29 December 2010

Heinz Variety and Eyes of Faith

If a marketing company wanted to do a spotlight for today's Gospel, they could borrow the slogan from the 1980's Heinz ketchup advertisements: "Good things come to those who wait!" Perhaps no one in the history of mankind experienced this more profoundly than Simeon, whom we meet in today's Gospel. One can only glean, from today's Gospel account, that this man had a deep and personal relationship with God to have received a revelation that, before death, he would behold the Messiah.

It is probably not unreasonable to presume that many parents brought their children to the temple to be presented. Only a man with eyes of great faith would have been able to see the Triune God, veiled in the humanity of a fragile infant. And only a man deeply in touch with the Lord could have the keen discernment to recognize the carpenter's son as the Messiah.

We may not spend our days in a temple awaiting the fulfillment of a promise but we might consider that we live in the promise that Simeon awaited. The Lord is come. He was born in time, took on the frailty of our flesh, was crucified for our sins and has risen from the dead. The promise is fulfilled and we are heirs to this great patrimony.

As baptized Christians we believe that the Lord is present to us in our neighbors. As humans -- with clay feet -- most of us probably cannot help but to notice that some of our neighbors do a masterful job of hiding the Lord's presence by their countenance. Still, however, with hearts of faith, we know that the Lord is present to us in those who may annoy or irritate us. We are called to be like Simeon; we are called to see with eyes of faith and to recognize, in the frailty of our neighbors, the presence of the Lord. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to be attentive to his presence, as Simeon was, in the most unlikely of places.

"We are told to love one's neighbor as one's self. In token that we love him, we must not avoid being with him."
St. Francis de Sales

25 December 2010

A "Technical" Christmas

Many readers will, no doubt, have already seen the very cleverly done video which depicts the Nativity using 21st century social media tools. One may well consider it a view of Christmas from a "technical" standpoint. What many may not realize, however, is that the very first Christmas day was also a highly "technical event" ... in the eyes of some.

In 325 at the Council of Niacea, the infamous Arian heresy was disputed and condemned. Arius, as well-intentioned as he was misguided, had proposed that Jesus was neither God nor man; he was, rather, somewhere in between: something akin to the demi-gods of the classical world. Arius used a "technical" term to describe Jesus: 'omoiousios, which means "to be like" or "to be similar." He asserted that Jesus was "similar in being" to God -- but not God. The Council Fathers, insisting that Jesus is truly God, countered with the term 'omoousios simply deleting the iota from Arius' term. This word means "the same as" -- as in "the same substance" or "the same being."

So, why all the fuss about a "technical," headache-provoking theological term on this happy and holy Christmas morning? Had it not been for the insight and perseverance of the Fathers of the Council of Niacea we would not be celebrating the Incarnation. One iota -- one little letter -- could have obscured this precious truth of our faith; it could have shattered all the Christmas balls on every tree and silenced all the "Glorias" which have been sung since that first Christmas night in Bethlehem. As we kneel before the creche today, let us whisper a prayer of thanksgiving for those heroic defenders of our faith who kept alive the legacy of this great mystery -- amid a very "technical" controversy -- 16 centuries before the advent of social media!

"God was united to our human nature by grace, as a vine to its elm, to make it in some sort participate in his fruit; but seeing this union undone by Adam's sin, he made another more close and pressing union in the Incarnation, whereby human nature remains forever joined in personal unity to the Divinity."
St. Francis de Sales

22 December 2010

O Rex Gentium!

The "Great O" which we sing today contains the only phrase in an O Antiphon which is traced exclusively to the New Testament:
O King of the Nations, and their desire, the cornerstone, who makes both to be one: Come and save mankind, whom you formed from clay.
The phrase "who makes both to be one" appears to be a reference to St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians where he describes the reconciliation between the Jews and the Gentiles. That Christ came to bring salvation to all, not merely the people of Israel and their descendants, is indicated in this antiphon. Just as the previous antiphons show the clear relationship between the Old Testament covenant and Christ's fulfillment of that promise, this antiphon carries the fulfillment a step further as it is extended to those traditionally excluded from the promises made to the Israelites and their heirs.
As we intone this antiphon we draw ever closer to the manger in Bethlehem. Fellow travelers along the road ask us where we are going and we reply that the King awaits us. He does. The real question is, perhaps, do we believe that he is our King? Do we act as though he is the King of our hearts? Let us, these last days of Advent, make known that the desire of the nations is indeed the desire of our hearts. Let our actions and our words speak of him and let us invite others to journey with us as we approach the newborn King in the humble manger of our hearts where He is born anew each year.

18 December 2010

Christmas Begins with an O!

Well, not really, but one could say that the Christmas season begins with an O. Seven of them, in fact. We know very little about these ancient antiphons which serve as a liturgical harbinger of the nativity of Our Lord. The little we do know, however, is as charming as it is fascinating: ledger books of ancient monasteries show large expenditures of money for items such as eggs, flour and other provisions beginning on the 17th of December. One can only imagine the feasting that accompanied these solemn days of preparation -- and celebration!

Today we sing the second of these Great "O" Antiphons:

O Adonai
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 takes the believer to the book of Exodus where God revealed Himself to Moses. 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 a suggestion 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 is seen in its fullness when it is considered in the 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.

The promise to be freed from one's captor may not seem relevant to most of us today. The temptations to become enslaved can be subtle. Sometimes we are tempted to make a "good thing" the center of our lives: be it our work, our ministry, our studies, a particular project, etc. It may seem impossible to be "tempted" by something good. When we replace Christ as the central focus of our life, however, we take a great risk of becoming a prisoner. This is not to suggest that we should not apply ourselves diligently to our work, our responsibilities, our studies -- and even our play. Indeed, we should! Whether we are religious men and women, parents with children, single Christians, etc., Christ is the end of all we do. He blesses all that we do in his name and for his glory -- it matters little whether it is sweeping a floor, changing a diaper or working at a desk. We are freed from becoming prisoners of our work, our responsibilities or our hobbies when we keep Christ at the center of all we do. We have only to let Him in when he comes, for he comes with arms outstretched.

"Trifling temptations . . . flit around one like flies or gnats, now settling on one's nose -- later stinging one's cheek -- it is wholly impossible altogether to free one's self from their importunity; the best resistance one can make is not to be fretted by them. All these things may worry one, but they cannot really harm us, so long as our wills are firmly resolved to serve God."
St. Francis de Sales

14 December 2010

Jubilee Year Ends!

