27 February 2011

An Evening with a Saint and Some Angels

On Friday evening some lovely ladies from the Court of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Catholic Daughters of the Americas of Georgetown University made an evening of reflection here on campus. We listened to some spiritual lessons from the life of St. Jane de Chantal, colored some magic scratch angels, made some paper-bag mailboxes, enjoyed some great food, joined the monastery community for Compline and had some quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament. Among the highlights was the "Guess that Gospel Passage" game ... where we had two winners who were able to name the Gospel passage from which the title "Our Lady of Good Counsel" is derived. Check out our photo album on Facebook to see more pictures from Friday evening. Below, one of the "Holy Hoyas" shows off her mailbox and her angel.

23 February 2011

Nun Run

It's a long way from Atlanta, Georgia but the St. Thomas Apostle Life Teen group that arrived here on Monday was bright-eyed and enthusiastic for the first leg of their six-day, four-stop nun run. Pictured above are the valiant youth ministers and their four angels gathered in the novitiate lounge after a question-and-answer session with our postulants and a couple of sisters.

The delightful gang arrived in time for Vespers. They enjoyed a supper of soup and wraps with homemade cookies for dessert. After Night Prayer the group gathered in the novitiate lounge and watched "A Season of Restoration" about our 1993 fire. Questions, answers, and lots and lots of laughs followed the movie. We enjoyed our time with the St. Thomas pilgrims and we hope they come visit on their next trip through DC!

19 February 2011

Quite a Find: the Foundress!

As we continue our series of archival accounts, we share here a brief account of the life of the Foundress of our monastery, Alice Lalor.

Alice ("Allie") Lalor was born in Ireland during the era when penal laws prevented Catholics from attending school. When she made her Confirmation, she made a vow to give her life Christ; her spiritual director urged her to devote her energies to establishing a Catholic school for girls. Her family immigrated to the United States when she was 16, in 1794. She left her home country promising to return when she was of age.

Soon she met the Rev. Leonard Neale, who convinced her that she was called to work in the U.S. They began a school in Philadelphia, but when yellow fever ravaged that city, her companions in the enterprise all died it had to close. In 1799 she joined Neale, who had been appointed President of Georgetown University (then just a small school), in Georgetown to try again. She and her two companions were known by the neighbors as the "pious ladies," and they established an Academy and a Benevolent School for orphans. Neale had initially allowed the women to make simple vows, but they took formal vows as Visitation Sisters in 1816, and Alice was renamed Mother Teresa Josephine Lalor. During her lifetime, Visitation began to expand throughout the country. As she lay dying in 1846, she joked with the sisters who were leaving to make a foundation in Frederick not to wait for her funeral. She did not want her approaching death to slow down God's work.

At some point, when the sisters renewed their vows, Alice mistakenly vowed herself to "Poverty, Charity and Obedience." Ever after, she was conscious of that fourth promise, keeping her vow of charity as faithfully as she kept the first three. She was noted for her cheerfulness, kindness, her charity -- especially in her speech, humility and sense of humor. She died September 9, 1846. She spoke so little of herself that we do not know her date of birth.

15 February 2011

Treasures from a Different ARK-hive

Recently we've been posting highlights from our archives. In light of today's first reading, we have two humorous pieces to share. Perhaps some of our readers received this first ditty in an email; it seems to have been in circulation for some time. This particular version of the "modern ark" story is from appleseeds, a Franciscan website.

And the Lord spoke to Noah and said: "In six months I’m going to make it rain until the whole earth is covered with water and all the evil people are destroyed. But I want to save a few good people, and two of every kind of living thing on the planet. I am ordering you to build Me an Ark." And in a flash of lightning He delivered the specifications for an Ark."OK," said Noah, trembling in fear and fumbling with the blueprints."Six months, and it starts to rain," thundered the Lord. "You’d better have the Ark completed, or learn how to swim for a very long time."And six months passed. The skies began to cloud up and rain began to fall. The Lord saw that Noah was sitting in his front yard, weeping. And there was no Ark."Noah," shouted the Lord, "where is My Ark?"A lightning bolt crashed into the ground next to Noah. "Lord, please forgive me!" begged Noah. "I did my best. But there were big problems. First I had to get a building permit for the Ark construction project, and your plans didn’t meet code. So I had to hire an engineer to redraw the plans. Then I got into a big fight over whether or not the Ark needed a fire sprinkler system. My neighbors objected claiming I was violating zoning by building the Ark in my front yard, so I had to get a variance from the city planning commission..Then I had a big problem getting enough wood for the Ark because there was a ban on cutting trees to save the Spotted Owl. I had to convince U.S. Fish and Wildlife that I needed the wood to save the owls. But they wouldn’t let me catch any owls. So no owls. Then the carpenters formed a union and went out on strike. I had to negotiate a settlement with the National labor Relations Board before anyone would pick up a saw or a hammer. Now we have 16 carpenters going on the boat, and still no owls.Then I started gathering up animals, and got sued by an animal rights group. They objected to me taking only two of each kind. Just when I got the suit dismissed, EPA notified me that I couldn’t complete the Ark without filing an environmental impact statement on your proposed flood. They didn’t take kindly to the idea that they had no jurisdiction over the conduct of a Supreme Being.Then the Army Corps of Engineers wanted a map of the proposed new flood plan. I sent them a globe. Right now I’m still trying to resolve a complaint from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over how many immigrants I’m supposed to hire, the IRS has seized all my assets claiming I’m trying to avoid paying taxes by leaving the country, and I just got a notice from the state about owing some kind of use tax. I really don’t think I can finish your Ark for at least another five years," Noah wailed.The sky began to clear. The sun began to shine. A rainbow arched across the sky. Noah looked up and smiled. "You mean you’re not going to destroy the earth?" Noah asked, hopefully."Wrong!" thundered the Lord. "But being Lord of the Universe has its advantages. I fully intend to smite the Earth, but with something far worse than a flood. Something Man invented himself—GOVERNMENT!"

