31 October 2012

Happy 102nd birthday, Sr. Raphael!

Sr. Mary Raphael Speer turns 102 today, and we're celebrating by posting photos of her for the rest of the week!

Godly liberty from St. Francis de Sales

From "Treatise on the Love of God" by our Holy Founder, St. Francis de Sales:

We have the liberty to do good or evil, but to choose evil is not to use but to abuse liberty. Let us renounce such misguided liberty and subject our free will forever to the rule of heavenly love. If our souls should ever will to use their liberty against our resolutions to serve God eternally and without reserve, let us generously sacrifice this free will and make it die to itself so that it may live in God!

A Visitation Sister

30 October 2012

From Sr. Joanne, re a member of the Don Bosco Salesians

After introducing Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, a member of the Don Bosco Salesians yesterday, I am offering another quotation from the article about him in the Fall 2012 issue of The Holy Land Review.

When asked about his expectations for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, the cardinal replied: 
These are brilliant, formidable initiatives!  There are many who criticize these because they only see the surface, the spectacular aspect, and they don't see the deep effects stimulated by these great catechetical events.  In Spain, for example, there were 400,000 youths who after the event became apostles.  And this for me is an authentic catholicity.  It is a universal dimension which caused these youths, who had little idea of the Gospel, to become inspired and united by Christian ideals, open to other cultures , other nations, desirous of living in the faith.

Sr. Joanne Gonter, VHM

29 October 2012

From Sr. Joanne, about the Don Bosco Salesians

A few days ago, I was reading the Fall Review of The Holy Land Review and discovered an article about a very interesting person, Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  I recently met a native of Honduras, and I copied the article to send to him.

Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga is a member of the Don Bosco Salesians, the religious congregation which staffs schools throughout the world, including the Don Bosco Cristo Rey school in Takoma Park, Maryland. The original name of the Don Bosco Salesians, founded in Italy in 1873, was the Society of Saint Francis de Sales, whose gentleness and humility and concern for others was chosen as an inspiration by Don Bosco and his followers.

Manuela Borraccino, author of the article I read, wrote about the Cardinal:  He has been a teacher of mathematics, physics and chemistry in middle schools, plays the saxophone and taught sacred music for 13 years.  He had entered the Salesians at 19 and was ordained a priest in 1970 and a bishop in 1978.  He was named a cardinal in 2001 and has been president of Caritas International since 2007.

In this blog post,  I will offer two quotations from the cardinal and a few more in succeeding posts.
In all the Middle East countries, Caritas is present with programs for social development, micro credit, housing and employment directed at the neediest persons, independent of religious, ethnic or community affiliations.  In Morocco, for example, the director is Christian but all the employees and collaborators are Muslims and they work in a climate of authentic fraternity.
Caritas, with its 165 national organizations, is a sign of the 'globalization of love' and it is a motive of great joy and hope for me to see how it represents a concrete model and response going beyond national barriers when faced with suffering.

Sr. Joanne Gonter, VHM

26 October 2012

From Sr. Mada-anne: A propos of super storm

Traditionally, we observe every Friday as especially dedicated to the Sacred Heart, with the day culminating in an Hour of Silent Adoration and Exposition before Vespers. And the Salesian thought for today is particularly telling, especially as many of us are apprehensive because of the predicted super storm.

Again, we quote St. Francis de Sales:
Remain resolute
and very close to the foot of the Sacred Cross of Our Savior.

The tears which fall there are like the rain: they calm the wind,
no matter how strong it may be.
Many of us are praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for any of those in the storm's path. Please join with us to beg that the storm may take a course out to sea without injuring any more of our brothers and sisters.