Last January we began our 400th Anniversary year complete with special Masses, celebrations, gatherings, pilgrimages, a decree from the Apostolic Penitentiary granting plenary indulgences, and untold graces for many who shared in this celebration. Although the jubilee year *technically* ended on Sunday 12 December, the anniversary of the death of St. Jane de Chantal, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI is personally closing the jubilee with a Mass of Thanksgiving on Tuesday 14 December. By the time most patrons of our blog read this, he will have celebrated Mass for the community of Visitation sisters who are living in Vatican city as part of the jubilee celebration.

Below is an excerpt from an English translation of the Pope's letter to the Superior of our Monastery of Annecy and entire Order, worldwide:

"During this year when the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary is celebrating the fourth centenary of its foundation, I am happy to unite myself in thought and in prayer with the Visitation nuns throughout the world who are living a life of prayer and work in the spirit given to them by Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Jane de Chantal. . . . At the heart of the spirituality of the Visitation of Holy Mary is the seeking of holiness in one's daily occupations through gentleness and humility, simplicity and peace of heart and by doing 'all through love, nothing through constraint.' . . . This heritage given to you by your Holy Founders contains great significance for today's world where men and women feel more and more burdened as they cope with the crushing weight of self-fulfillment at any cost and with the hedonism which makes everyone, especially our young people, fragile and without defense. . . . Confiding to the intercession of the Virgin Mary and to that of Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Jane de Chantal, I send to each community, to each sister, and to all the persons who are in spiritual relation with you, a most cordial apostolic blessing."

Vatican City
Benedict XVI

10 December 2010

A Peek into the Archives

We have a very special series to share with our readers. It is taken from the handwritten Book of Records Containing an Abridgement of the Lives and Deaths of the Members of this Community, located in our Monastery archives. The book contains 19 lives that we will post one at a time at the approximate pace of one per week. There is much more to say about each sister than can or should be recorded on this blog, but the series will offer a glimpse into the past. Our Sister Archivist is overseeing this project with a member of Georgetown University's faculty, who, although she will remain nameless, can easily be identified by the amazing homemade pizza (from down the "streetza") she provided for our September movie night.


Sister Charity McAtee was born 1782 in Charles County, Maryland, to parents of modest means. There was a nearby Carmelite convent, but she encountered unspecified obstacles attempting to join that order and instead turned to the Visitation house in Georgetown. With her parents' consent she entered on July 23, 1809, age 27. After four years her health began to decline, and she developed consumption (today known as tuberculosis), dying at age 32 or 33 on April 2, 1815, the first Sunday after Easter. She retained the rank of lay sister, which meant she did domestic duties, cooking, cleaning, etc. in the monastery and school. She might possibly have assisted in the domestic care of the students. It also usually meant that she lacked even a basic education; confirmation of this can be found when the annual vow book is signed with an X instead of her name. These handwritten biographies by surviving sisters are characteristically florid, but if one reads between the lines, she seems to be praised particularly for evenness of disposition, modesty, submission, and deeming others superior to herself.

As a note, the convent where she did not enter was the Carmel of Port Tobacco, founded in 1790 in Charles County and now located in Baltimore. It was founded by Charles Neale, brother to two other famous Neales: Archbishop Leonard Neale who founded our monastery and school, and Francis Neale who founded Holy Trinity parish two blocks away from us. Their cousin was John Carroll, founder of Georgetown University.

06 December 2010

Obstacle Removal Continues

If we might think of this most sacred season of Advent as a time of removing obstacles then today's Gospel offers us an inspiring example of this practice. The friends of the paralyzed man were not able to bring their lame companion to the Lord on account of the crowd. They went in the proverbial back door by lowering their friend through the roof and landing, as the Gospel tells us, in "the middle in front of Jesus."

How often do we feel at an impasse in a difficult situation? Perhaps we even feel paralyzed in some cases. Maybe we feel unable to respond in a loving way to someone who has hurt us; it may be the case that we feel unable to approach someone whom we have hurt, in order to apologize. Whatever our form of paralysis, let us follow the example of the "stretcher-carriers" in today's Gospel; let us go straight to Jesus to be healed. Let us put aside the obstacles that keep us from doing this: fear, busyness, preoccupation, etc., and let us run to the Lord.

We cannot, of ourselves, "get up and walk" when we have been injured and -- in some cases -- injured badly. We cannot "get up and walk" until we are healed. It is no different for our spiritual maladies. We cannot will ourselves to respond lovingly to one who has hurt us without the grace of God. We cannot ask for forgiveness when we have been wrong without the humility that comes from the Lord. So, let us take our wounds to "the middle in front of Jesus" and let us "go home glorifying God" because of His great mercy.

"The Lord will be as a healing balm to say and soothe our heart in time of spiritual sickness, --he will shield us from evil, and confirm that which is good in us, and when we fall through infirmity, he will avert the deadly nature of the evil, and raise us up again."
St. Francis de Sales

02 December 2010

Happy 5th Birthday, Blog!

Yesterday, on 1 December 2010, "Live + Jesus" celebrated its 5th birthday in the Catholic blog-o-sphere. It's hard to believe but we've been "parishioners" at St. Blog's parish since 2005 when we decided to make the foray into the world of push-button publishing.

We weren't sure exactly how to feel about having a blog and we did not know exactly what we would say on our blog or what kinds of things we might share with our readers. In fact, we weren't even sure we would have many readers. Five years, 570 blog posts 105,000 visits and 165,000 page views later, we are quite happy we took the plunge and decided to share a little window into monastic life here on Thirty-Fifth Street.

In fact, we were delighted to discover that some little robot from outer space found our blog and actually thinks it is worth reading. We're not exactly sure how he heard about us, but we think his news report is OUT OF THIS WORLD! Do enjoy a 2-minute chuckle.

28 November 2010

Setting Out on the Journey

As we begin this most sacred season of Advent, we may think of this season as a time to remove obstacles on our journey to the manger. Those of us who pray the Liturgy of the Hours will be spending a great deal of time with the prophet Isaiah during the Office of Readings. One may look at this book as one which calls us to embrace hope and to reject the temptation to give in to pride. Isaiah felt that the judgment and punishment which the Israelites brought upon themselves were due to Israel's and Judah's pride, made manifest in their desire to shape their own destiny instead of being faithful to Yahweh's covenant for them. Despite the gloom and doom of his words, Isaiah called the Israelites to wait in hope for the coming of a Messiah, the promised descendant of David's line.

His word still speaks to us today as it calls us to be vigilant in keeping our eyes and our hearts on the star as we set out on this four-week pilgrimage to the birthplace of our savior. Let us look carefully in our hearts and ask ourselves what obstacles might stand in the way as we journey to Bethlehem. Do we need to reconcile with someone at work, at home, at Church? Do we need to examine how we spend our time? Do we need to spend more time with the Lord, more time in prayer, more time with our family, with our friends? Do we need to be more patient with someone in our life? Let us find the obstacles, the detours and roadblocks and let us ask for the grace to negotiate them in a way which will help us to grow in grace as we approach the manger later this month.

