30 August 2012

A new post from Sr. Joanne

A book I have often recommended to persons interested in Saint Francis de Sales is one that was written in Germany by Dr. Michael Muller in 1933. It was published in the United States in 1937 and in India in 1984. The following is one of my favorite excerpts:
Francis, in his direction of souls and n his own life, works on the assumption that perfect indifference and affectionate love can and should go hand in hand.  There is one more question, however:  How is an outlet formed for this psychical experience in which the heart frees itself from all creatures and nevertheless returns to a warm love for the same creatures?

At first the soul concentrates all its forces, without any exception or any reservation, on God, the unique goal of its being.  Freely it soars up to that highest peak of perfection where God alone stands in overpowering greatness before its eyes.  There the earth disappears from sight, earthly goods have no more charm, and the heart has become indifferent with regard to all earthly things.  But man finds in God the creator of all true, good, and beautiful things in the world, the creator of his own being, Who has ordered human inclinations towards created values.  Hence the soul descends once more the Jacob’s ladder of love.  Once again it loves home, forests, flowers, family, friends, art and science, but with a new love – no longer because the earthly ego hankers and then enjoys selfish satisfaction, but rather for the will of the most beloved Father in Heaven Who has created all these good things and now wills that His child should have joy in them.

Sister Joanne Gonter, VHM

27 August 2012

More devotions from the sisters

This year the world marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council. The person who was inspired to call the Council, Pope John XXIII, became a much beloved "father" to millions throughout the world. When I read the JOURNAL OF A SOUL, published in 1964, a year after his death, I learned something I have never forgotten: his great love for Saint Francis de Sales, speaking of him in a number of entries as "my Saint Francis de Sales." The following is an entry from January 29, 1903, when he was a seminarian:
Today was a perfect feast; I spent it in the company of St. Francis de Sales, my gentlest of saints. What a magnificent figure of a man, priest and Bishop! I love to let my thoughts dwell on him, on his goodness and on his teaching. I have read his life so many times! His counsels are so acceptable to my heart. By the light of his example I feel more inclined towards humility, gentleness and calm. My life, so the Lord tells me, must be a perfect copy of that of St. Francis de Sales if I wish it to bear good fruits. Nothing extraordinary in me or in my behavior, except my way of doing ordinary things: 'all ordinary things but done in no ordinary way.' A great, a burning love for Jesus Christ and his Church: unalterable serenity of mind, wonderful gentleness with my fellow men, that is all.

O my loving saint, as I kneel before you at this moment, there is so much I could say to you! I love you tenderly and I will always remember you and look to you for help. O St. Francis, I can say no more; you can see into my heart, give me what I need to become like you.
 Sister Joanne Gonter, VHM

24 August 2012

End of Sr. Mada-anne's week of Devotions from the Sisters

Live + Jesus

My friends, I have enjoyed sharing these meditations with you. Thank you for your wonderful, insightful comments. Now, to end the week, let us join in St. Francis de Sales' best known prayer.

Prayer of St. Francis de Sales for Complete Trust in God

Do not look forward to the changes and the chances of this life with fear. Rather, look to them with full confidence that, as they arise, God, to whom you belong, will in His love enable you to profit by them. He has guided you thus far; do you but hold fast to His dear hand and He will lead you safely through all trials. Whenever you cannot stand, He will carry you lovingly in His arms.

Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. The same eternal Father who takes care of you today will take care of you tomorrow, and every day of your life. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then, and put aside all useless thoughts, all vain dreads, and all anxious imaginings.


Mada-anne Gell, VHM

23 August 2012

Weekly devotions: "Hungry for God"

Live + Jesus

Hungry for God

Thirty-six years ago, give or take a month, my very articulate three-and-a-half-year-old nephew announced that he was going to Sunday Mass with me. And so we--Charlie and I--ceremoniously boarded my old Gremlin and headed off to Church. Once at St. Agnes, we marched up the main aisle and close to the front so he would be able to see what was happening on the altar.

By Communion time he was a bit restive, so I picked him up and took him with me to receive a blessing when I received the Eucharist. He was looking very attentively over my shoulder.

Suddenly he lurched to escape my arms. He had noticed that some folks still remained in the pews. He gave a penetrating screech: "Why aren't those people coming to get Jesus?" Then he twisted and let it out full force: "What's the matter with you people? Aren't you hungry for God?"

