've graduated to a new video editing program. Thanks to our school's IT department, we are using Sony Vegas to edit our videos. Although the possibilities for transitions and fades and other such features are wonderful, the "learning curve" is a steep one, so we're a bit slow in the "Shoestring" department these days. Do enjoy a short road trip with us!

23 October 2009

Even More Shameless Promotion

Pardon the shameless promotion:

Tonight we will be showing the movie "Therese" at 7.15pm and serving pizza to locals who wish to join us for movie night. The movie will be shown in the school's "Little Odeon" on the third floor of Founders' Hall. From 7pm to 7am we will be having all-night Adoration. Movie-goers are welcome to stay and pray after the show!

19 October 2009

Solemn Profession

This video needs little introduction but the appearance needs a bit of an explanation: this is our first attempt at using HD video ... so embedding the window at the correct HD size did not -- apparently -- go as smoothly as planned. Fortunately, Friday's event did and we're pleased to share a few minutes of it with our readers! Sister Mary Roberta made her solemn profession on the Feast of St. Margaret Mary and here we have a 3 minute recap of the highlights. Thanks to our school's IT department for use of the software which made it possible to edit in HD. Revisit with us this momentous event!

"I choose Jesus, my Lord and my God,
for the only object of my love . . ."

from the Profession formula for the Order of the Visitation

15 October 2009

Climate Change is the Answer, NOT the Problem!

This is our third year of participating in "BAD" -- blog action day. To quote the organizers of this year's BAD, "Anyone is free to join in on Blog Action Day and there is no limit on the number of posts, the type of posts or the direction of thoughts and opinions." With that liberty in place, we'd like to put a Salesian spin on the discussion.

It is true that our lifestyles as individuals and as nations can affect the environment in a positive or negative way. Our impact on the environment as it relates to climate change, however, is only a symptom of a larger problem. The larger problem is our diminishing respect for the dignity of human life and a lack of recognition for the Lord's splendor in the created world around us. What's the solution to this problem? Climate change. Not a "global warming" kind of climate change, but a change in the CULTURAL CLIMATE.

Climate change will be a wonderful thing when it means that we respect the dignity of the unborn child; when we revere and honor the wisdom of the senior citizens among us; when our interactions with one another are marked by mutual respect and kindness. When we do not respect human life as a gift from God, it is not a surprise that we fail to treat the environment with gentleness and respect. Changing how we treat the environment will only happen when we change how we treat one another. The God of the universe, who created us out of love, longs for the day when we treat one another with a respect worthy of the kingdom of God. When we treat each other with gentleness and love we cannot help but to treat the world around us with respect for we will see God's handiwork in every flower, every raindrop and every creeping, crawling critter around us.

"Thus it is that good thoughts and holy aspirations may be drawn from all that surrounds us in our ordinary life. Woe to them that turn aside the creature from the Creator, and thrice blessed are they who turn all creation to their Creator’s Glory."
St. Francis de Sales

"Blessed is the soul who seeks God everywhere. For she will find Him everywhere and everywhere she will seek what she has found!"
St. Jane de Chantal

12 October 2009

Profession Approaching!

The countdown has begun! This Friday at 11am, during the Feastday Mass for St. Margaret Mary our Sister Mary Roberta will be making her solemn profession. Locals can still RSVP to the monastery by phone or email. A lunch reception in the Heritage Room will follow the Mass. Do join us if you are able to and do pray for sister as she continues her retreat. Stay tuned for pictures from this great event!

08 October 2009

Post-Meatball Post

We never did figure out who it was who suggested that the meatballs at the "Monastic Meatball Supper" were the size of bowling balls ... but Sister Anne E had a quick retort at the suggestion. We'll spare our readers the gory details of the "how big meatballs should be" discussion.

Our second "Monastic Meatball Supper" was a big hit with over 40 guests in attendance and well over 90 meatballs consumed -- not that anyone was counting! Above, the "picture yourself with us" display was a popular attraction both before and after the meal. Males and females alike enjoyed being a Visitation Sister for a moment while their friends took pictures of the sight.

Among the diverse group we were privileged to have students from Georgetown, George Washington, American University as well as a number of recent grads who are working in the area ... and a bunch of nuns, too! :)

This year's program included an historical sketch by our Sister Mary Archivist and it concluded with a tour of our crypt and a few historical anecdotes about the 41 nuns, 2 priests and archbishop who are buried there. Thanks to all who attended and made the evening a most enjoyable one!

