30 March 2010

In the Footsteps of Christ

Take a three and a half minute meditation break during holy week and have a trip around the monastery crypt's Stations of the Cross. Fourteen Visitation students reverence each station and follow in the virtual footsteps of Our Lord. It might interest our readers to know that these stations, which are found in the crypt under our monastery chapel, were repainted and refinished by our very own Sister Mary Austin.

Since the monastery will be observing the Triduum as a time of retreat, we wish our readers a happy and holy Triduum and a grace-filled Easter! A copy of our Triduum schedule can be found here as well as on our Facebook page.

26 March 2010

Gabe the Babe

A little update about our littlest member: Gabriel -- or "Gabe the Babe" as our students like to call him -- is doing very well. He seems to be adjusting to monastic life very smoothly. He does love to pose for the camera, so we might have to have a little talk with him about the perils of vanity, but probably when he's a bit older.

Sister Philomena is pictured taking him for a walk around the monastery garden after Night Prayer on the Solemnity of the Annunciation. We're pretty sure that he will celebrate his Feast Day with our Sister Mary Raphael (and the other archangels) but since the angel Gabriel figures prominently in the Annunciation, Gabe deserved a bit of a fuss.

As most of us had to learn the boundaries of monastic life, Gabriel is learning the perimeter of the monastery garden. Above, sister shows him a flag so he'll know when he's getting close to the school fence. Gabriel seemed to catch on quickly that every time he ran away from a flag, he got a "good boy" and a piece of puppy chow. Gabe is showing great promise that he will be as attentive a watch dog as his mentor, Nicholas (see below).

22 March 2010

Palm Sunday and Planning Ahead

Next Sunday we will celebrate the Lord's Passion at our 9.00am Mass in the monastery chapel of the Sacred Heart. The Sacred Triduum, which begins on Holy Thursday, will be celebrated as follows on the schedule listed below. All Liturgies of the Hours and Masses are open to the public. From the conclusion of Mass on Thursday until the Gloria at Mass on Holy Saturday, we do not ring our tower bell to signal prayer time ... so, if any locals plan to attend the Liturgy of the Hours, arriving a few minutes early is greatly appreciated as a sister will be able to arrange books and music for you to pray with us.

Holy Thursday

5:00pm Mass of the Lord’s Supper

7.30pm Night Prayer

Adoration until Midnight

Good Friday

7.30am Office of Readings

8.45am Morning Prayer

11.00am Daytime Prayer

3.00 Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion

7.00pm Night Prayer

Holy Saturday

7.30am Office of Readings

8.45am Morning Prayer

11.30am Daytime Prayer

5.05pm Evening Prayer

8.00pm Vigil Mass of the Lord’s Resurrection

In the Holy Night of Easter

18 March 2010

"Give Ups" -- The Gift that Keeps on Giving

For most Lenten disciplines of giving up coffee, chocolate, cable TV or chewing gum -- such as the case may be -- Easter Sunday and the days that follow are times when we enjoy anew the cherished pleasure which we resolved to avoid forty days before. This longed-for return to the delight from which we fasted can have a lasting spiritual effect if we savor the fruit from our Lenten season.
How can this be? Perhaps it was difficult to attend the St. Patrick's Day party at the office and refrain from a shamrock cookie. Maybe we wondered about what happened on our favorite TV shows. The tension between what we desire in a given moment and resisting the temptation to indulge ourselves is a healthy one. For what we "practice" in Lent we may have the opportunity to "perform" in the months that follow. At first it may be difficult to pass up dessert or TV or coffee but we may notice that with each opportunity our resolve grows a bit stronger. This will serve us well when the time comes that we have to forgo a certain pleasure for a reason other than that of a freely-chosen discipline during Lent.
Imagine having unexpected company which might preclude watching a favorite TV show or perhaps realizing that there is only one chocolate chip cookie left in the jar as you are packing lunch for yourself and your spouse. If our Lenten disciplines have served us well, then we will be able to be gracious about things when they do not go our way. We will be able to welcome the unexpected visitor as though it is not at all inconvenient; we will gladly give away the last cookie without feeling a sense of regret. It's not really about the TV show or the cookie, it's about graciousness. And if we "succeed" in our Lenten resolutions to give-up this or that then we will, indeed, have a gift that keeps on giving.