(We left right after Communion. I don't think I have been in that Church since.)

But the moment never left me. What does it mean to be hungry for God? Why am I not more fervent in my reception of the Eucharist?

Francis de Sales once wrote to Jane de Chantal:
You tell me that you feel more than usually starved for Holy Communion . . . Humble yourself as much as you can, my daughter, and warm yourself with the holy love of Christ crucified, so that you can spiritually digest  that heavenly food as you should.
But what do you think this means, digesting Jesus Christ spiritually? People with good spiritual digestion feel that Jesus Christ, their food, penetrates to every part of their soul and their body. They have Jesus Christ in their head, heart, breast, eyes, hands, tongue, ears and feet. He loves in our hearts, understands with our heads, inspires our actions; he sees through our eyes, he speaks with our tongues. He does everything in us, and then we live, not we ourselves. but Jesus Christ lives in us. . .
If only we long for our Savior, then I have every hope that our digestion will be good.
(Francis de Sales, Selected Letters)
So--two things I try to remember: put all my distractions away when I approach the sacrament, and to trust that even if I am not aware of it, my body and soul are hungry for God and need to be hungry for God if I want to allow Jesus to live in me, and use my eyes, my heart, my entire body--to live in me.

May God be Praised!

Mada-anne Gell, VHM

20 August 2012

More devotions from the Visitation Sisters

Live + Jesus

Think of Christ, Who Always Thinks of You

Be conscious of the love with which Jesus Christ Our Lord suffered so much in this world, especially in the Garden of Olives and Mount Calvary.

You were the object of this love.

Remember, the Heart of Our Lord saw your heart, and loved you surely from the tree of the Cross.

(St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life)

Whenever somebody asks me to pray for one of their loved ones, I share this confirmation of God's love for us:

Lord, I am powerless. There is nothing I can do to help this person. I love them so much. But you are all powerful, and you love them even more than I do. Please save them, Lord. Please hold them in your heart and protect them.

This prayer gives me peace of heart when I am worried about someone, and the Lord always resolves the situation in ways I would have never thought of or been capable of achieving.

May God Be Praised!

Please hold them into your heart and protect them.

Mada-anne Gell, VHM

19 August 2012

Weekly devotions from the Visitation Sisters

Live -- Jesus!

Salesian Thoughts for the Week of August 19th, 2012

Our Life in the Garden

          St. Francis de Sales opens the Preface to the Introduction to the Devout Life with the image of a garden:

My dear Friends, I ask you to read this preface both for your benefit and for mine. Glycera, a bouquet maker, was so skillful at working with flowers that out of the same flowers for the same garden she could fashion many different kinds of bouquets. The painter Pausias, who wished to paint all her different arrangements, was unable to do so. He could not vary his paintings in as many ways as Glycera did her bouquets.

We live in a garden. Vegetables and flowers grow in beauty and abundance within the monastery enclosure.

St. Francis de Sales' reflection on the variety of flowers available to the industrious Glycera suggests multiple analogies, but for this Sunday morning, let's say that the different flowers in our garden, their colors, their heights, their scents, represent our sisters in community, or the members of a family, or a group of friends, or even the Church: different flowers, different looks, different needs and expectations, and all of us growing together. God chooses how tall we get, our colors, what birds or insects we attract. He arranges us into nosegays appropriate to the season. We are each perfect for the place we occupy in our garden and bouquets.

Last April, we planted a garden around the statue of St. Joseph, but extreme weather affected its growth. The garden we got was not the garden we had expected. Some plants couldn't take the storms. Some could not bear the sun. Some died of heat prostration and some of mildew. The sturdy purple coneflowers faded to transparency in the almost equatorial sun. The zinnias died of rain. But the goldfinches, cardinals, hummingbirds, and butterflies have paid no heed. They and their songs are the graces in our garden.

The garden God gave me is more beautiful than the one I tried to impose in our courtyard--as is my community. It is not what I expected it to be when I entered this House almost 30 years ago--God and extreme weather have made us into a garden we could never have imagined. May God be praised.

Mada-anne Gell, VHM
Georgetown Visitation Monastery

18 August 2012

Weekly devotions from the Visitation sisters

I would like to end this week by sharing a prayer which we encourage our students to pray frequently. I believe it summarizes all we have been sharing from St. Jane de Chantal about living in the presence of God and accepting his holy will, in whatever he might send our way.

