29 March 2009

Fish Fry Fun!

After several weeks of planning and inviting, we are happy to report that our first ever Fish Fry was a successful and delicious event. Several "yankees" who had never before met a "hush puppy" were seen sneaking seconds (and thirds!) from the buffet line when they thought no one was watching! Many students from Georgetown University's Catholic Student Association attended along with several chaplains-in-residence from campus housing. We were pleased to welcome a van-full of pilgrims from Catholic Campus Ministry at the University of Mary Washington.
An alumna from our Visitation Academy in St. Louis Missouri was the "guest who came the farthest" for the evening's event. (Truth be told, she was visiting friends at Georgetown, but we were thrilled that she came!) Edward, our evening guard, is distinguished as the "guest who came the shortest distance" since he was even closer than the sisters from the monastery when he walked downstairs to the student dining room.

The superbly organized CSA students from Georgetown arranged for a door prize raffle of several "I love the Jesuits" t-shirts. Pictured above, Sister Mary de Sales picks the name of a winner.
The student dining room was alive with laughter and lively chatter. Above, Sister Leonie Therese enjoys her fish fillet and her company. She was among the "happy hands" who helped to clean up when the crowd departed. Among other helpers, Matt, one of the GU Knights of Columbus, was a skillful and speedy dishwasher as many hands made light work in restoring the dining room to its pre-fish fry condition.

Thanks to all who attended and helped out!

25 March 2009

The One and Only

It has been suggested by some creative (and, no doubt, thought provoking) preachers that the mystery of the Annunciation wherein Mary said, "Yes" to Gabriel's message was the last in a line of "askings." Mary was not the first to be asked, but the first to say, "Yes." For Catholics, this poses both a problem of logic and a problem of faith. (If, dear reader, you are so fortunate never to have heard such a suggestion it sounds like this: "Who knows how many other young women Gabriel asked ... and how many women said 'No' before he got to Mary, who said, 'Yes?'" ... the real answer to the question is: "We all know. Zero." But for argument's sake, we'll suggest a gentle response to this well-intentioned -- but problematic -- suggestion.)

First, a problem of faith. If Mary was not, in the heart of God, the chosen vessel of His only son, then the Immaculate Conception -- we would have to agree -- was not the "singular privilege and grace" that we believe it is. To follow the faulty path of this suggestion, we would have to believe that Mary was one of a number of immaculate "conceptions" and that God -- in some way -- awaited news from Gabriel as to which of these handmaids said "yes" to the heavenly message. This is hardly fits the pattern of the God of Israel and His passionate engagement with his people throughout history. The God who chose Joseph to save the tribes of Judah, Moses to be the liberator of His people, David to lead His chosen people does not act with detachment toward the descendants of Israel. The God who sent His only Son to die for our sins is passionately in love with and intimately involved with His creation.

Second, a problem of logic. To conjecture that Mary was last in a line of women who were approached by Gabriel is to defy probability with respect to Jesus' heritage. It would have to have been a great stroke of luck for salvation history for Mary to have been one of "several contenders" -- young women born without the stain of original sin -- who were betrothed to a man from the House of David and whose cousin was in her last trimester, about to give birth to a prophet -- the very prophet to announce the coming of the Messiah. To the contrary, Mary, filled with the grace of God, was chosen by God to be the earthly tabernacle, the privileged dwelling of the Messiah. She was no accidental choice; this, "new Eve" was destined from her Immaculate Conception to bear the Son of God.

"Oh, how supremely did this young maiden, Our Lady, love the Divine Spouse! And how supremely was she loved by Him, for at the same time that she gave herself to Him . . . immediately He descended into her chaste womb and became the Son of her who called herself His servant."
St. Francis de Sales

21 March 2009

On Prayer

Finally ... just after the halfway mark in this most sacred of seasons, we share the third part of our Lenten reflections of St. Francis de Sales: on prayer.

In a letter to St. Jane de Chantal, St. Francis de Sales shares this thought on prayer. It is so characteristic of his own personal relationship with the Lord that it needs little commentary. It is a message which seems to be just as useful and helpful today as it was almost 400 years ago:

"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, and which receives itself these occasions lovingly as sent from God, can do this even while sweeping the floor."

As we continue our Lenten journey, let us not be discouraged when things do not proceed as we hoped they might. Let us "hold ourselves ready" for what the Lord's will of good pleasure has in store for us -- even amid the daily chores of sweeping floors and washing dishes.

17 March 2009

Shameless Promotion ... once again!