14 March 2010

Laetare Sunday!

It may seem a bit odd to think of this "Rejoice Jerusalem" Sunday as a day when we hear the Gospel about the Prodigal Son -- or the merciful Father -- depending upon how we approach the reading. We can think of few better reasons to rejoice, however, than a retelling of the Lord's mercy for those who return to Him with hearts that have been softened by compunction.

There is a big difference between dejection and compunction. Perhaps the most significant difference is that the heart which has been pierced by compunction is aware of its great need for mercy and is deeply grateful for the Lord's compassion. There is an abiding peace in a heart softened by compunction. A heart beset by dejection, however, is often anxious and inconsolable -- even by the most tender acts of compassion.

As we take a break from our Lenten violet and enjoy the radiant rose vestments and fleeting-floral additions to the bare altar, let us be aware of those in our midst who are unable to "rejoice" freely in the Lord's mercy. Perhaps we may know someone at work or at school who is in need of a special kindness to help soften his heart. Maybe we have a family member whose troubles and challenges have contributed to a growing feeling of dejection. Let us look for opportunities to show kindness and mercy to those who hearts are hardened by hidden trials or difficult circumstances. We can pray that our effort to imitate the Lord's mercy may stir in our neighbor's heart a desire to seek -- and to find -- the Lord.

10 March 2010

More Shameless Promotion

Sister Mada-anne, hard at work in the monastery kitchen, is trying out different kinds of fish to see which will be the most delectable to serve at our second annual Lenten Fish Fry. We are teaming up with Georgetown's CSA to serve fish, mac-n-cheese and other yummy foods to our guests on Friday 19th March from 6.30 to 8.30pm in our school dining room. Last year's Fish Fry was such a big hit that we've added more door prizes and some "fishy" party favors for our guests! Locals who are interested in coming can email us to RSVP by Monday 15th March. Mark your calendars and bring a friend!

06 March 2010

Boundless Mercy

It has often been remarked that today's Gospel about the prodigal son should really have been named after his compassionate and merciful father. True enough.

If we consider the three main characters: the father, the prodigal son and the older son, we might notice different times in our lives where we have identified with each of the characters. Sometimes we are the one who has transgressed and acted foolishly. How many times have we rehearsed our apology over and over, to ourselves, as the prodigal son did? In the Gospel account, the son didn't even get a chance to finish the last line of his well-practiced apology before his father ordered the servants to bring him a robe.

At other times, perhaps, we are awaiting the return -- physical or otherwise -- of one who has strayed. Maybe we have parted hearts with a friend who has injured or offended us and we stand ready to welcome someone back into our life. One can almost imagine the "merciful father" peering out the window every day, hoping to see a sign of his son in the distance. When we find ourselves in his shoes, we model the Lord's mercy by showing compassion to the penitent soul who has returned to life.

Last and certainly not least is the uncomfortable role of the elder son. Most of us feel a certain shame when we realize that we, like this pouting sibling, have dug our heels into the quicksand of moral superiority. We have convinced our egos that we are blameless and that another is not worthy of the mercy shown to him. Our self-righteousness occludes our ability to perceive a situation from the vantage-point of the merciful father and ultimately, from the vantage-point of our Heavenly Father. In these moments, let us ask for the gift of magnanimity so that we may be generous in forgiving others and exceedingly lavish in showing mercy.

"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;—there is no cause to marvel because weakness is weak, or infirmity infirm. 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

02 March 2010

March: Doughnuts with DeSales

First Friday is just around the corner. That usually signals an all-day adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament and a renewal of our vows at Mass ... but during our Jubilee Year, there's an added bonus: "Doughnuts with DeSales." Come join us for a one-hour program including morning prayer, delicious doughnuts and a taste of the timeless wisdom of St. Francis de Sales. Locals interested in attending may click here to reply to the invitation on Facebook or may click here to reply to the monastery via email.

"Among friends, bitter things are sweet, while among enemies sweet things are bitter. In a heart that is God's friend all virtuous acts are dedicated to God."

St. Francis de Sales