30 September 2012

From Sister Eleanor: "Where Do Your Energies Go?"

(Written for the Feast of Saint Padre Pio, Sunday, September 23, 2012, but posted a bit later)

Jesus is your best friend and He wants to hear from you. Can you talk to Him?

Where do your energies go? Are they scattered and dissipated or are they channeled toward being who God calls you to be?
--St. Francis de Sales

Sr. Eleanor May Klaber, VHM

27 September 2012

From Sr. Bernardine: "Pray Always"

If you worry, don't pray.
If you pray, don't worry.

Francis de Sales wrote: "Go to prayer with great meekness of spirit, without wanting to do anything there, save to receive from Our Lord what He will give you." He suggests that we pray with confidence, perseverance, patience and humility.

GOD KNOWS BEFORE WE ASK WHAT WE WANT. But he does want us to ask. Didn't Jesus say: "Ask . . ." And didn't He promise: "and it will be given to you"?

"I did ask. And the answer was 'NO!'" "I did pray and I didn't get what I asked for." Praying with meekness means praying with patient endurance.

"If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him."

ASK . . . .

Sister Mary Bernardine, VHM

24 September 2012

Weekly devotions, "No Greater Love"

This morning Sr. Mary Roberta was inspired by this saint's words:

Commentary on today's 9/24 Gospel - Luke 8:16-18

No Greater Love

Listen in silence. It is because your heart is brimful of a thousand things that you are unable to hear God's voice in it. But as soon as you set about listening to God's voice in a peaceful heart, it becomes full of God. This takes many sacrifices. If we think we want to pray then we have to prepare ourselves for it. Without delay. I am only referring to the first steps towards praying but unless we carry them out with determination we shall never reach the final step, the presence of God.

That is why our training has to be perfect from the start: we begin listening for God's voice in our heart and, in the heart's silence, God begins to speak. Then, out of the fullness of the heart there rises up what the mouth must say. That is where the connection lies. In the silence of the heart God speaks while you have only to listen. Then, once your heart has reached its plenitude because it finds itself filled with God, filled with love, filled with compassion, filled with faith, it falls to your mouth to speak.

Bear in mind that, before speaking, you need to listen and only then, from the depths of a receptive heart, can you speak and be heard by God.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997), founder of the Missionary Sisters of Charity

23 September 2012

From Sr. Mary Bernardine: What is the Cross?

To paraphrase St. Augustine: anything that is suffering or difficult is the cross. When you think of it as soon as you get up in the morning you can experience the cross. Tiredness overwhelms you (you don't want to get up!), your shoe lace breaks, the car won't start, it's raining.


St. Francis de Sales, speaking of the cross: "The best crosses are those to which we have the greatest repugnance, the crosses we encounter in the streets are excellent, but still better are those we find at home... Crosses of our invention are never worth much; we make them ourselves, and consequently they are less crucifying." Be of good heart, as Francis would say "...the good God knows what He does and why He does it, all for our good, no doubt."

Sister Mary Bernardine, VHM

20 September 2012

From a friend of the community, Stabat Mater (The Mother Was Standing)

Here is an excerpt from a message written by a friend of the monastery who has our Cross of Affiliation.

Our Lady experienced great suffering during the Passion of her Divine Son and gave Him strength by "being there”… "standing" (Stabat Mater). In the face of her Son's incredible suffering Our Blessed Mother's heart nearly broke as she watched her Divine and Loving Son unjustly tortured and murdered by us --the same people whom her Son would later give as her children (!).

Can you imagine the additional suffering that tore her heart almost completely open knowing in all her holiness, her new "adopted" children would be us, those who murdered her Son and the Only Beloved Son of God Himself! What Love Jesus had put into his Mother's heart---even though in her Immaculate Conception, she was unsurpassed in holiness except by God Himself--that her new children would be us, those who murdered her Son and the Only Beloved Son of God Himself! What Love Jesus had put into his Mother's heart, even though in her Immaculate Conception, thus unsurpassed holiness (except by God Himself), Our Lady could never, ever hate us, because she knew that her Divine Son went through all of this immense & unsurpassed suffering so that we, God's children, could have the chance once again for Eternal Life.