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."
1 Cor 10:31

04 October 2009

Book Recommendation

In this year when we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of St. Francis de Sales' book "The Introduction to the Devout Life" we share a book suggestion which could be considered -- very affectionately -- the "low calorie" version of our Holy Founder's great work.

The Rev'd Bernard Bangley, a Protestant minister who discovered St. Francis de Sales over 30 years ago, has taken St. Francis de Sales' classic work and written what he calls a "paraphrase." If you have not already read the IDL, Bangley's work is a wonderful place to begin. Some of the images which St. Francis de Sales uses that are unique to his cultural era are explained in Bangley's introduction to the book. The language is new and fresh but the themes are clearly the work of de Sales' prolific pen.

Perhaps, dear readers, you have a friend who may not be ready for the IDL as it is written in its delightful 17th century parlance and the sterling 1950 Ryan translation ... but this "stepping stone" is a great gift for one just beginning the spiritual journey.

In the interest of full disclosure, the monastery neither sells these books nor profits from the sale of Rev. Bangley's work. We just think it's a great book. (If, however, you'd like to help us out, you can purchase a copy of our 400th anniversary book by clicking here for an order form-- shameless promotion at its best!)

30 September 2009

All About Focus

In today's Gospel we hear Our Lord speak some very challenging words. Typically, as Catholics, we are not wont to read Sacred Scripture only at its literal level, allowing room for the Holy Spirit to move our hearts closer to what the inspired texts are intended to teach us. It is hard to hear our Lord say to the man who wanted to bury his father, "Let the dead bury the dead" and to suggest to the man who wanted to go home to say farewell to his family, that he is not fit for the Kingdom of God.

Sometimes we associate this Gospel passage -- and those who are represented in it -- with people who have made a dramatic change in their lives in order to follow Our Lord more closely. Those of us who have left our families to enter a religious community or, perhaps, those who have left behind a way of living which was incommensurate with the Gospel -- we might be among those who could be pictured in dialogue with Jesus in today's Gospel. This text, however, speaks to all of us who have chosen to follow Jesus. It is not about forsaking family and foregoing the corporal acts of mercy such as burying the dead. Rather, it is about our focus: do we do all things in Christ, with our eyes cast upon Him or do we do them for other motives.

When we leave our families in order to enter religious life -- in the case of our community -- we do go home and say good-bye and we even visit periodically after we have entered. This reading is about how we do the things we do. Whether we do corporal acts of mercy such as burying the dead or feeding the hungry we must examine our motives and keep our eyes on the Lord. "Setting our hand to the plow and looking back" is about looking away from Christ and losing focus. Let us pray for the grace to keep our hands on the plow and our eyes on the Lord.

Perhaps a quotation from our constitutions will shed light on how we strive to live this particular passage of the Gospel:

"If the sisters leave relatives sand friends and all that they have loved in the world, it is not in order to cease loving them but to prefer Jesus Christ, and in Him to love them with a stronger love."
Constitutions Chapter XII, no. 53

26 September 2009

All-Night Adoration

Chapel of the Sacred Heart. 1.00am Saturday morning:

St. Francis de Sales on the Divine Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament:

"Love perceives the presence of the Beloved by the fact that he spreads his attractions throughout the heart and then gathers and carries the whole soul to its Beloved by means of a most agreeable inclination, a most sweet turning and bending of all its faculties towards the Beloved. He attracts them to himself by the gentle power whereby he ties and draws hearts as bodies are drawn by material cords and bands."

22 September 2009

Shameless Promotion ... yet again!

Last year's meatball supper was such a success that we thought we'd have another one this year. Worry not, that's not spaghetti sauce on the advertisement; it was supposed to be "fireworks" but it does appear to look more like someone dipped the flier in the sauce pot!

All are welcome for Vespers, supper, and our short program. Last year's program included a pericope about how we "dance" in the monastery (metaphorically, not liturgically); it was so well received that we might have to have an encore ... or maybe we'll conclude with a tour of our crypt. Program details to be determined!

Locals who wish to attend may do so by emailing us by September 27th.

18 September 2009

Safe Arrival

After homeroom yesterday morning, the Visi "vocationmobile" began its journey and arrived at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in time for the 4.45pm Mass on Thursday afternoon. After Mass, some sisters ventured down to the chapel of the Portiuncula. Just behind the small stone statue is an outdoor path through the Stations of the Cross. Sister Anne Francis and Sister Mary Roberta demonstrate their preparedness for this spiritual exercise by showing off their shoes. (Good thing we're not the "discalced" Vistandines!)