At the suggestion of some of the college students who join us for Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, we are hosting a "Fish Fry" next week. This is a new concept for those of us who are not familiar with southern customs. Since we couldn't host another "Monastic Meatball Supper" on a Friday during Lent we think the idea is a great one! We'll be providing the fish and nuns and our young friends will be providing dessert and salad. In addition to the food listed on our poster, we will also be serving "hush puppies." This is a new food for those of us who have never been to a Fish Fry. Our sisters were afraid to promise this delicacy on the poster lest some think we are offering men's shoes! For locals who are interested, kindly email us for more information.

13 March 2009

Dessert During Lent?!

Yes, dessert during Lent ... and it's not even Laetare Sunday! This is a different sort of dessert: these Brownies from the 2nd grade troop at Holy Trinity were a real treat. They arrived on Tuesday afternoon with oodles of girl scout cookies to share with us.

Raise your hand if you want to be a nun when you grow up.

Faith rocks!

After they delivered their cookies to us, we shared a snack with the troop (cranberry juice and popcorn balls) we gave them some of our "faith rocks," smooth river stones that have virtues engraved into their smooth surface. It was a few days too late to call it a "Brownie Sunday" but we surely enjoyed our "Brownie Tuesday" and we are grateful for the gift of cookies. We'll be sure to think of our local 2nd grade troop when we eat their cookies.

09 March 2009

From Zero to Sixty!

A week ago today we had a snow day and here, a week later, we are able to open our windows and enjoy 60+ weather. This is an aerial view (well ... the closest we could come, from our 4th floor porch) of our snow from last Monday. Stay tuned this week for the third part of our Lenten posts (On Almsgiving, On Fasting) .... on prayer.

05 March 2009

On Almsgiving

We might hear someone say, "What are you giving up for Lent?" but we seldom hear someone say, "What are you giving AWAY for Lent?" Almsgiving is traditionally associated with the prayer and fasting that accompany this sacred season. When we deny ourselves something as an act of sacrifice we might also think that the empty space we've created -- be it in our hearts (or our stomachs) is a place which is open to the Lord.

The more we remove our own needs and concerns from our hearts and fill those spaces with the Lord, the more we become eager to notice and to respond to the needs of those around us. Whether we are knitting caps for a homeless shelter (as some of our number are doing -- more on this in a future post) or simply being more aware of a coworker who looks sad, our "empty space" makes us richer. We have more to give away: more attention, more concern, more love. Almsgiving is not just about writing a check to our favorite charity (although we are sure glad that some of our benefactors continue to give alms in this way) it is about allowing our sacrifices and our prayer to make room in our hearts for those around us.

"Deprive yourself frequently of some part of your property by bestowing it with a willing heart upon the poor. To give away what we have is to impoverish ourselves in proportion as we give; the more we give, the poorer we become. It is true that God will repay us not only in the next world but even in this world. Nothing makes us so prosperous in this world as to give alms."
St. Francis de Sales

01 March 2009

On Fasting (Part II): Door to Hospitality

In his December 2008 Message for the Season of Lent 2009, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI focuses on the Lenten practice of fasting. Among his thought (and prayer) provoking comments is the notion that fasting can be a sign of hospitality in our hearts if not in our actions. He suggests that, "By freely embracing an act of self-denial for the sake of another, we make a statement that our brother or sister in need is not a stranger." We can do this in a very traditional manner by foregoing some food that we do not need. We can do this in other ways, too. By refraining from television or our use of the Internet or text messaging, etc., we can invite into our hearts those in our world for whom technology is an unknown experience. Perhaps we might walk to work or bike to work and, for a day or two and welcome into our hearts, those in our world who do not have cars or mass transit available to them. As we choose our acts of self-denial this Lent, let us open wide the doors of our heart to those, near and far, who are less fortunate than we. Let us invite them into our consciousness and our prayers by our little acts of sacrifice.

The Holy Father points out, in his message, the many fruits of fasting and how easily its meaning can be occluded in light of society's focus on our care for our bodies --no doubt a symptom of our culture's obsession with body image and dieting. It should be noted, however, that the spiritual discipline of fasting -- be it from food or from other goods in our life -- is a delicate tool, to be treated with care. To divorce it from its spiritual dimension and to observe only the discipline of fasting is to forfeit its fruit. To partake of it to an excessive degree is to risk losing our ability and our will to fast. Our own Holy Father, St. Francis de Sales had a lot to say about moderation in fasting. We share here a selection:

"I disapprove of long and immoderate fasting, especially for the young. I have learned by experience that when the colt grows weary it turns aside, and so when young people become delicate by excessive fasting, they readily take to self-indulgence. The stag does not run with due speed either when over fat or too thin, and we are in peril of temptation both when the body is overfed or underfed; in the one case it grows indolent, in the other it sinks through depression, and if we cannot bear with it in the first case, neither can it bear with us in the last. A want of moderation in the use of fasting, discipline and austerity has made many a one useless in works of charity during the best years of his life."
St. Francis de Sales