But as His heart was pierced with a lance, and all His remaining Blood and Water poured out for us, to seal the New and Everlasting Covenant, her heart was "poured out" for us in a slightly different way by that lance.

"Now, at length, the sword has passed." (Stabat Mater)

With love and prayers in Their Hearts,


Donna N. Wilkes, OFS and Visitation Affiliate

18 September 2012

From Mother Jacqueline: On Serving God in the World

Dear all,

This meditation written to Madame de Chantal when she was in the world is so beautiful and so encouraging! I send it to you with all my heart.  --Mother Jacqueline

(From a book of daily meditations from the words of St. Francis de Sales)

As long as it is the will of God that you should remain in the world, stay there cheerfully and contentedly. There are many who quit the world; but in doing so, fail to quit themselves, having really left it only to gratify their own satisfaction.

Let us quit the world in order to serve God, to follow Him, to love Him; and if this be our aim, so long as God wills that we should serve Him, follow Him, and love Him in the world, we should cheerfully remain there; for since it is only His holy service that we desire, wherever we can serve Him we ought to be satisfied.

Abide in peace, my daughter; remain in the world cheerfully, and do well all that your position requires of you; believing that God will be better pleased with this than with a hundred withdrawals from the world, made by self-will and self-love.

Some time ago I met a young girl carrying a pail of water on her head, in the middle of which she had put a piece of wood; I wondered why she had done so, and she told me it was to keep the water steady so that it might not overflow. I thought to myself how this is just what we ought to do with the Cross of our Lord; so that in and by this wood our affections might be kept steadfast, and not pour themselves out in troubling and disquieting thoughts.

14 September 2012

Special post from Sr. Mary Alicia on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross

Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, started by Constantine at the beginning of the 4th century. He had acquired a fragment of the True Cross, which was revered every year on September 14th.

"Your Cross," St. Francis de Sales:

Sr. Mary Alicia

13 September 2012

From Sr. Anne Francis: Saint Francis de Sales on Speech

Our holy father Saint Francis de Sales always wanted our words and speech to show our love of God. He said, "With regard to speech one is not to consider the quantity but the quality of our words."

His words on speech are expressions on how to live Jesus: "Take it as a certain sign that your charity is not genuine if your words, no matter how truthful are not charitable."

As we get sick and doctors examine our state of health, so also does our divine physician always examines the state of our souls. Let always our words be true in dictation of our souls.

Saint Francis encourages us to, "Use words to speak words of God reverently." And while speaking of our neighbour, he adds, "The tongue should be like the knife of the surgeon . . . clean and truthful."

He always had this connection between a truthful speech and wisdom. He wrote: "Mere silence is not wisdom. Wisdom knows when to speak and where to keep silent."

Thus let us always clothe ourselves with sincerity and plainness of speech as ornaments of Christian life.

May God be praised!

Sr. Anne Francis

12 September 2012

Mary, our model on the path of childlike simplicity (Devotion from Sr. Anne Francis)

Trust and confidence in God, which Mary lived supremely, is the hallmark of authentic spirituality. It is a call to become a child and trust in God our father. As saint Francis de Sales puts it: "We are related to God by such close alliance and such loving dependence that nothing prevents us from saying that he is our father and from him calling us his children."

Nowhere in the teachings of Jesus are we given a technique to follow; instead Jesus praises the poor in spirit. He encourages a childlike attitude towards God and openness to receive in faith. Truly what is required is simplicity that can speak the "Yes."

Mary's response to the angel, "let what you have said be done to me" (Luke 1:38) lives in the maxim "ask nothing, refuse nothing." She is open to receive what God desires to give, his love.