"Our dear Savior and Master came to teach both the little and the great, the learned and the simple. Yet we almost always find Him among the poor and simple. How different is God's spirit from that of the world!"
St. Francis de Sales (Advent Sermon 1620)

24 November 2010

Thanksgiving Leftovers

As most of us in America celebrate the secular holiday of Thanksgiving, we might profit from adding a Christian flavor to our holiday and to all the days that follow.

"Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness. Let the word of Christ, rich as it is, dwell in you" (Col 3:12).

It is a good practice to pause as we celebrate Thanksgiving and to give thanks for the many blessings we have received. It is a better, practice, however, to make sure that the "leftovers" last all year long. Long after the last turkey sandwich (with stuffing inside) has been eaten and the remains of the pumpkin pie enjoyed, we might do well to savor the spirit of Thanksgiving in our daily life. Let us keep before our eyes, a deep sense of the Lord's goodness to us in the many gifts we receive on a daily basis. Perhaps our Thanksgiving leftovers may last us the whole year through!

"Is it possible that I was loved, and loved so tenderly by my Savior, that He should have thought of me individually, and in all these details by which He has drawn me to Himself? With what love and gratitude ought I to use all He has given me?"
St. Francis de Sales

20 November 2010

The Power of Prayer

We're pretty sure that if St. Francis de Sales were alive today he would be using the Internet to spread the Good News and to encourage his readers to grow in holiness. In some small way, we try to be worthy daughters of this great patron saint of journalists by sharing bits and pieces of his patrimony with you, our dear readers. The Internet does seem to be evolving into an effective means of aiding in the noble work of evangelization!

In addition to being a medium for spreading the Gospel (and, in our case, sharing tidbits of monastery life) the world of push-button publishing makes the global world much smaller. News travels faster; rumors and false-reports spread like wildfire; on account of the Internet maps, directions and weather reports are at our fingertips and the encyclopedia salesman has had to hang up his briefcase. One other advantage to this fast-paced new medium is the "ripple effect" (sometimes called "going viral" ... which sounds scary!) of one message, picture or video reaching the eyes -- and hearts -- of millions.

In an effort to help spread awareness of a special intention, we share here the special intention of a seminarian in need of prayers. Philip Johnson is a seminarian at St. Charles Borromeo in Philadelphia who is studying for the diocese of Raleigh, NC. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy for a brain tumor. Those who wish to join their prayers, are invited to take part in a Novena which will begin on 29 November and conclude on 8 December. Links to the Novena prayer (in English and Spanish) as well as a letter from his bishop asking for prayers can be found here. Do join in the prayer brigade; for where two or three are gathered . . .

16 November 2010

The Tiny Tax Collector

Today's Gospel affords us both a spiritual and syntactical example.

First things first, the spiritual example is a charming one: a grown man, disliked by his own people because his job as tax collector implied that he colluded with the Roman authorities, climbs a tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus. One might not have difficulty imagining a teenager climbing a tree to see a rock star at an outdoor concert; the sight of a grown man scaling a tree with no indication of any concern for the opinions of those around him would surely have been the target of finger-pointing and head-turning.

We, too, should be unselfconscious when we seek the Lord in our daily life. Our quest may not take us up a sycamore tree, but it may take us some places which are equally precarious and similarly uncomfortable. When we encounter someone who treats us unkindly it is often difficult to reach out after we have been rejected or ignored. We may feel like walking in the opposite direction just so as not to have eye contact and risk feeling the discomfort of a cold stare. When we go out of our way to reach out to this distant neighbor, we are seeking out Christ. We, like the first-century tax collector in today's Gospel, sometimes have to behave in ways that will draw more attention that we might have wanted. We should not be surprised to overhear our colleagues say things like, "Why is she talking to him? He's always rude to everyone!" Or, we may fear that people will treat us differently if we begin to reach out to the local crosspatch. Let us not be concerned about how uncomfortable it can be to perch ourselves atop this tree of virtue. Rather, we should be emboldened by the knowledge that when we earnestly seek the Lord, we will see Him and He will come ever closer to us.

Our syntactical example is almost as charming as the image of the sycamore-scaling Zacchaeus and it speaks to the importance of identifying clearly the antecedents we use. The English translation of today's Gospel reads: "Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature." There is no indication in the passage of who "he" was who was short. Was it Jesus or Zacchaeus? English, not being an inflected language, lacks the ability to make this distinction. A cursory check of the Greek text, however, would reveal that the antecedent to the ambiguous "he" is, in fact, the diminutive tax collector. Without the original text to confirm the case of the pronoun, one might be left wondering.

"Blessed is the soul that seeks God alone. For she will find him everywhere and everywhere she will seek what she has found."
St. Jane de Chantal

12 November 2010

Featured Film

November's all-night Adoration and movie night on the 19th will feature the1956 classic film, "Miracle of Marcelino." The 90-minute story features an orphan who is raised in a Spanish monastery where his puerile antics wreak havoc for the monks.

The little boy's insatiable curiosity and his mischievous ways pave the way for a life-changing encounter with the Lord. This touching film continues to charm viewers (and keep Kleenex in business.)

Adoration begins at 7pm in the Chapel and movie go-ers may gather in the front hall by 7.15 to head up to the Little Odeon for pizza and our featured film. Don't miss this enchanting story!

Locals who would like to attend, may RSVP to the FB event here; or, they may email us directly.

08 November 2010

A Century in Review

Last Sunday, when many of our neighbors were out ringing doorbells, we were ringing in a new century. Our Sister Mary Raphael, about whom we wrote last week, celebrated her one hundredth birthday on Halloween. To honor our centenarian, the community performed a skit which highlighted events from sister's life: a fondness for map-reading, making washcloths for WWI soldiers, disciplining children, learning to dance and putting Mary Kay out of business with her very own wrinkle-busting exercises. The skit was written and directed by our Sister Archivist, costumed by our Sister Refectorian; it starred almost all 20 nuns, one postulant and our visiting retreatant. The opening song was penned by our Sister Organist and some of the more unusual (and un-monastic) props were procured thanks to our faithful friends and benefactors. We hope you enjoy a 5 minute visit to our recreation last Sunday evening.

04 November 2010

Hoof Tracks

There is usually a mixed feeling of relief and frustration when, at long last, we find someone for whom we have been searching. We feel relieved because our search is over and we have been safely united with the object of our quest. We do, however, at times feel a surge of frustration: perhaps a misunderstanding or miscommunication necessitated the "search" in the first place; maybe we did not anticipate having to circle the airport 50 times before finding our party for pick-up; and dare we muse about how we ever managed to "find" people in the dark ages, before the advent of cell phones? Surely, most of us have experienced this angst-ridden relief at finding the person for whom we were looking.