St. Jane de Chantal
“O my God, I offer you this day, I offer you now all the good that I shall do and I promise to accept for love of you all the difficulties that I may meet. Help me to conduct myself during this day in a manner pleasing to you.”

May God Be Praised!

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

17 August 2012

Weekly devotions from the Visitation sisters

All day and at each hour, at each moment, if possible, let us raise our hearts to God. Let us keep ourselves in the disposition of being guided by his divine goodness and of acquiescing promptly in the effects of his good pleasure in everything he shall permit to happen to us.”

St. Jane de Chantal
When you are caught in a traffic jam calmly place yourself in the presence of God and say a prayer for all the people in the cars ahead of you, especially for those who might be dealing with a present need.

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

16 August 2012

Weekly devotions from the Visitation sisters

“Here is a little model of what we should do when we are taken by surprise as we row peacefully in our little boat. When all our emotions arise to stir up a great internal storm that seems certain to overwhelm us or drag us after it, we must not wish to calm this tempest ourselves. Rather, we must gently draw near the shore, keeping our will firmly in God, and coast along the little waves. By humble knowledge of ourselves, we will reach God, who is our sure port. Let us go gently, without agitation or anxiety and without giving in to our emotions.”

St. Jane de Chantal
While waiting in a long line at the supermarket when you really need to get going so you can pick up your child from soccer practice, stop a moment to realize that getting agitated will not move the line any more quickly; by refocusing your impatience and praying for the checkout person and/or the children in the world who do not have enough to eat you will regain some peace of mind and heart.

 Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

15 August 2012

Weekly devotions from the Visitation sisters

“May God help you to find the rich treasure which his goodness has hidden at the very core of your pain which comes to you from his permissive will. May you find strength in this thought and may your difficulties increase your courage and confidence in God.”

St. Jane de Chantal
May our loving God help you to make certain that your pain is not wasted, but offered for the suffering people in hospital wards, our wounded military persons, little children who are starving, etc. etc. 

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

14 August 2012

Weekly devotions from the Visitation sisters

“The essence of prayer is not found in always being on our knees, but in keeping our wills closely united to God’s in all the events of our lives. Those who are ready and open to yielding themselves to God’s good pleasure on any occasion, and receive these occasions lovingly from the hand of God can pray even while sweeping the floor.” 

St. Jane de Chantal

A help to living in the presence of God might be to practice what we call “hooverism.” While vacuuming a room, you might let the rhythm of pushing the vacuum back and forth become a mantra with which you pray for your family, your work, or for a larger need of our world today.

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

13 August 2012

Final photos from the fourth!

This is the last in a long series of photos from the 4th of July picnic and fireworks.

Devotions from the Visitation Sisters

“I will tell you what God wants of you – a humble and tranquil submission to his most holy will in whatever happens to you. May your heart have but one desire: that God’s holy will be accomplished in you. Let us pray for the grace to remain humble and tranquil in the situation in which we find ourselves, especially those most disturbing.”

St. Jane de Chantal

You will be amazed at how this grace can create a feeling of peace in your mind and heart and make you ready to accept the circumstances in which you find yourself as God’s will or as Francis would say, God’s “good pleasure.”

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

12 August 2012

Weekly devotions from the Visitation sisters

Today is the feast of Holy Mother St. Jane de Chantal, so we have posts from Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM today and throughout the week:

How blessed we Visitation Sisters are to have St. Jane de Chantal as the Foundress of our Order and as our spiritual Mother! On Sunday, August 12th,  as Visitation Sisters throughout the world will be celebrating her feast we shall hold in prayer our faithful and blog friends.

I have always loved and admired our Saint because of her straightforward, down to earth, simple yet challenging spirituality. During her life, Jane de Chantal had endured the fiery furnace of suffering and emerged as a woman of strong faith, spiritual wisdom and a gentle heart. She had learned how to “Live Jesus.”

Fostered by her Spiritual Director, St. Francis de Sales, she built her sanctity upon the sturdy rock of discerning God’s will in all the circumstances of her life, a life marked by extraordinary losses of those near and dear to her.

Her mentor led her to embrace all that life presented her, so she could open herself radically to the presence of God in all her life’s events. Her task was to learn how to be present to the moment, as she found it, and to embrace it lovingly as a sign of God’s good pleasure. 