What is required is true emptiness of heart that allows God to shower it with his goodness. Mary puts no barrier to the generosity of God who love to give, the poor in spirit. She offers an empty space which can be inhabited by God. To become true disciples like Mary is to allow ourselves to be led by God.

In the dialogue of "Heart speaking to the heart," Mary ponders the word of God, an attitude that Saint Francis recommends imitating: "Be devoted to the Word of God, whether you hear it in conversation with spiritual friends or in sermons . . . Do all this after the example of the most Holy Virgin, for [she] carefully kept in her heart all the words spoken of her child."

We can never reach a stage where we assume our own control, for it is God who always takes the initiative. This simplicity is manifested in the ability to always wait on God. Mary is always a perpetual advent. Thus Mary attains the degree of excellence in love for her dearly beloved, and complete trust in God and surrender to his will. May God Be Praised!

Sr. Anne Francis

11 September 2012

Devotions from the Visitation Sisters, a Week with Sr. Anne Francis

Live + Jesus!

Eternal friendship

The friendship that can end was never true friendship . . .

Friendship based on the world passes away, but our friendship which is from God, in God, and for God never ends.

A spiritual friendship never changes, except into a more perfect union of spirits, a living image of the blessed friendship existing in heaven.

Saint Francis de Sales sees the love of friendship as the beginning of the kind of happiness that we will experience in heaven, where we will be a source of joy to one another.

He says this explicitly in the meditation on paradise in the Introduction to the Devout Life: "The blessed give joy to one another in ineffable contentment and live in the consolation of a happy and indissoluble union."

Thus friendship is not a stage that falls away after we have used it to come to divine intimacy and universal love of mankind.

Francis de Sales says that friendships begun in this world will be taken up again, never to be broken off.

This is such a consolation for all of our loved ones, and the entire people of God.

Sr. Anne Francis

10 September 2012

Devotions from Sr. Anne Francis

Live Jesus!

The Little Virtues.

According to Saint Francis de Sales, we put on Christ by doing something positive. This means practicing a virtue, and by doing the best we can with the opportunity before us. He suggests that we start by what he calls the "little virtues." He says:
The little, unattractive and hardly noticeable virtues which are required of us in our place of work, among friends,and in our homes anytime and all the time… these are the virtues for us.
St. Francis continues:
The opportunities of acquiring good positions or large sums of money do not arise everyday. But it is possible to earn pennies daily. Those who care wisely for small gains become rich little by little.
 Thus charity regards the beauty of the heart and spreads itself over everyone without distinction.

Sr. Anne Francis

09 September 2012

Devotions from Sr. Anne Francis

Salesian Hope

In starting something new, we fear the unknown or find hope in its freshness. According to St. Francis de Sales, hope is a conviction we hold that, if we live our lives faithfully, a caring God guides, protects, exhorts and comforts us. Thus” Salesian hope” proposes a God who is “always on call." Salesian hope is a vital spirit fueling optimism. It helps recall that what we do is the right way to live and be with one another until we meet the lord. St. Francis de Sales wrote these words on hope:
For this we must have great confidence and trust in God's providence. We must provide for each day's manna and not more. We must not doubt that God will give us more tomorrow, in the future and all through the time of our pilgrimage.

Sr. Anne Francis

08 September 2012

Saturday devotion, last of the week, from Sr. Mary Roberta

Let us joyfully celebrate the birth of blessed Mary so that she may intercede for us before Jesus Christ the Lord! [Breviary-Lauds for Mary's Feast today - September 8th]

Our Founder, St. Francis de Sales had a strong and tender devotion for Mary, and "Heaven bestowed on him numerous favors because of that. On September 8th, 1614, while he celebrated Mass for Mary's birth in the Church of Our Lady of Annecy (in France, where he founded the Visitation Order), a pure white dove settled on his head as he remained at the altar wrapt in ecstasy. (recounted in "Annee Sainte" - one of the Saint's biographies).