We know for sure that there were no GPS tracking devices embedded in the hooves of the sheep we hear about in today's Gospel. The shepherd who left 99 sheep unattended did not have a ETA and a cheerful voice offering to "recalculate" every time he took a wrong turn in search of his wandering ungulate. One can only imagine the frustration in the heart of this good shepherd as he searched for his missing mammal. Of the many lessons and truths hidden in this parable, perhaps one of the most striking is the manner in which the lost sheep was treated. The searching shepherd -- if he felt any frustration -- did not show the least bit of annoyance. He does not merely pick up and carry home the lost sheep; rather, "he sets it on his shoulders with great joy."

We might expect a proud parent to set a child on his shoulders when the celebrated offspring has done something meritorious. Getting lost is hardly a behavior which parents seek to reinforce (with good reason!) Principles of good parenting aside, the lesson for us, perhaps, is the gentleness with which the straying sheep was treated. How easy it is to be unkind to those who have inconvenienced us. How quickly we can forget the mercies shown to us by the Lord! How do we treat those in our lives who have strayed: from us, from the Church, from virtue, from a spouse, from family? The next time we have an opportunity to show our frustration or unleash our vexation, let us ask for the grace to imitate the good shepherd in today's parable and, with joy, bend our shoulders to carry the burden of a lost soul.

"You will catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than a barrel of vinegar."
St. Francis de Sales

31 October 2010

A Centenarian Among Us

Pictured above is our dear Sister Mary Raphael signing her vows in our vow book on 21 November 2009. This year, when she signs the vow book she will be 100 years and 21 days old. Mass this morning will be offered for Sister's intentions and our Sunday "parishioners" will be treated to a 100-rose bouquet adorning the altar; the flowers were was sent to Sister by a former pupil of hers in Parkersburg, WV. Mass programs all have an insert telling readers a bit about this quiet and humble (but ever-so witty) sister. Below, we share it with our readers:

Lucille Catherine Speer, the daughter of Elvader and Stella Stoddard Speer, was born October 31, 1910 in a rural area near McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. Her father was a farmer and a tax collector and like many families of that area, the family held membership in the Presbyterian Church.

After attending Crafton public schools, she graduated from the then teacher's college which is now Indiana University of Pennsylvania. While a college student, she became a member of the Catholic Church in 1930.

For two years in the early 1930s, she was a relief worker for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. A coworker there told her about a teaching position that was available at De Sales Heights Academy in Parkersburg, West Virginia, an academy founded in 1864 by Visitation Sisters from Georgetown and Frederick. On August 15, 1938, Miss Speer entered the Parkersburg Visitation community, making her final vows in 1943. As Sister Mary Raphael, she began a long career at De Sales Heights that included teaching English, Mathematics and religion as well as being librarian, assistant principal, principal and superior of the community. In 1941 and 1942, she received an MA in educational Administration from the Catholic University of America, an accomplishment unique for a Visitation Sister in those pre-Vatican II times. Another special remembrance she has is of accompanying a group of De Sales students on a four-week trip in Europe for which they received a credit in the study of world cultures.

When De Sales Heights closed its doors in the early 1990s and the sisters were received into other Visitation communities. Sister Mary Raphael and Sister Mary Immaculata Janz were welcomed here at Georgetown Visitation in 1992.

Beginning on October 20th, Founder's Day, when the Georgetown Visitation students and faculty presented a special cake to Sister Mary Raphael, we have been celebrating a milestone that in 2010 is still a rarity, even though she assures us that "We all age at the same rate of speed..."

Other famous quotations from Sister include: "Well ..." (spoken calmly and deeply.) When asked if she would like something else to eat: "I believe that I feel quite satisfied." And when Mother Mary Berchmans offers to push her chariot for her she responds with: "Mother, you have bigger fish to fry."

28 October 2010

Living Rosary 2010

The Spiritual Life Committee of our Parents' Association organized our annual "Living Rosary" yesterday evening. Normally, the event takes place in our student quadrangle but weather conditions made the Chapel a better choice for the location of this year's tribute to Our Lady.

Mothers and students gathered in the student dining room at 6pm for some lip-smacking good chili and homemade cookies. At 7pm students, parents, faculty and sisters gathered in the front hall where each one received a lighted taper and a rose. As the procession entered the Chapel, each participant placed her rose in a vase at the foot of Our Lady and commended to her heart a special intention.

The group prayed the Joyful Mysteries with a different special intention announced at the beginning of each mystery. Despite the weather conditions and change of plans, the event was seamlessly well-executed. For more pictures, visit our Facebook page's photo album.

24 October 2010

An Obstructed View

In a Broadway theater, an obstructed view seat is usually a very economical way to see a show. In our earthly pilgrimage, an obstructed view can be very expensive!

Today's Gospel reminds us that our own observations can often be very, very far from accurate --even when it seems that we have all the information needed to make a sound judgment. As certain as we may be that we have a complete picture of a situation, we can never make a correct judgment unless we know the heart of the person whose actions we are tempted to judge.

How often are we tempted to take offense at the words or actions of another and sometimes we even allow it to affect our own actions and reactions? How many of these times have we been wrong about the intention of the "offending party?" Our "judgment" may cause us to change our behavior, become less solicitous, less generous, less friendly and it may well be the case that since we did not know the heart of our neighbor, our judgment was incorrect.

The publican's heart was so very clearly disposed to the Lord's mercy that he was justified. We can never know, on this side of eternity, how the Lord sees the hearts of our neighbors. We can, however, strive to remember how incomplete a picture we have from our own vantage point and, with God's grace, we can starve the temptation to make a judgment on the actions or words of our neighbor.

"The Pharisee looked upon the publican as a great sinner . . . but how mistaken he was, inasmuch as the condemned publican was even then justified! If God's Mercy is so great, that one single moment is sufficient for it to justify and save a man, what assurance have we that he who yesterday was a sinner is the same today?"
St. Francis de Sales

20 October 2010

Looking Ahead

At the end of this month, on Halloween day, we will be having a very special celebration as our dear Sister Mary Raphael turns 100. We hesitate to say that she is 100 "years old" because there is nothing "old" about Sister except her age. In fact, when asked about her up-coming milestone, Sister has been heard to remark, "We all age at the same rate of speed." True, indeed!

They may not be ready for a game of "Monopoly" or "Sorry" but these handsome "Barker Brothers" are always ready for a game of tug-of-war with each other or with the closest obliging biped. They donned their Halloween costume a couple weeks early so as to be eligible for our school newspaper's costumed-dog contest. Readers can rest assured that will be sporting their handsome scrubs and helping our dear Sister Raphael ring in her 100th year on Halloween day.