Mada-anne Gell, VHM
Georgetown Visitation Monastery

25 October 2012

Note on stress from St. Francis de Sales, via Sr. Mada-anne

Most of the sisters have homerooms, where we meet, share prayer intentions and pray together, celebrate an occasional birthday (or half-birthday when a girl's birthday does not occur during school months). Part of the routine is reading the Homeroom Bulletin. It always begins with some Salesian thought for the day. Francis de Sales offered today's tidbit:
Accept peacefully whatever tasks you have to do, and try to get them done in order, one after the other. If you try to do everything all at once, or haphazardly, you soon will be frustrated, and grow weary, and in no time you will be overwhelmed by the pressure, and accomplish nothing.
Good advice from the 1600s. Bear patiently with interruptions, forget the multitasking, and remember, no matter what's going on, you are a beloved and cherished child of God. May God be praised.

Mada-anne Gell, VHM
Georgetown Visitation Monastery

24 October 2012

Monday post-conference details from Sr. Mada-anne

Last weekend a number of "Salesian Scholars" held a seminar on St Francis de Sales and the spirituality that has developed over the centuries in response to his message. We met where we usually do, at Stella Niagara, a bit up the river from Niagara Falls. Here God provides a spectacular display almost every morning; a living sunrise: orange and salmon colored mostly, a little pink, shifting patterns and shapes and tones, then swaths of smoky shades,lavender and gray. Inside the Womb of God and so very beautiful. To think of waking up each morning to that view.

To wake to the beauty of the Lord. Hundreds of thousands of young people, children, the ancient, the sick, the refugees, the victims of war and oppression all wake to a similar dawning. If you look only at the sky, it's the same firmament. In the Mid East, Africa, Haiti, all the many places on the earth--the colors are the same. The difference lies in the fact that natural beauty can hold different meaning to those whose experience is different. The oranges and salmons, the color of fire, the red is the red of real blood, and drifting across at the day's full dawning, the gray of smoke, the black of violence, the absence of light.

Francis de Sales and his friends lived in tumultuous times. Warfare was constant; cities and regions changed hands frequently. Let us pray together, as he taught us, binding our souls to those who are suffering, and remembering always that our bond is the bond of love.

Sr. Mada-anne Gell, VHM

20 October 2012

Saturday With Sr. Mary Berchmans

As we conclude this week honoring our Saint’s abiding and unfaltering love of the Heart of Jesus, we pray for the grace to learn from her the mystery of God’s infinite love. It is so helpful for us to understand that when life sends us some unexpected blows we can find refuge, strengthening love and courage in the Heart of our loving God. We pray in the words of the Mass for St. Margaret Mary:

Lord, pour out on us the riches of
Your Holy Spirit
which you bestowed on Saint Margaret Mary.
May we come to know the love of Christ,
which surpasses all human understanding,
and be filled with the fullness of God. 

May God Be Praised!

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

19 October 2012

Friday With Sr. Mary Berchmans

Some favorite references to the Sacred Heart in the Litany of the Sacred Heart can be a source of quiet meditation as we strive to learn more about the Sacred Heart of Jesus through prayer.

Heart of Jesus:    

Burning furnace of charity

          Vessel of justice and love

          Full of goodness and love

          King and center of all hearts

          In whom are all treasures of wisdom and knowledge

          Of whose fullness we have all received

          Patient and abounding in mercy

Fountain of life and holiness

Source of all consolation

Our peace and reconciliation

Salvation of those who hope in You

Hope of those who die in you

“Patient and abounding in mercy “ is one I like to pray over. I remember a beloved Sister in our community, whose name, incidentally, was Margaret Mary, who had the patience of a saint. I asked her once how she could be so patient and she very quietly said
“When I begin to experience feelings of impatience I pray, “Patience of the Heart of Jesus, fill my heart.”

Perhaps you would like to select one of these invocations that speaks to your heart and use it for prayer. 

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

18 October 2012

Thursday With Sr. Mary Berchmans

Today I would like to share with you a few of the Prayers of Intercession found in our Divine Office on the feast of our Saint Margaret Mary. They seem to describe beautifully all the important aspects of a faithful Christian life.

