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