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