Lord, you chose the image of your Heart to make known through St. Margaret Mary your love for humankind. Trusting in that Heart we pray,

Enkindle the flame of your love in our hearts.

O Sacred Heart, abyss of all goodness into which St. Margaret Mary plunged her every desire,

Encourage the impoverished to bring their emptiness to you so that you may fill them with your riches.

O Sacred Heart whom St. Margaret Mary knew as source of all joy,

Embrace the sorrowful and turn their mourning into dancing!

O Sacred Heart, you taught St. Margaret Mary that you desire obedience rather than sacrifice,

Grace us to find your will through faithfulness to our calling and to our life’s situations.

O Sacred Heart, you willed that St. Margaret Mary’s revelations be proclaimed to the world,

Continue to bless the many men and women inspired by these revelations and encourage them in their mission of love;

O Sacred Heart, you gave a message of warmth through St. Margaret Mary to a world grown cold,

In today’s world, so often permeated with self-indulgence, may you be known, honored and loved.

 O Sacred Heart, your love consumed St. Margaret Mary;

Set our hearts on fire with your love.

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

17 October 2012

Wednesday With Sr. Mary Berchmans

As we move forward in this week, let us listen to St. Margaret Mary’s words of wisdom so she can show us how we may grow in our love for the Heart of Jesus.

“Love, glory and praise be forever to the Heart of our adorable Savior. He is all love, all loving and all lovable!”

“I experience suffering on all sides, yet I will not fear, because I keep myself strongly entrenched in my secure fortress – the Sacred Heart of my divine Master. Like a wise leader, he deals out to me just enough strength for each occasion.”

“Take up your abode in this adorable Heart; bring to it your little vexations and annoyances, and your heart will then be calmed. You will find in this divine Heart the remedy for your ills, strength in your weakness and a refuge in all your needs.”

“To work or to suffer is all one to a heart that loves. Let us, then, leave the future to the loving Providence of this divine Heart which only asks of us fidelity to the present moment.”

“Refer all events to God so you may receive from his hand sweetness as well as bitterness, vexations as well as consolations. Bless his holy will in all that causes you suffering.”

“The Sacred Heart wishes for humble and submissive hearts that will have no other interest but to accomplish his good pleasure.”

I hope one or more of these thoughts might inspire us all to live a life immersed in the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He has shown us the way to live a holy life in the Gospels where St. Margaret Mary also found her inspiration and direction.

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

16 October 2012


Our Saint Margaret Mary has left us a beautiful legacy in devotion to the loving Heart of Jesus.

In a special visitation to our saint, Jesus said to her:

“Behold this heart which has so loved all God’s people
and receives so little love in return.”

One of our most blessed missions in life is to share the abundance of God’s love – a love so great that he sent his Son to show us how to live – how to “LIVE JESUS, the motto of the Visitation order.
Her advice for us today:

Take as your model and inspiration in every event and frame of mind, these words of our Lord: “Thy will be done!” adding: “My God, I abandon myself to Your loving heart.”

Jesus, gentle and humble of heart:
Make my heart like unto yours.

Still another inspiring thought from Wendy Wright, a true Salesian scholar:

Let us strive to make our hearts beat in rhythm with the Heart of Jesus as we seek to embrace his Good Pleasure in the events of our lives.

May the blessings of this feast day fill your hearts, dear readers, and may they bring you to an ever clearer understanding of God’s tremendous love for you individually.

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

15 October 2012

Blog for St. Margaret Mary

Tomorrow, October 16, we celebrate the feast of another one of our saints: Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, known for her intense love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Saint Margaret Mary was born just about the time that St. Jane de Chantal completed her earthly sojourn.

What did these two saints have in common? Both were graced with a deep knowledge of God’s love for each and every one of us as manifested in the life, death and resurrection of his beloved Son, Jesus.

As a Visitation Sister, following in the tradition of these two saints, I believe that my life has been blessed by their example, especially by their response to Our Lord’s invitation: “Learn from me who am gentle and humble of heart.” This is a goal worth striving for each day of our lives.