She often encouraged those in authority to “lead those in your care with a kind and understanding heart; give them a holy liberty of spirit and remove from your mind and theirs any unhealthy spirit of constraint.” She had learned gentleness through adversity.
As Jane de Chantal found sanctity as a young woman, a devoted wife, a loving mother, a heavy-hearted widow, and a holy religious, she offers us all a pattern for reaching toward holiness: seeking God’s will and embracing it as the events of our lives unfold.

We will share with you each day this week a thought from our Saint so that together we may learn from her example and her words a faithful way of living in God’s presence and accepting his holy will.

11 August 2012

10 August 2012

More devotions from the sisters

"In that blessed eternity we shall all know each other. What happiness it will be for us to see those whom we have loved so dearly on earth! They will remind us of all the holy inspirations which they have brought to us from the Divine Goodness to allure us more and more to seek for that sweetness which is now our portion for eternity." (Also from Saint Francis de Sales's Sermons in Lent)

Mother Jacqueline Burke, VHM

07 August 2012

From the devotions of the Georgetown Visitation sisters

Monday, August 6th (Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus), and Tuesday, August 7th are described so beautifully by St. Francis de Sales in my little "Daily Readings" book, offered so long ago (1911-1912) to those who want to draw near to Jesus every day! I found them in my early morning meditation and went back to them in my spiritual reading during the day. What a wonderful inspiration and guide St. Francis de Sales is!

Mother Jacqueline Burke, VHM

06 August 2012

More photos from the fourth...

A continuing series of photos from the 4th of July picnic and fireworks.

More devotions from the sisters

"The Apostles then beheld His face, more shining and more brilliant than the sun, and His raiment became white and glittering. He then revealed a glimpse of eternal glory to grant us a foretaste of the eternal happiness which awaits us. Thus it was that Saint Peter, speaking in the name of the others whose prince and head he was destined to be, cried out: 'How good it is for us to be here!' "I have indeed,' he seems to say, 'desired many things, but nothing could be so worthy of desire as to be in this place.'" (from Saint Francis deSales's Sermons in Lent)

Mother Jacqueline Burke, VHM

05 August 2012

Weekly posts from the devotions of the Georgetown Visitation Sisters

Watch this space for regular posts from the Sisters, interspersed with photos from the Monastery. This first entry is from Mother Jacqueline Burke, VHM:

Every morning I begin my meditation by reading the entry for the day... the specific date of the day... from an little, old book, entitled Daily Readings from St. Francis de Sales, published in 1911 in England, and then in 1912 by Herder Pub. Company in St. Louis.

St. Francis de Sales, our Visitation founder, is truly my spiritual "compass;" he always brings me to Jesus. Most of all, he always opens my heart to the stunning reality that Jesus is constantly with each of us--loving, guiding, forgiving, companioning, inspiring us. It is this reality that wells up in us in joy and deep wonder and peace: Even on a hard day, it is the gift of gifts and won't disappear... no matter how I feel or respond, Jesus keeps on loving me.


"Our Lord will certainly supply all your deficiences...provided it is He Whom you love, Whom you seek, Whom you follow." (From a letter to Madame de la Flechere)

"Humility must be practiced gently, quietly, persistently, and not only sweetly, but gladly, and joyously."

04 August 2012

More photos from the fourth...

A continuing series of photos from the 4th of July (indoor) picnic and fireworks.

02 August 2012

More photos from the fourth...

A continuing series of photos from the 4th of July (indoor) picnic and fireworks.

01 August 2012

Learn the teachings of St. Francis de Sales from the Oblates

Never slander anyone either directly or indirectly. Beware of falsely imputing crimes and sins to your neighbor, revealing his secret sins, exaggerating those that are manifest, putting an evil interpretation on his good works, denying the good that you know belongs to someone or maliciously concealing it or lessening it by words. You would offend God in all these ways but most of all by false accusations and denying the truth to your neighbor’s harm. It is a double sin to lie and harm your neighbor at the same time. (St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part III, Chapter 29, p. 202)
This is taken from "Spirituality Matters," a regular feature of the website of the Wilmington-Philadelphia Province of the Oblates of St. Frances de Sales. The feature can be accessed here, and every few weeks we will post items from that site here, and link to it.