Likewise, we sisters (from our 45-year-old, Kenyan Sr. Anne Francis to our soon-to-be 102-year-old, Pittsburgh-native Sr. Mary Raphael) sing together (with as much ecstasy as our age and physical condition allow!) Mary's praises in the "Salve Regina." We hope you'll join us by singing along!

God be praised! Dieu soit beni! for Mary, who is "CAUSE OF OUR JOY!" (from Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

Sr. Mary Roberta Viano, VHM

07 September 2012

Friday thoughts from Sr. Mary Roberta

"Oh, dear! There goes all the newly-pressed wine, and we thought the old wine skins would hold it!," complain St. Luke's imaginary vintners in his Gospel for today (5:33-39). "Well, of course," says Jesus, "because the fermenting wine burst those old, thin wine skins." And it happens like that with the new, abundant life Jesus brings us, which will "burst" open the thin-skinned lives of those of us who are full of old prejudices and who stubbornly cling to them (v 39).

St. Francis de Sales weighs in on it this way in his Treatise on the Love of God:
...to live in the world and in this mortal life contrary to all the opinions and maxims of the world [the world's old wine] is not to live a merely human but rather a super-human life. This is not to live in ourselves, but out of ourselves and above ourselves. Since no one can in this way go above himself unless the eternal Father draw him, it follows that such a life is a continual rapture and a perpetual ecstasy of action and operation [caused by Christ's new wine, the new life He brings us].
Blood of Christ inebriate me! [Anima Christi]

Sr. Mary Roberta Viano, VHM

06 September 2012

Thursday devotional post from Sr. Mary Roberta

Fish, fish, and more fish! St. Luke shows us today in his Gospel (5:1-11) how generous Our Lord is, and that's what triggers our own generosity.

Simon Peter and his companions haven't caught anything all night, and then at a word from Jesus their nets are about to break because of the all the fish they catch. Simon Peter is overcome with awe, as I am too, when I remember all the "fish" [His grace-filled gifts] Our Lord has given me over the years. My challenge then is to generously give back in return: "You've been given, only that you might also give!" (Matt. 10:8).

Holy Father, St. Francis de Sales affirms that when he says in his Treatise on the Love of God, "Charity [i.e., our generosity towards others] can do all things and does nothing in vain. If anyone would challenge this and ask why charity does this, charity will answer boldly, 'Because the Lord has need of it.'" That's who God made us to be (generous souls), and we give glory to Our Creator when we do what He created us to do. So God Himself needs our loving generosity. Wow, talk about being needed!

Sr. Mary Roberta Viano, VHM

Image from the Michigan Stained Glass Census, http://www.michiganstainedglass.org

05 September 2012

More from Sr. Mary Roberta

Here I am with a quick, late-in-the-day reflection on today's Gospel. Like the rabbit in "Alice in Wonderland" ("I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date!"), I was hurrying, hurrying, hurrying today with too much to do and supposedly no time to stop and sit in prayer before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

But in today's Gospel verses from St. Luke (4:38-44) he shows us Jesus surrounded by sick people, clamoring to be healed, but despite all that "work" of his, Jesus "departed and went into a lonely place" to pray - except it's not really lonely because Christ finds His Father there.

And when I finally found time this afternoon to go apart and pray in our chapel, I found Christ, and through Him, His Father. As our founder St. Francis de Sales points out in a one of his sermons, "There is only one thing necessary to pray well, and that is to have Our Lord in our arms...Prayer is nothing else but an elevation of our mind to God, which we in no way can bring about by ourselves. But when we have Our Savior in our arms, everything becomes easy for us. Consider the holy man Simeon and how well he prayed when he had Our Lord in his arms."

So, once recharged and re-energized through Christ (my soul's transformer- like the one I used traveling in Europe to get "juice" for my travel iron), I threw myself back into the day's fray!

Sr. Mary Roberta Viano, VHM

04 September 2012

More from Sr. Mary Roberta

St. Jerome says of the Bible: Read it! It's the Lord who is speaking to you!