One thought that frequently comes to mind as I receive the Lord in Holy Communion is found in our Spiritual Directory. Our Founders advise us to receive our Lord into the very essence of our hearts and bring before him our senses and the offerings of the day, asking his blessing on each of them. As the Litany of the Sacred Heart depicts Christ as the King and Center of all hearts, I find it both strengthening and stabilizing to greet our Lord in the center of my being.

St. Margaret Mary offers us this advice:
To work or to suffer is all one to a heart that loves. Let us then, leave the future to the loving Providence of this divine Heart which only asks of us fidelity to the present moment.
It is reflective of St. Francis de Sales encouragement to
Leave the past to God’s merciful love, the future to his Divine Providence and embrace the present willingly and lovingly.
How blessed we are with the down-to-earth approach to sanctity encouraged by our Visitation Saints!

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

From a long-time staff member

A tiny scrap of paper changed my life forever. This jagged job ad led me through the Visitation Monastery doors, and up to the Sisters' Infirmary. Wish I'd known then that St. Frances de Sales used to say, "Trust in the Lord; lean on His mercy. Fear nothing." But the 30 Sisters knew. Their warm smiles and greetings immediately melted my nervousness. I could feel I had stepped into a different world and was on my way to a surprising spiritual adventure. But I had no way of knowing that I had also entered a place of miracles!

"Ann Harman," the pen-name of a member of our Monastery staff

13 October 2012

From Mother Jacqueline: On Short Prayers in a Busy Life

This comes from a book of daily sayings from St. Francis de Sales:

On Short Prayers in a Busy Life

(From a letter to Madame de Travernay, one of his counselees)

You ought to measure the time that you give to prayer by the multiplicity of your occupations; and since it has please our Lord to place in you a state of life in which you are exposed to perpetual distractions, you must be content with short prayers; but at the same time, they must become a daily duty, never to be omitted without real necessity.

I should like you in the morning, on your first aritsing, to kneel down and adore God, making the sign of the Cross and asking His blessing for the whole of the coming day; which can be done in the space of time which it would take to say one or two Paternosters. If you are able to be present a Mass, it will be sufficient to hear it with attention and reverence whilst saying your rosary.

In the evening, before supper or thereabouts, you might easily say a few fervent prayers, for about the space of a Pater; for there can be no duty which could bind you so closely that you cannot manage to steal this bit of leisure.

At night whilst preparing to go to bed, make a brief review of all your actions during the day; and before lying down, ask God to pardon the faults which you may have committed; beseeching Him to watch over you and to give you His blessing; all which you can do in the space of an Ave Maria. But especially I desire that during the day you should frequently retire into the solitude of your own heart with God, by short acts of fidelity and love.

08 October 2012

Part two of Fr. Lingan's sermon

This week we are serializing a sermon by Fr. Joseph E. Lingan, S.J. on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross that he gave on September 14, 2012 to the Georgetown Visitation Sisters at morning mass in our chapel.

Part 2 of 6

If on the cross we discover our honest self, sinful and ungrateful, we also find ourselves closely united with Jesus and Jesus with ourselves. If we look upon the cross with this kind of vision and faith, we are healed and saved. "There is no other name in the whole world given to men and women by which we are to be saved" (Acts 4:12).

This recognition of ourselves, our sinful and grumbling selves, stamped upon the dying person of Jesus, is what John is writing about. To accept this union of our sinful self with Jesus' sinless self, to perceive such love on Jesus' part that He looks like ourselves and takes our burdens upon Himself--all this requires faith.

07 October 2012

Feast of the Holy Rosary

Remember the Feast of the Holy Rosary (this year today, October 7), especially the Sorrowful Mysteries. Remember the cross, and the Passion of Jesus.