St. Francis de Sales did not say too much about wearing shoes, but he did have a very interesting metaphor about the feet of our souls (not the soles of our feet!):

"Your affections are the feet of your soul. If your affections are warm and tender, your judgment will not be harsh; if they are loving, your judgment will be the same."

14 September 2009

Steubenville Bound!

It's that time of year again. This Thursday we'll be loading up the school van and heading to The Franciscan University of Steubenville. The above picture is not 100% accurate: we'll have some luggage with us (and the tires of the school van will be checked for proper pressure - and shape - before we leave!) and sisters don't usually look so happy and relaxed when Sister Anne E is driving ... but other than that, the image is close to reality.

If you are attending the fair, be sure to drop by and visit our table. Don't miss the opportunity to "picture yourself" with us.

New readers might be interested in our 2006 visit, our post and video from 2007 and our pre-post and video from 2008.

11 September 2009

The Family is Growing

We welcome yet another sister to Facebook. This week Sister Mary Roberta joined FB under the pseudonym, "Hermana Roberta" since FB does not allow new members to use religious titles as part of their names. Imagine that!?!

We know that Sister -- er Hermana, that is -- will be a FAN of our monastery's page -- if she isn't already and she'll probably find herself collecting some new friends, too! Fans of the monastery page -- and friends of "Hermana Roberta" -- will enjoy Sister's gentle words and delightful sense of humor in their comment boxes.

Hermana Roberta joins Sister Anne E, known as Hermana Anna and a host of monastery friends and Visitation alumnae.

Stay tuned on the monastery's FB page for upcoming events this fall ... including a special event on the Feast of St. Margaret Mary!

07 September 2009

Did You Know?

Did you know that the engineer who supervised the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge is an alumna of our school?

Emily Roebling was the wife of Washington Roebling, son of John Augustus Roebling. The elder Roebling was the engineer whose design to build a suspension bridge of the East River, connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn, was a response to the bill passed by the New York state legislature in 1866, which sought to address the recent population growth in Brooklyn.

John Roebling died of tetanus in 1869, after injuring his foot in an accident on the Brooklyn Ferry (where was OSHA back then??!!) Washington Roebling was named chief engineer after his father's death. In 1872, eleven years before the bridge was open for traffic, Washington Roebling was stricken with caisson disease, a common affliction of those who work in highly-pressurized environments. For the remainder of the project Emily Warren Roebling met daily with the workers and delivered messages from her ailing husband. She had a keen understanding of the work which was taking place and became well-respected among engineers and laborers alike. When it was suggested that her husband, due to his illness, be removed as chief engineer, Emily addressed the American Association of Civil Engineers on behalf of her husband and won their support for his continued leadership. On opening day, Emily Roebling rode across the bridge with President Chester Arthur. One must wonder if they were charged the 1 cent toll?!

In a recent trip to New York, attending the Catholic Thrive conference, Sister Mary Snapshot was lucky enough to stay with our Sisters in Brooklyn and to be one of the 140,000 cars that cross the 14,000 ton bridge each day. If you've never been across this architectural masterpiece, do enjoy a one-minute trip in the below video. While there are no nuns featured in the video, there is an awfully cute bird who was very unafraid of bipeds. Sister Mary Snapshot found him on a detour through Hyde Park.

It might interest readers to know that in 1984 a bike lane was added and that over 1,000 bikers and close to 2,000 pedestrians cross the bridge daily.

03 September 2009

Duc in Altum

It's hard to read today's Gospel and to resist the temptation to write a dialogue for St. Peter. Here is Peter, tired - and probably frustrated - after a night of unsuccessful fishing and he's washing his nets when Our Lord tells him to cast his nets once more. Most of us, tired after hours of unsuccessful work, might not respond so readily to a suggestion to return to our task. We might be tempted to respond, "Are you kidding? I've had no luck all night! What makes you think that things will be different if I cast my nets now?" This is a natural (and rather logical) response.

Today's Gospel has served as a fertile metaphor for evangelization as well as for vocation ministry. And men and women involved in these fields find rich meaning in today's Gospel text. For the rest of us Christians, however, who might not be actively engaged in either of these good works, it seems that the key to today's Gospel is how Peter's fate changes when he casts his net at Our Lord's command. We may not always find our ships sinking with an abundance of fish but if we commend all our work to the Lord, we cannot be far from His grace. Sometimes we are asked to return to something which was unfruitful -- like Peter's fishing. At times, it may seem pointless to return to a project, a relationship or a task which seemed, to us, to be hopeless. When, however, it is clear that the Lord is inviting us to revisit a fruitless venture, we can trust that He will bless our willingness, as He blessed Peter's alacrity in today's Gospel. Our fidelity may not always be rewarded as visibly as Peter's catch of fish, but we trust that it is our faithful response for which we are responsible, not the outcome of the fishing trip!