Stay tuned for pictures of our dear Sister Raphael's birthday party as well as our handsome canine couple!

16 October 2010

Feast of St. Margaret Mary

On 17 October 1690 the Lord called home to Himself our Holy Sister, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque who spent the last 19 years of her life in our Monastery of Paray-le-Monial where she received revelations of Our Lord's Most Sacred Heart. Most of us do not have such clear and unmistakable experiences of the Lord's will for us in our own lives. We do, however, have daily opportunities to commend ourselves to the Lord's Most Sacred Heart. These opportunities are times when we are invited to place our trust in the Lord and allow Him to use us for His good pleasure and His good works.

What does it mean to place our trust in the Lord? Many of us are familiar with the aspiration: "Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in Thee." What does it look like, what does it feel like to place our trust in this Most Sacred Heart? There are probably as many answers to this question as there are hearts that seek the Lord ... this is but one suggestion: only when we sincerely try to imitate the Lord's mercy in our daily interactions with our neighbors will we be at home in His Most Sacred Heart. And only then can we place our trust in Him.

"Plunge yourself often into the charity of that lovable Heart so that you may never act towards your neighbor in a manner which may, in the least, wound that virtue, never doing to others what you would not wish done to yourself."
St. Margaret Mary

12 October 2010

The Gift is in the Giving

How often do we feel as though we don't have anything to give to others in need? How often do we, wishing we could do more, feel helpless in the face of others' needs? In today's Gospel, Our Lord tells the Pharisees of the importance of giving alms. How can we give alms when, at times, we feel as though we have nothing to give?

The real gift is not that which is offered, but the place from which it is offered. We may feel as though we cannot offer money or something which can make a significant difference to those who need our help. We can always offer our time and our attention, no matter how rich or poor we are. And the manner in which we offer our time and our talents is often as valuable as the gift itself. It is possible that one may write a generous check and make a much-needed financial contribution without any emotional or spiritual investment in the beneficiary of the gift. By the same token, it is almost impossible for one to help a family in need by delivering a meal, picking up groceries, running errands, etc. and not, in some way, touch the lives of the recipients.

We can only give what we have. Some of us do not have money which we can give but almost all of us have time and talents which can be offered to those around us. We can offer to pray or make sacrifices for those in need; in this way, we give the gift of our time and our comfort. How we give alms is as important as -- if not more important than -- the gift which is given. Let us not feel discouraged that we do not have many things to give; let us remember that we all have the resources to give cheerfully, lovingly and generously ... even if all we have to give is a smile.

"For fasting, prayer and alms-giving are the coins whereof your treasures are to consist. Now as amongst the treasures of the temple, the poor widow's mite was much esteemed, and as indeed, by the addition of many little pieces treasures become great, and their value increases, so the least little good works . . . are agreeable to God, and esteemed by him."
St. Francis de Sales

08 October 2010

Live From Ohio!

Positioned very close to the location we had last year, the Visi vocation team set-up shop in the shadow of the great San Damiano cross. Peering up above the sea of displays one can spot the top of the "picture yourself with us" display that stood next to our electricity-equipped table. Close to 100 religious communities, orders and dioceses were represented this year, filling Finnegan Field House from end to end with religious sisters, brothers, priests, displays, give-aways, holy cards, candy, candy, lots of candy and delightful students. For more pictures from our adventure, visit our monastery Facebook page or click here.

06 October 2010

Road Trip Time!

It's that time of year again ... the traveling team from the monastery is gearing up for a trip to the annual vocation fair at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. This year, two cars will be traveling with a couple of guests and the usual assortment of sisters. Stay tuned for "live coverage" from Ohio this coming Friday!

02 October 2010

Feast of the Guardian Angels

One day a student walked into class and announced to her teacher, "Guess what? I learned that we don't actually have to believe in angels!" The teacher while considering for a moment that the information reported was, in fact, accurate (since *technically* angels are not an article of faith) but before responding to the excited child, she maintained a look of consternation long enough for the student to recognize an element of confusion. After a brief pause the teacher replied, "But why wouldn't you want to believe in angels?" To which the student had no reply.
It is true that we are not obliged to believe in the presence of these heavenly messengers who assist us daily and protect us; it is also true, however, that Jesus was assisted by an angel in the garden during a time of great suffering. Why would we not want to believe that these divine beings would assist us, too? Today the Church gives us a memorial of our Guardian Angels, the divine guide whom we believe was given to us at our birth. These quiet and unseen helpers protect us and guide us in ways that we will never fully understand on this side of eternity. Let us be mindful of and grateful for the many ways in which the Lord provides for our needs. And today, let us spend a moment giving thanks for our Guardian Angel and for the many trials we have been spared or the many temptations that were averted because of such loving assistance!

"Give yourself up to your guardian angel, that he may be your guide, and gird up your courage!"
St. Francis de Sales

28 September 2010

Are You on the Way?

In today's Gospel, the Samaritans would not welcome Jesus because his destination was Jerusalem. Jesus' destination hit a nerve with his audience. The age-old animosity between the Jewish people and the Samaritans had to do with a dispute as to whether the Jerusalem temple, revered by the Jewish people, or the Samaritan temple, located near Mt. Gerizim, was built according to the Mosaic law. When the Samaritan village learned that Jesus had "set his face" toward Jerusalem they refused to welcome him.

This is a powerful metaphor for those of us who seek to follow Christ in our daily life. Jesus was traveling the road that many Jewish people would take to visit the temple. Jesus' destination, however, was not the temple, it was the cross. Jesus is the temple; He is also the way, the road that leads to life -- but only after the cross.

Just as Jesus' destination was a source of discomfort for those around him, sometimes our "destination" can provoke the same reaction -- especially when He is our destination! Have we ever felt a sense of distance from certain people in our lives because of the choices that we have made? Perhaps we did not laugh at an unkind remark or an inappropriate joke; maybe we offered a word of defense for an absent coworker who was a victim of detraction. Has it been our experience that we are ridiculed for going to Church or for taking time during our lunch hour to pray or attend Mass? It may be the case that we have lost friends or experienced pain in relationships because of our decision to follow Christ closely.

Jesus was rejected because he was on his way to Jerusalem; he was on his way to do the Father's will. We should not be surprised when our journey as disciples-on-the-way takes us places where we experience rejection and suffering -- all on account of our destination. This is the pilgrim journey of every Christian. This is the road that Our Lord walked before us and this road, has been made sacred by his footsteps. This is the way. It is the way of the Cross and it is the way of every Christian.