The second ARK-hive treasure is this children's song. There are several versions of this available but the animation on this particular version is sweet. Enjoy!

11 February 2011

Archive Installment

As we continue our historical series, we share some biographical information about our Sister Elizabeth Augustina Greenwell.

This sister, who was born c1786, had a more difficult childhood than most. She fell when she was 18 months old and broke her arm and leg. Doctors removed a bone from each limb, causing them to grow out of proportion to the rest of her body, and she remained lame all her life. The monastery sisters later deemed this disfigurement a blessing in disguise, however, for they credited it with preserving her innocence in childhood. Unlike the other sisters, who always seemed to be more pious than the other children in their youth, this sister's piety developed only as she became older.

She became known for charity to the poor and the sick, and for getting up to pray every morning at 4 a.m. (typical in the monastery but not in private life). Before she entered she did not enjoy worldly pleasures as much as her sisters did, preferring to be alone or spending her time working for the Church. She went to confession and was allowed to take communion every eight days, a rare privilege in that era, making her an example of piety in the world.

She petitioned to enter this monastery, was admitted, and received the white veil from our founder, Archbishop Leonard Neale. She had a sweet, easy temper and obliging ways, and she carefully concealed her extreme weakness and pain, participating in all the duties of the community as much as she was able. She was given the rank of choir sister, meaning she was educated and could read or recite Latin to chant the Divine Office.

She contracted tuberculosis that caused incontinence, and faintness, and she coughed up blood. She moved to the infirmary of the monastery where she remained for the rest of her life. During her last six weeks she was short of breath and could not even lie down. Too much sitting caused dropsy in her feet and legs. All of this she bore with great patience, expressing her gratitude to others for the smallest services. As she grew worse she asked for the entire community to assemble in the infirmary, and she begged their pardon for all her failings. She received the Viaticum, and she often called upon God during her suffering. She was in extreme pain, but exhorted herself to patience by saying, "My spouse suffered more for me." She also asked the infirmarian to speak and read to her of Christ's sufferings.

She died on April 14, 1820 at age 34.

07 February 2011

A Little Biblical Humor

As the football season ends and spring training for baseball is on the horizon, we thought we'd share a little joke. Today's first reading is the punch line for a little Biblical humor. Do enjoy a chuckle and share it with your friends.

Q: How can we know for sure that baseball is really God's favorite sport?

A: There is a common mistranslation of the first verse of Genesis and it has occluded the true translation: "In the BIG INNING when God created . . ."

03 February 2011

Dirty Feet

Most of us, upon entering a house or a building, find a moment to wipe our shoes on a welcome mat or other convenient carpet. This is a polite gesture. We are careful not to bring the dirt, dust mud (dirty snow and blue salt-crystals) into a clean space. Do we do the same with our hearts?

In today's Gospel, when the Lord instructs his disciples to shake the dust from their feet as a witness against those who rejected them, we might consider adopting the same practice. For when we have experienced the anger or negativity of another, if we do not "shake the dust" from our feet -- and our hearts -- we will have more than dirty feet with which to contend. A careful guard of our hearts can save us from being wounded -- and from wounding others -- on account of the negativity or anger we have experienced in the words or actions of another.

Sometimes we offer ourselves to someone in an act of kindness; perhaps we anticipated a need or perceive an oversight. Love of our neighbor propels us to act generously. It can be painful when our act of charity is unwelcome. Like germs, negativity is also contagious. We can catch a cold by not washing the germs from our hands; we can become uncharacteristically negative by not washing the negativity from our hearts. We may not, of our nature, be inclined to discuss the shortcomings of our colleagues or neighbors but when we spend time with those who are so inclined we may not even notice this odious little habit growing in our heart like a silent cancer. Let us keep careful watch over our hearts (and our feet) so that we may keep them clean. Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God. And they shall see Him everywhere!

"There is no clock, however good, that does not need to be continually wound up . . . any one who really cares for his heart's devotion will wind it up to God night and morning, and examine its condition, correcting and improving it . . . . And just as the clockmaker applies a delicate oil to all the wheels and springs of a clock, so that it may work properly and be less liable to rust, so the devout soul ... will lubricate his heart with the Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist. These exercises will repair the waste caused by time, will kindle your heart, revive your good resolutions, and cause the graces of your mind to flourish anew."
St. Francis de Sales