"For we are commanded to have great care in what appertains to God's glory and to our charge, but we are not bound to, or responsible for, the [outcome of the] event, because it is not in our power."
St. Francis de Sales

31 August 2009

Unwelcome Words

Have you ever walked into a room -- perhaps at work or at school -- and felt uncomfortable because the conversation seemed to stop at your arrival? It's even more uncomfortable when this happens in our own family! How our Lord, in today's Gospel, must have felt when the angry crowd, murmuring about his parentage, drove him out of the town.

We cannot avoid the humiliations that come our way in daily life. Sometimes we may be tempted to say to ourselves, "If only I hadn't said that" or "I wish I hadn't done this" but most of the time we cannot control the circumstances which befall us. If we were in Jesus' sandals in today's Gospel, we might be tempted to say, "Gee, if only I hadn't read from the book of Isaiah!" To say this is to miss the point of the Gospel. When we try earnestly to align our lives with the will of God for us, rejection and temptation are bound to find us. Jesus, in fulfilling the Father's will, incurred the anger, the jealousy and the resentment of many. We will not be able to escape similar experiences when we walk in his footsteps, but we can be consoled that every emotion we will experience has already passed through the Divine Heart of our Lord.

"There are many people who say to Our Lord: 'I give myself wholly to You without reserve.'; but there are very few who actually practice this self-abandonment, which is nothing else but the acceptance . . . of all the events which may befall us just as they arrive by the order of God's Providence; affliction equally with consolation, sickness as health, poverty as riches, contempt as honor, shame as glory."
St. Francis de Sales

26 August 2009

All's Quiet on the Blogging Front

With 27 visiting sisters from five of our other monasteries, we've been a bit busy here in Georgetown. We have delighted in the opportunity to see so many friends -- old and new -- but it hasn't left us much time for push-button publishing. Above, sisters gather to make sandwiches for supper on Sunday night.
At the sandwich making party, our own Mother Mary Berchmans and Sister Margaret Mary of our monastery in St. Louis taste the cranberry-cream cheese spread which the sandwich makers put on the turkey sandwiches. ... and the verdict?


It is always exciting, when we have guests ... but this time we had some extra excitement. On Monday night, just after most of the sisters went to bed, we had a (false) fire alarm. A late-night fire drill with firemen arriving from several different companies provided an unplanned pajama party as we tried to spread the word that it was a false alarm. As much as we love excitement, we pray that the rest of the time with our guests is exciting in a more "peaceful" way.

20 August 2009

Our Lady and St. Bernard

We couldn't have chosen a better day to erect the new statue of Our Lady of the Eucharist in our monastery garden. Last year the brick path (which ends at the statue) was put in and we had to wait until we were able to find (and ultimately build) a pedestal large enough for this beautiful statue.

St. Bernard had a great devotion to Our Lady. So well known was this devotion that Dante had St. Bernard act as his guide in canto 31 of his "Paradiso" as he shows the glory of the Blessed Mother. In addition to his many sermons and letters, St. Bernard also penned a beautiful commentary on the first two chapters of The Song of Songs. In his work, "On the Love of God" (De amore Dei), he asks how, as creatures, we can possibly love God as well as He loves us. He punctuates the discussion with this thought: "Nothing is lacking where everything is given." Perhaps that is the 12th century way of saying "Do the best you can!"

St. Francis de Sales on St. Bernard:

"For as the glorious St. Bernard says: 'It is written in particular of man that he never continueth in the same state; he necessarily either goes forward or returns backward. All run indeed but one obtains the prize, so run that you may obtain. Who is the prize but Jesus Christ? And how can you take hold on him if you follow him not? But if you follow him you will march and run continually, for he never stayed, but continued his course of love and obedience until death and the death of the cross.' Go then, says St. Bernard; go, I say with him; go and admit no other bounds than those of life, and as long as it remains run after this Savior. But run ardently and swiftly: for what better will you be for following him, if you be not so happy as to take hold of him!"

16 August 2009

Charlie's Hearty Tomatoes!