So, the Lord spoke to me today about demonic spirits in St. Luke's Gospel (4:31-37). "Wow," he says of Jesus, "He orders demonic spirits to get out and they go!" [trans. Eugene Peterson in The Message]

As a mother (now widowed), I thought it my duty to search out the "demonic spirits" in my two sons and order them out! But once I gained a little maternal experience, I understood that my job was to see beyond my sons' "demons" to the good boys underneath, whom I loved dearly. Then, as Jesus did with the possessed man in today's Gospel, I had to find a way to separate my sons' wrong actions (their demons) from their real selves and pull those real selves into a warm and forgiving hug - a little like I'd carefully separate a nut from its hard shell and pop it into my warm and waiting mouth!

Sr. Mary Roberta Viano, VHM

(The above image from a site for free Christian blog art.)

03 September 2012

Devotions from the Visitation Sisters, a week with Sr. Mary Roberta

When I'm really open to the day's Gospel as I read it or hear it every day, I know it won't leave me without doing its work in me (cf., Heb. 4:12). That's thanks to God's great mercy that St. Gregory the Great (today's saint) points out so strongly in his writings. Then it's up to me to go out and do the day's work God gives me - even on this Labor Day holiday!

Today St. Luke tells us (4:16-30) that Our Lord did His work of reading and interpreting Old Testament Scripture in the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth. But He was only the local carpenter's son and assistant - a common, village workman - who also happened to be God! So they ran him out of town.

Like Jesus, I want my work (and words) to lead those I meet today to exclaim the same thing our holy founder, St. Francis de Sales wanted his listeners and acquaintances to exclaim when they reacted to his preaching and to his life: "How good God is, how just!" [letter to a priest]. And then he wanted them to go out and do likewise. If we did, what a different world we'd live in!

Sr. Mary Roberta Viano, VHM

Image from http://bibleseo.com/biblestudyblog/bible-images/jesus-clip-art-collection-free-clip-arts-jesus-christ/

02 September 2012

Devotions from the Visitation Sisters: A Week With Sr. Mary Roberta

As I re-read and remember from Mass this Sunday's Gospel from the seventh chapter of St. Mark (1-8, 14-15, 21-23), I see that it challenges me to look at the difference between "traditions" (small t) which are "habits" and the Church's Tradition (capital T), which is the accumulated wisdom given the Church by the Holy Spirit through the ages. Are my small-t traditions bringing me closer to my Lord, Jesus Christ in His Body, His Church, which our founder St. Francis de Sales calls "the pillar of truth"? If they aren't, it's time for me to change them!

Sr. Mary Roberta Viano, VHM

01 September 2012

Concluding post this week from Sr. Joanne

Here at Georgetown Visitation as in other Visitation communities throughout the world, the monastery library has many, many books either about Saint Francis de Sales or containing his own writings.  One of the books here, printed in 1884 in London and in New York, is part of a set entitled Library of St. Francis de Sales.  The title is LETTERS TO PERSONS IN THE WORLD.  The following is taken from a letter St. Francis de Sales wrote “To a Lady” – he addresses her as “Madam my dear sister”: 
Persevere in thoroughly conquering yourself in the small daily contradictions you receive; know that God wishes nothing from you at present but that.  Busy not yourself then in doing anything else:  do not sow your desires in another’s garden, but cultivate well your own.  Do not desire not to be what you are, but desire to be very well what you are. .. What is the use of building castles in Spain when we have to live in France? It is my old lesson and you know it well.
And the sentences below are from a letter written to “a Young Married Lady”: 
Be very gentle; do not live by humors and inclinations, but by reason and devotion.  Love your husband tenderly, as having been given to you by the hand of our Lord.  You must take great care to bring your spirit to peace and tranquility.  If you could stir the deep part of your soul to love the practice of gentleness and true humility, you would be admirable; but it is necessary to often think about it.
Sister Joanne Gonter, VHM