25 February 2009

On Fasting (Part I): Follow the Community

As we begin this most sacred season of Lent, we share two thoughts on the topic of fasting. Today we share some advice from our Holy Father, St. Francis de Sales and on Sunday we will share an insight from our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Both sentiments point toward the same end of fasting with the proper spiritual disposition.

St. Francis de Sales cautions us to "follow the community" in all things. This is not to say that everyone in one community, family, house, etc., has to observe Lent in the same way but that we strive to be faithful to a practice which is both suitable and appropriate. Sometimes we can feel discouraged about our own Lenten practices when we hear about the "heroic" feats that others have set out to accomplish. At other times, we may feel pleased with our own spiritual undertakings when we compare ourselves to a colleague or friend. St. Francis de Sales rescues us from this most human of temptations:

"Let the strong and robust eat what is given then, keeping the fast and austerities which are marked, and let them be content with that. Let the week and infirm receive what is offered them for their infirmity, without wishing to do what the robust do. Let neither group amuse themselves looking to see what this one eats and what that one does not eat."

21 February 2009

Rwandan Visitation!

Father Romain visits with Sister Jacqueline, Sister Raphael and Sister Anne Francis, after he spoke to our community.

Just two weeks ago we were blessed to have a "visit" and a taste of the Eternal City and this week we were privileged to welcome Rwandan priest Father Romain Rurangirwa to our campus. Father came to speak to our junior religion classes as well as our French IV classes. Yesterday morning Father came to the monastery to speak to our community about his experience in the genocides in 1994. Father lost his entire family to the genocides: his parents, eight siblings and numerous nieces and nephews.
His story is an inspiring example of reconciliation and healing. It is a story about how the wounds of one man have helped to heal the wounds of others. Father left the seminary in the hopes of finding his family. During this time, he was moved by the example of priests and religious who poured out their lives to help the widows and orphans left behind after the killings. Despite the devastation of not finding his family, Father found, in the faces of those who survived and needed care, the faces of his lost family members and the face of Christ. Out of his wounds and grief, he brought healing to others.

Ordained in 1996 for the diocese of Butare, Rwanda, Father Romain has made retreats with our sisters at the Visitation Monastery of Save, located in his diocese. A small world, indeed! We are grateful for his example and his visit!

17 February 2009

St. Valentine's Day - Follow Up

As a bit of a follow-up to our post about Valentine's day, we thought we'd share two great links about this sacred and secular feast. The English program on Vatican radio did a 9-minute spot about this feastday / holiday and its origin. Click here to hear the MP3 file. In addition, and as a timely piece for Valentine's Day, Vatican Radio also did a short explanation of the Retrouvaille program which helps couples in marriages which are in danger of separation or divorce. The program boasts of a 70-80% success rate for couples who complete a Retrouvaille weekend. Click here for the MP3 about this amazing program. If you know someone you who might benefit from this program or if you would like to learn more about it, click here to visit their website.

"A generous heart does not know how to refuse anything to God. It demands nothing, placing all its confidence is his strength."
St. Jane de Chantal

13 February 2009

Everyday is Valentine's Day

As Valentine's Day approaches, it seems appropriate to remark on this holiday from a Christian viewpoint. The various legends about St. Valentine all point toward themes of love. Surely the "real" St. Valentine -- whoever he was -- was a holy man whose virtue was motivated by a sincere love of the Lord and of his fellow men.
It is no secret that this religious observance of a saint has evolved into a widespread secular holiday celebrated with gifts of flowers, chocolates, conversation hearts, balloons, and many other media which all beg the recipient to "Be My Valentine." It might be said that when someone agrees to be a "valentine" she -- or he -- agrees to give her heart to the beloved giver of the chocolates, or candy hearts or flowers, etc.
The act of giving over one's heart, however, should not be a once a year affair for the serious Christian! In fact, we might say that every day is Valentine's Day. The moment on the seashore when Peter and Andrew and James and John left their nets and their livelihood to follow the Lord was, perhaps, the first "Valentine's Day" as these men gave their hearts to the Lord forever in that one action of leaving all things to follow Him. For each of us, let us examine our pilgrim journey and recall the day when the Lord captured our hearts; for we may look upon that as a kind of "Valentine's Day" in our own love affiar with the Lord. There may not have been chocolates or flowers or conversation hearts, but surely there was something which drew us to his Most Sacred Heart. And this same heart awaits us daily. The Lord invites us, each day, to be his "Valentine" and give him our hearts once more.