This summer's vegetable garden has an overachieving variety which stands head and shoulders above its neighbors -- literally and figuratively. In addition to our usual Red Brandywine beefsteak tomatoes, we tried the Mortgage Lifter, a well-known name in heirloom tomatoes. This fruit has an interesting history: Mr. Marshall Byles of Logan, WV who was known as "Radiator Charlie" because he was an automobile mechanic, cross-bred the biggest and best-tasting tomatoes he could find. Gradually, after hand pollinating generations of plants and selecting the characteristics most desirable to him, Radiator Charlie ended up with a large red beefsteak tomato that grows in groups of three on a vigorous plant. In the 1940's these sought-after seedlings were sold for $1 a plant. Over several summers, Radiator Charlie sold enough plants to pay off his mortgage, hence the moniker of this summer delight. In 1985, Mr. Byles sold his seeds to the Southern Seed Saver's Exchange, from whom they can be purchased today. To hear an explanation of this plant's history as well as clips from an audio interview between Radiator Charlie and his grandson, Ed Martin click here.

Unlike some heirloom varieties, the Mortgage Lifter shows no signs of catfacing or blossom end rot, and it appears to be very disease resistant. Our monastery might just have found a new favorite tomato!

12 August 2009

New Date, New Book!

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of our Holy Mother, Saint Jane de Chantal. For the first time, we are celebrating on this date. For more information on the "movement" of the feast, click here. This post is a bit of a shameless promotion for our new 400th Anniversary book. Both our Mother Mary Berchmans and Sister Mada-anne contributed to the book. Readers should feel free to order a copy of this book since we have a sufficient number of copies on hand.

All kidding aside about our "new book," our "new feast" date is a welcome opportunity to celebrate a woman whose life as a wife, widow, mother, religious foundress and sister was marked by a deep faith in the loving providence of Our Lord. If you haven't read a great deal about St. Jane, one of the best biographies was just recently republished; Written by Elisabeth Stopp, a British Salesisan scholar, it is an engaging read which is both realistic and inspiring.

Today's celebration will include a 9am Mass, a festive meal (read: ice cream for dessert) and, very likely, some extra recreation and merry-making!

"Have great courage and you will see the glory of God increasing like the glow of a beautiful dawn!"
Antiphon for the Feast
First Vespers

07 August 2009

Annecy Video

In late June we welcomed Mother Mary Berchmans back from our school's pilgrimage to Annecy. Here we share a few minutes of the pictures she took during the trip. Among the different places that the group visited were our monastery in Marclaz (where they enjoyed some ice cream!) and our Monastery of Annecy as well as the Gallery House, site of the first Visitation community and the de Sales castle at Thorens. Do enjoy a "virtual pilgrimage" with 30 of our faculty and staff ... and Mother's deft hand at capturing the highlights!

03 August 2009

Upcoming Event!

This is an upcoming event that is not just for locals! Our school's Nolan Performing Arts Center is one of seven locations around the country which will be hosting the 27th annual Salesian Conference. This year, to mark the 400th anniversary of the publication of St. Francis de Sales' "Introduction to the Devout Life." The day begins at 9am with a light breakfast and concludes with Mass. The program includes three presentations on Salesian spirituality and affords opportunity for discussion and fellowship. The presentations will be live in Wilmington, DE and will be simulcast in the following locations: Washington DC, Wilmington, NC, Sylvania, OH, St. Louis, MO, St. Paul, MN and Ft. Myer's, FL (registration closed in FL). If you live near one of these locations and would like more information, visit the DeSales Resource Center homepage for more information.

30 July 2009

Each Stage of the Journey

We hear in today's first reading about the cloud and fire which marked the Lord's presence to the Israelites at "each stage of their journey." These words are the final words in the book of Exodus; it is a fitting conclusion for a book whose title means, literally, "the road out." The Israelites undertook their journey in light of the Lord's guidance. They watched for the cloud to lift in order to proceed and when the cloud did not lift, they stayed in place.

It may strike us today as silly to think of stopping and waiting -- during a long journey -- when proceeding consistently would seem to ensure a more expeditious arrival. We might, however, learn something from the attentiveness of the Israelites. Sometimes we get stuck in traffic and are frustrated as to why we are held up on our way. Perhaps we are planning a trip with our family and the dates we desire are not convenient. We may never know, on this side of eternity, what troubles the Lord spares us or what delights he prepares for us as he permits our own "plans" to be subject to circumstances which are beyond our control. If we begin each day, each task, each event, each "stage" of our journey with a prayer to God, dedicating our work and our rest, our praying and playing and our every effort to His glory, we will be less likely to see "stopping and waiting" as a nuisance. We may not get a cloud by day and a fire by night to guide us, but we will have the assurance that every moment of our day is offered as a prayer to our loving God.