"Love and death are so mingled in the Passion of Our Savior that we cannot have the one in our heart without the other. Upon Calvary one cannot have life without love, nor love without the death of our Redeemer."
St. Francis de Sales

24 September 2010

Sophomore Retreat 2010

How many angels can fit on the head of a pin? We don't have an answer to that but we do know how many angels can fit in our refectory, as evidenced by the 22 sophomores who joined us as the first of seven classes to spend a mini day-of-reflection in the monastery.
Students gather in the chapel for an introduction to the Liturgy of the Hours, followed by Daytime Prayer with the sister in the Choir. After Daytime Prayer, there is a period of Q and A before the gang heads down to the monastery refectory for dinner with the community. After dinner, the retreat concludes with a presentation and practice of Lectio Divina in the chapel. Students return to their normal schedule after the "mini-retreat" but we can spot their halos as they toodle back to their afternoon classes!

"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 seek to please only God, and to advance in His love."
St. Jane de Chantal

20 September 2010

Shining Our Light

Today's Gospel proposes a familiar challenge: the exhortation not to light a lamp and place it under a bed. This may seem an odd (if not impractical) image to us today -- in part, perhaps because current OSHA regulations would, no doubt, prevent anyone from lighting a lamp and putting it under a (highly flammable) bed.

How often, however, do we do this spiritually? How often do are we uncomfortable showing external signs of the faith we treasure in our hearts? Perhaps we are eating out in a restaurant and we feel funny saying grace at the table for fear of what others around us might think. Maybe we are away with friends for a few days and we feel shy to tell them that we'd like to find a Church for daily Mass. Or, perhaps we are in conversation at work and we are uncomfortable about how an absent colleague is described; do we find a gentle way to show our dislike of detraction or do we cover over the light of truth that shines in our hearts? These are difficult and, at times, dangerous situations. In the case of the latter, a person's reputation may be at stake and fear might keep us from shining the light of a good example by speaking out in truth and in charity.

One very effective way of making sure that we do all in our power to let our proverbial light shine in moments where we might be tempted to hide it is to take some time each morning and consider prayerfully all that we anticipate meeting in the coming day. Just as, at the end of the day, we examine the moments where we might have been more loving, more gentle, more kind and we ask for the grace to do better the next day ... we can do this before the day begins by preparing ourselves for those encounters which we can anticipate. When we have considered the promise of a new day and done so with the Lord at our side, we stand a better chance of keeping our light visible and helping to light the way for others.

"Consider beforehand what occupations, duties and occasions are likely this day to enable you to serve God . . . and make a fervent resolution to use all means of serving Him and confirming your own piety. . . . It is not enough to make such a resolution, --you must also prepare to carry it into effect. Thus, if you foresee having to meet someone who is hot-tempered and irritable, you must not merely resolve to guard your own temper, but you must consider by what gentle words to conciliate him. If you know you will see some sick person, consider how best to minister comfort to him, and so on."
St. Francis de Sales

16 September 2010

Movie Night Resurrected

After a hiatus for the summer, we have brought back our movie and pizza event for the academic year! This Friday we will enjoy a stellar movie on Padre Pio, some quality company from our usual repeat offenders and an extraordinary treat: homemade pizza. One of our faithful neighbors (and readers) has offered to cook up some fresh pizza for our movie-going gang. We understand that the said pizzas will be arriving in some very professional-looking boxes donated to our friendly neighbor by Saxbys, the local coffee shop. We are excited and very grateful for this fabulous gift!

Adoration begins in the Chapel at 7pm and the movie begins in little odeon at 7.15pm. Adoration will continue until 7.00am on Saturday. Locals are welcome to join us and can RSVP via email or on our FB page invite.

12 September 2010

A Fate Worse Than Death

While it is not our intention to introduce a morbid topic on this twenty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary time, it does seem worthwhile to consider the "supporting actor" in the drama of the long version of today's Gospel. How often do we hear the parable of the Prodigal Son where the mercy of God, as manifested in the Father's lavish welcome to his errant heir, is the object lesson put before us. Like the good shepherd who leaves the 99 to seek the lost sheep, the merciful father is an image of God's generosity to the repentant sinner. At times we are reminded to imitate the prodigal son in the way in which he returned to his father. At other times, we are called, when we have failed in fidelity, to return in humility and to ask for and to receive forgiveness. These are both solid truths from today's Gospel.

Between these two lessons, however, is our supporting actor -- the elder brother -- who reveals an uncomfortable truth: to be so self-righteous that we do not need mercy is, perhaps, a fate worse than death itself. No one knows for sure what Our Lord intended to teach us by putting this self-satisfied sibling in the story. We might consider that his sense of complacency is an odious symptom of one who has long looked in judgment upon his younger brother. This canting character, very likely, has weighed himself and his younger brother in his own scales of judgment and has found his brother unworthy of their father's kindness. Perhaps he finds it difficult to watch his father show mercy to his misbehaving -- but repentant -- brother. Perhaps he considers himself so far above reproach that he would never be in need of such gratuitous kindness. Whatever his mindset, it is clear that the pouting big brother is made very uncomfortable -- downright angry -- at the display of his father's mercy.

Mercy -- be it the mercy that we ourselves receive, the mercy that we show to others, or the mercy that we are privileged to witness in the lives of those around us -- should soften our hearts and make them ever more sensitive to the needs of those around us. May we never imitate the elder brother and manifest an aversion to this great gift of God. For there is no one among us, on this side of eternity, who is not in need of mercy. Let us, rather, imitate the younger brother and run confidently to the merciful heart of the Father.

"So then, when you have fallen, lift up your heart in quietness, humbling yourself deeply before God by reason of your frailty, without marveling that you fell . . . . Heartily lament that you should have offended God and begin anew to cultivate the lacking grace, with a very deep trust in his Mercy and with a bold, brave heart."
St. Francis de Sales

08 September 2010

A Visit From the Zoo!

For most residents of Washington DC and environs, the only place they can see safari animals is on Connecticut Avenue at the Smithsonian National Zoo. For a limited time, however, locals can see a few safari animals here on 35th Street as well!

Faithful readers will remember several posts about our scavenging sisters who climbed into the dumpsters at Georgetown University and carted back to the monastery truck-loads of goods. Many of these were given to those in need of furniture and other household items. For a few treasures, however, it was very difficult to find a home. In particular some old-style wooden school desks. These sturdy seats were a hard-sell even at the rock-bottom price of free delivery. So, instead of wasting the furniture, the creative minds among us went to work. Sister Leonie Therese, our artist-in-residence, and our loyal friend (and Visi-Mom) Michelle McAndrews have fashioned children's desks in the shape of elephants and giraffes.