"O when we hear this divine Heart, as it sings with a voice of infinite sweetness the canticle of praise to the divinity, what joy, what efforts of our hearts to spring up to heaven that we may ever hear it! And truly this dear friend of our hearts invites us to this. Arise, make haste, leave yourself and take flight towards me, my dove, my beautiful, unto this heavenly abode, where all is joy and nothing is heard but praises and benedictions."
St. Francis de Sales

09 February 2009

The Eternal City in our Home

Perhaps our readers will remember that we've mentioned -- on occasion -- that there is never a dull moment in the monastery. (See previous posts here, here, here, and here about life in the monastery never being dull!)
This week, a touch of the Eternal City comes to us, right here on the second floor of our school building! The annual fund raiser for the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas, an international (and Ecumenical) community of theology students located in the heart of Rome, will be held here on Tuesday evening. An all-star line-up is planned including Scripture scholar, Rev. Donald Senior, CP and Dr. Aurelie Hagstrom, professor of Scripture at Providence College. In keeping with our Holy Father's theme for the Pauline year, the topic of the presentation is "The Apostle and His Message for the 21st Century." The evening promises an engaging presentation, delicious refreshments and stellar company at the pre and post-lecture reception. Click here for more details about the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas and here for more information about Tuesday night's benefit program. (With programming like this on our own campus, who needs cable television?!)

05 February 2009

Spiritual Savings

Sometimes we can be tempted to "save up" things that we think we will need in the future. On a practical material level, this is often a prudent decision. On a spiritual level, however, it does not always work the same way. We cannot have a "storehouse" of spiritual graces that we have saved up from another day. If, with the grace of God, we have overcome a tendency to speak unkindly of our neighbor, it does not mean that we will never again be surprised by that same temptation. We cannot rest comfortably upon our "savings account" of graces. We must depend upon the Lord to provide what we need each day.

In today's Gospel, when Our Lord asks the apostles to take nothing with them on the journey, we can think of how we sometimes might like to depend upon our own resources. There are times when this is appropriate, but if we become too confident in our own ability to spread the Gospel, to be faithful Christians, to resist daily temptations, etc., we can forget that it is the Lord who provides our needs. The material dependence that the apostles manifested when they cast out demons and preached the good news of the Kingdom, is a symbol of the spiritual dependence that we should strive maintain in our daily lives. For it is by the grace of God that are able to take even one spiritual step in St. Paul's "good race" that we all strive to run.

"This kind of favor requires to be offered by way of invitation, persuasion, and solicitation, not violently and forcibly thrust upon a man, and hence it is done by way of desire, not of absolute will. It is the same with regard to the signified will of God: for in this, God desires with a true desire that we should do what he makes known, and to this end he provides us with all things necessary, exhorting and urging us to make use of them."
St. Francis de Sales

01 February 2009

Hey YOU!

Many of our readers will, no doubt, have seen the news that the Vatican has launched its own channel on the famous You Tube service.

If you haven't yet visited the Vatican's channel, you can visit it here and check out video clips from Vatican as well as links to Vatican Radio, the Vatican website and the official website of Vatican City State, celebrating its 80th anniversary this year.

What might St. Francis de Sales have to say about the Pope signing on to the web-service that allows you to "broadcast yourself?" He would probably be the first to congratulate the Vatican for and the His Holiness for using the resources available to spread the Gospel. St. Francis de Sales didn't earn his title as "patron saint of journalism" by accident. During his time in the Chablais, St. Francis de Sales copied, by hand, many of his sermons and distributed them widely by slipping them under the doors of those who had strayed from the faith. These sermons later became known as "The Controversies" and, more recently, the title was "sanitized" and the works are now known as "Meditations on the Church." His creativity in dissemination of information won him the patronage of journalists. Pope Benedict is surely keeping up with the media of our day by bravely launching a Vatican channel on You Tube. Bravo!