Here we share a prayer of St. Francis de Sales which he used to consecrate his daily life to the Lord. To this day Visitation Sisters, Oblates of St. Francis de Sales and their friends, alumnae and alumni -- and many other members of the Salesian family -- begin their days with this prayer.

"My God, I give you this day. I offer you, now, all of the good that I shall do and I promise to accept, for love of you, all of the difficulty that I shall meet. Help me to conduct myself during this day in a manner pleasing to you. Amen."
St. Francis de Sales' "Direction of Intention"

25 July 2009

Service and Sisterhood

Last week some of our sisters helped to cook for the students participating in the week-long service program called "Vistory." (Despite what it looks like, it's not a compound of "Visitation" and "History" ... it's an acronym that includes some of the following words: Visitation, service, responsive, youth, etc., and Sister Mary Blogger can't quite put all the words together in the correct order!) Above, some of the students pose with sisters in the parking lot: a mid-point between the gym (sleeping quarters) and the student dining room (the feedbox). The week-long program focuses on service, Salesian spirituality and sisterhood.

Above, students install drywall at DC's Habitat for Humanity site. Below, a group of "Vistorians" flexes their muscles after some intense walking on an afternoon scavenger hunt. We were sorry to see our Vistory visitors leave us, but we look forward to staying in touch with them until the next Vistory service week. Next stop for Vistory: St. Paul, MN.

"The essence of prayer is not to be found in always being on our knees but in keeping our wills clearly united to God's will in all events. The soul which holds itself ready and open to yield itself obediently on any occasion ... can do this even while sweeping the floor." (or installing dry wall!)
St. Francis de Sales

20 July 2009

Beyond Bondage

Today's first reading provides a wonderful metaphor for the spiritual life: Moses trusted the Lord and risked losing the "status quo" -- staying in Egypt as slaves -- for an opportunity to pursue freedom from slavery. In our own lives, we sometimes need to move beyond what has become "routine" in order to grow in virtue.

One can almost hear the Israelites clamoring as "they complained to Moses,'Were there no burial places in Egypt that you had to bring us out here to die in the desert? Why did you do this to us? Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Did we not tell you this in Egypt, when we said, 'Leave us alone. Let us serve the Egyptians’? Far better for us to be the slaves of the Egyptians than to die in the desert.'" The Israelites would have preferred to stay in bondage as slaves of the Egyptians than to risk the life they knew in order to pursue freedom.

Perhaps there is some area in our own lives where we are reluctant to change what is "comfortable." Maybe there is a coworker or fellow parishioner whose company we find tiresome or irritating. It may be comfortable to avoid his company on a regular basis. We may have developed a habit of successfully avoiding this person. We might, however, consider risking our comfort to reach out in charity to someone we would much prefer to avoid. If what is "comfortable" does not lead us toward virtue, we must be on our guard that it does not tempt us to be uncharitable to our neighbors. These little daily opportunities may seem small compared to the plight of the Israelites; on the contrary, they are not small when we consider the long-lasting effects of remaining "comfortable" when virtue may be calling us forth.

When we leave behind our comfort and trust the in the Lord's providence, may we hear Moses' words in our hearts: "Fear not! Stand your ground, and you will see the victory the LORD will win for you today."

"A trifling inaccuracy, a little hastiness in word or action, some small excess in mirth, in dress, in gaiety, may not be very important, if these are heeded immediately and swept out as spiritual cobwebs;—but if they are permitted to linger in the heart, or, worse still, if we take pleasure in them and indulge them, our honey will soon be spoilt, and the hive of our conscience will be cumbered and damaged. But I ask again, how can a generous heart take delight in anything it knows to be displeasing to its God, or wish to do what offends Him?"

St. Francis de Sales

15 July 2009

Vistory Visitors

This week our campus hosts 49 students -- 33 from our other Visitation schools -- who, together with some of our own students, spend a week doing Christian service in Washington DC. Above, our Sister Mary de Sales prepares Tuesday's supper with visiting Sister Sharon Elizabeth from our monastery in Toledo. We've been a little quiet on the push-button publishing front ... making meatballs is hard work!

While the students are here on campus, they sleep on the floor of our gymnasium and spend their evenings doing activities which complement their service with "sisterhood and spirituality." They pray and play, have discussion groups, large group activities and relax together. Above is an aerial shot of their tie-dyed tee-shirts. We'll chalk that up to a "sisterhood" activity!