Above, Sister Leonie Therese poses with Sister Mary Austin at the safari desks after supper on Monday. Below is a birds' eye view of the giraffe. Locals may see the desks on display at our annual Esprit de Noel Christmas Bazaar in November. A limited number will be available for purchase.

04 September 2010

The Perils of Pride

St. Paul's exhortation, in today's first reading, that all that we have has been given to us as a gift is a healthy reminder to us that a helpful protection against pride is a spirit of gentleness. This gentleness -- like charity -- must begin at home: with ourselves.

When we fall short of our own expectations there can be a tendency to beat up on ourselves and, harshly, to ensure that we do not make the same mistake or fall short in the same way at the next opportunity. Although the outcome of "self-improvement" is meritorious, one must consider the far-reaching effects of not being gentle with himself. If the manner in which we treat ourselves is unforgiving, how can be certain that we will respond with gentleness to an erring child, student, or friend? This is not to say that we should dispense with standards and never hold ourselves (or others) accountable. Rather, we might consider that a balance in our approach to self-discipline would not compromise our ability to be firm but might make help to make our interactions with others more gentle, more compassionate and more forgiving.

In addition to the potential danger of lacking gentleness in our interactions with our neighbors, showing a harshness to ourselves is actually a form of pride itself. St. Francis de Sales suggests, in his spiritual advice, that we should never be shocked at our imperfections and failings. For to act surprised is to manifest a subtle pride in thinking ourselves to be better and further along in our pursuit of virtue than we really are. He suggests that we should pick ourselves up from our fall and continue along our journey, never manifesting surprise at our frailty and, with gentleness, continuing along our way.

"One important direction in which to exercise gentleness, is with respect to ourselves, never growing irritated with one's self or one's imperfections; . . . Many people fall into the error of being angry because they have been angry, vexed because they have given way to vexation, thus keeping up a chronic state of irritation, which adds to the evil of what is past, and prepares the way for a fresh fall on the first occasion. Moreover, all this anger and irritation against one's self fosters pride, and springs entirely from self-love."
St. Francis de Sales

31 August 2010

It's All About Charity

The devil knows a good thing when he sees it. And the devil isn't just a supporting actor in a first century drama about a renegade preacher who taught people to love their enemies. The devil continues to torment those who seek earnestly to follow Christ by the way they live their lives.

When Jesus approached the man with the unclean spirit, as we hear in today's Gospel, the devil recognized him. Brute force and medical remedies have no power over the devil, as any exorcist can attest. Perfect charity, purity of heart and love of neighbor, however, are enough to frighten the devil, disarm him and send him packing.

Consider for a moment the words of 12th century monk, Hugh of St. Victor: "The devil is not afraid of us when we give alms to the poor because he himself does not own anything. Neither does he fear us when we fast because he does not take food. And even when we keep vigil at night he is not afraid because he does not sleep. But if we are united in charity, of this the devil is terrified -- and immensely so -- because he realizes that we safeguard on earth what he disdained in heaven."

As we seek to cultivate charity in our daily lives: to love our neighbors more perfectly, to be gracious and kind to those whom we find difficult company, to forgive those who have offended us, and to grow in virtue, we should not be surprised if we find that we are plagued by temptations to be discouraged from these good works. The devil does know a good thing when he sees it and, just as he recognized Jesus: "I know who you are -- the Holy One of God," he will recognize us has his followers when he sees our efforts to conform our lives to Christ -- to be like this Holy One of God. Would that our charity be so pure and so perfect that it causes the devil to shudder!

"If without charity we cannot keep the commandments, much less can we without it have all the virtues. True it is, one may have some virtue, and live some small time without offending God, though wanting in divine love . . . but imperfectly, and only for a short time, so a heart separated from charity, may indeed bring forth some acts of virtue but not for long. All virtues separated from charity are imperfect."
St. Francis de Sales

27 August 2010

Fashion Advice From St. Francis de Sales

No, this isn't a joke. Honest. We couldn't make up something this good if we tried!

St. Francis de Sales was truly a shepherd of souls. He spent many hours each day meeting with men and women who sought his advice in the everyday living out of their faith in matters big and small. In addition to being an available presence for those who knocked at his door, this patron saint of journalism was also a faithful correspondent. In a letter to Madame le Blanc Mions, wife of President Pierre Le Blanc de Mions, St. Francis de Sales responds to her question as to whether or not she should powder her hair. (Honest, we're not joking!) Below, in its entirety, is the priceless reply to this question:

"As she has a right intention she may powder her hair, and the cogitations she makes about it she must put out of her mind, they are no more than cobwebs that would entangle and embarrass her. The hair of her spirit is even thinner than that of her head; this is why she fidgets and make so many reflections. Let her walk boldly in good faith amid the fair virtues of humility and simplicity, drop these subtle considerations, and powder her hair without more ado; for even the respectable pheasants powder their plumage to keep off the lice."
St. Francis de Sales

23 August 2010

Mark Your Calendars!

It'e never too early to mark your calendars for a good meal and a fun evening. Locals will recall last year's fall gathering where many of us put away some larger-than-life meatballs. We've set our date for this year's "Monastic Meatball Supper" Sunday, 26 SEPTEMBER. The evening will begin with Vespers at 6pm and the supper will follow. Locals interested in attending can RSVP directly or stay tuned for our Facebook event in early September.

In addition to our meatball supper, locals might also like to mark their calendars for the THIRD FRIDAY of each month where we'll be hosting our "Pizza and Movie" nights along with all-night Adoration. This year's movies will include: "The Jeweler's Shop," "Sanctity Within Reach: Pier Giorgio," "The Thirteenth Day," "The Night of the Prophet: Padre Pio" and many others! Stay tuned for more details!

19 August 2010

Liturgical Accident of the Happiest Kind

It is quite by accident that today's commemoration of St. John Eudes coincides with the readings for Thursday of the twentieth week in ordinary time. In today's first reading from Ezekiel, we hear the Lord promising the Israelites that he will replace their "stony" hearts with "natural hearts." How fitting a reading for this 17th century apostle of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus!

What is promised, metaphorically, to the Israelites in exile is given, spiritually, to Christians who seek to conform their hearts to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The process by which our hearts become more like the Heart of the Savior is an exercise in expansion. Our hearts cannot grow to be like His Sacred Heart and make room for others if we ourselves are strangers to suffering.

When we experience sufferings -- be they circumstances which befall us, illnesses that afflict our loved ones, the grief of losing a family member or a close friend or *merely* the vicissitudes of daily life: the little injustices and unkindnesses which remind us that we're still on the near side of eternity -- we find that, here and there, these sufferings tear open the corners of our hearts. And as painful as that may be, our hearts are ever more capable of opening wider and wider to the needs and cares of those around us. What happens when our hearts are perforated by suffering? Wounded ourselves, we become aware of the need to be gentle with the wounds of others. We enter more tenderly into the lives of those whom the Lord has put in our path. Ever more keenly will we feel the pain of those who entrust their cares to us; ever more deeply will we experience their joy. The price of conforming our hearts to the Throne of Mercy which was pierced for love of us: nothing less than everything. The reward: a profound joy which is out of this world -- literally and figuratively.

"This heart in love with its God, desiring infinitely to love, sees notwithstanding that it can neither love nor desire sufficiently. And this desire which cannot come to effect is as a dart in the side of a noble spirit; yet the pain which proceeds from it is welcome, because whosoever desires earnestly to love, loves also earnestly to desire, and would esteem himself the most miserable man in the universe if he did not continually desire to love that which is so sovereignly worthy of love. Desiring to love, he receives pain; but loving to desire, he receives sweetness."
St. Francis de Sales

15 August 2010

The Yes that Echoes

Our late -- and great -- Holy Father Pope John Paul II encouraged us to help create a culture of life by the witness of how we live our own lives and the choices we make. And our actions and choices always affect those around us -- whether we realize it or not. In a moment of weakness when choosing to practice virtue seems too difficult, it is sometimes the example of a friend or coworker that helps us to persevere.

Behold, then, the example of Our Lady. She said "Yes" to the Lord when she was faced with what seemed to be an impossible promise. Since the dawn of creation, Almighty God has waited for one of His beloved creatures to utter an unfaltering, "YES" to Him and His holy will. Behold, the handmaid of the Lord. Mary's "Yes" to the Lord is the trend-setting response toward which all the baptized should direct their gaze.

"Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." Mary trusted the Lord when common sense might have suggested otherwise. We are challenged to do the same thing every single day: Can it ever be the case that my annoying coworker will respond to my gentle overtures in a positive way? After a few initial experiences of rejection, we might be tempted to turn away and ignore the office curmudgeon; it's much easier than reaching out and the risk of disappointment is smaller. Do we trust, however, that whatever we do to the least of His little ones we have done to the Lord? If we do, then we might try new ways to engage the local grouch. If at first it seems too difficult, perhaps we would receive the grace to do so after we witness one of our colleagues being solicitous and kind to this company crosspatch. If a coworker's example can help us grow beyond the limits of our own comfort, how much more, then, can the example of Our Lady help us to grow in holiness. Virtue, like many less-desirable afflictions such as the common cold or the chicken pox, is highly contagious. Infect someone today with your good example!

"Never were there seen so many merits and so much love carried to Heaven by any pure creature as the most holy Virgin brought there at her glorious Assumption. In reward for this, the eternal and great King, the Almighty God, gave her a degree of glory worthy of her greatness, and also power to distribute to her clients graces worthy of her liberality and magnificence."
St. Francis de Sales

11 August 2010

Timeless Solemnity

Tomorrow we will celebrate the Solemnity of St. Jane de Chantal. In years past we have recounted the amazing adventure of this (apparently) "movable feast." New readers might enjoy this short account from a couple of years ago.

As movable as this Solemnity is, one might stop to consider how timeless is the example of our Foundress. The readings proper to the feast bring us to the Gospel account where Jesus asks who his mother and brothers are. One cannot help but to associate that text with the often-recounted scene of St. Jane de Chantal stepping over the body of her (overly) dramatic son as she entered the religious life. This often-recounted pericope overshadows the relevance of St. Jane de Chantal's path to sanctity.

We've always tried to keep our blog posts to a friendly length that does not discourage reading and sharing, so this is a thumbnail sketch of what happened before and after she stepped over the threshold of her son to enter religious life: At age 28 she lost her husband to a "friendly fire" hunting accident and was left with four small children. Her father-in-law threatened to remove her children from the family inheritance if she did not come to live with him. There she raised her children alongside his own illegitimate children. She was treated poorly by his mistress but never once allowed that to affect the loving attention she paid to their children. She faced criticism for the foundation of our Order, was predeceased by her earliest companions in religious life, buried three of her own children as well as her beloved friend and spiritual guide, St. Francis de Sales and established 80 monasteries of the Visitation in France prior to her death.

St. Jane de Chantal is proof that holiness is not acquired because of the ideal circumstances in which we find ourselves practicing virtue effortlessly. It might be easy if everyone with whom we interacted was patient, thoughtful and kind; if we were never late because never got stuck in traffic; if the xerox machine never jammed up when we had an emergency; if no one in our house ever ate the last chocolate chip cookie; and if everyone refilled the ice-cube tray when it was *almost* empty. Most of us, however, don't live in such a paradise. Rather, one grows in holiness by the trusting acceptance of the circumstances he cannot change and the virtues demonstrated in the face of such challenging events.

St. Jane de Chantal is a timeless example for us of a woman who practiced virtue amid the joys and deep sorrows she experienced in her life.

"How good it is to see the servants of God . . . have no other tomorrow than that of His Providence!"
St. Jane de Chantal

07 August 2010

Salesian Conference 2010

In honor of the 400th anniversary of the Visitation Order, the 28th annual National Salesian Conference is taking as its theme: "The Visit" and exploring the mystery of the Visitation as an image for today's Christian to imitate. Three talks will explore this mystery as a biblical event, as a paradigm for community and as a sign of commitment. A "teleconference" will take place in seven locations throughout east coast and mid west. A freewill offering is asked of those who attend. Those who would like to learn more can click here for details. As always, CD's and DVD's of the presentations will be available for purchase from the DeSales Resource center. We look forward to seeing many members of our Salesian family -- and meeting new friends -- at the conference today!

03 August 2010

Fiat Days 2010!

This past weekend our Sister Anne Francis and Sister Anne Elizabeth (that would be the "Sisters Anne E and F") attended the Arlington Diocese's inaugural "Fiat Days Camp" for young women. Above, Sister Anne F prepares for Vespers after finishing Sunday afternoon's Rosary walk.

The three days included talks, discussions, games, Liturgy of the Hours, daily Mass, Adoration, a fireside chat and a lighted Marian procession. Above, Sister Anne E talks with the group about prayer.

During the retreat, Sisters, staff and participants stayed in dorms at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia. Sister Anne F and a lovely little Sister of the Poor (our next-door-neighbor) are shown waiting patiently for the "keeper of the keys" to come let them into their dorm. Among the "camping" adventures of the weekend, one Visitation sister left her bedding back on 35th Street as they gang was loading up the car (we won't say which "Sister Anne" it was but curious readers might want to check out the rest of the pictures on our Facebook page ... it shouldn't be too hard to tell!)