This week we will serialize a sermon by Fr. Joseph E. Lingan, S.J. on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross that he gave on September 14, 2012 to the Georgetown Visitation Sisters at morning mass in our chapel.

Part 1 of 6

The incident of the bronze serpent typifies Jesus on the cross and enables us to appreciate better the mystery of Jesus' crucifixion. Jesus becomes ourselves, even as Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
For our sakes God made him [Jesus] who did not know sin, to be sin, so that in him we might become the very holiness of God (2 Cor. 5:21)
Are we ready for that?  . . . are any of us ready to become the very holiness of God? Do we try to ready ourselves? My sisters in Christ, Jesus "emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in our human likeness, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross" for our sake.

When we look at the cross, we see ourselves and confess the effects of our sins. Jesus was made "to be sin," our sins, our grumbling, our impatience, our complaints, our inability to forgive.

YES, God so loved the world! (John 3:16) God so loved us!

(to be continued tomorrow)

06 October 2012

From Sr. Eleanor: A Model of Authenticity

We find a model of authenticity in the life and ministry of Jesus. Wherever He went, Jesus attracted people because there was something trustworthy about Him, something in His manner and message that touched people's hearts.
St. Francis de Sales

Sister Eleanor May Klaber, VHM

05 October 2012

From Our School: How We Share Salesian Spirituality With Students

(Part 2 of 2): Sr. Anne Francis getting to know two of the new freshmen.

It's always fun for the girls to spend a few minutes with the Sisters when they run into them outside of class. It makes a nice interlude for all during a busy day.

From Sr. Eleanor: Thought for the day

"Have confidence in the goodness, love and compassion of God."

"Blessed are hearts that bend, for they shall never be broken."

"We cannot always offer God great things, but at each moment we can offer little things with great love."
St. Francis de Sales

Sister Eleanor May Klaber, VHM

04 October 2012

From Our School: How We Share Salesian Spirituality With Students

(Part 1 of 2, one today and one tomorrow): Sr. Mary Roberta with her home room. Many of the Sisters have a home room (a 20-minute period 3 times a week).

Home room gives the students a chance to get to know the Sisters and gives the Sisters to share some of their unique Salesian Spirituality with the girls, lead them in a prayer and maybe even have a laugh or two. It's rumored there's occasionally food to share as well! The special bonds that can develop in such a short time are wonderful and treasured by all.

From Sr. Eleanor: A life of true devotion

St. Francis de Sales taught that a life of true devotion is authentic. True devotion comes from the heart. There is no conflict between the inside and the outside. Our spirituality permeates our whole being.

Authenticity means that the love of God invades our soul, takes root there, grows and bears fruit.
St. Francis de Sales

Sister Eleanor May Klaber, VHM

03 October 2012

From Sr. Eleanor: Our Spiritual Life

Our spiritual life is not something extra, not something added onto our everyday lives.

Our spiritual life is integrated into every part of our lives.
St. Francis de Sales

Sister Eleanor May Klaber, VHM

02 October 2012

From Sr. Mary Roberta: Good comment on today's feast by St. John Vianney

Saint John-Mary Vianney (1786-1859), priest, Curé of Ars
Sermon for the Feast of the Guardian Angels

"I am sending my angel before you" (Exodus 23,20)

Although the good God is sufficient to himself, nevertheless he makes use of the ministry of the angels to govern the world... When we see God taking such care of our lives we conclude that our souls are something truly great and precious if he is to employ all that is greatest in his court for its preservation and sanctification. He has given us his Son to save us; this same Son... gives to each of us one, and even several angels, who are solely occupied in asking on our behalf the graces and helps to our salvation that we need... Oh, how little people know what they are and what they were made for! In Holy Scripture we read that the Lord said to his people: “See, I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way” (Exodus 23,20)...

We should often pray to our guardian angels, carefully respect them and, above all, try to imitate them in all our actions. And the first thing we need to imitate in them is the thought of the presence of God... Surely, if we were completely penetrated with God's presence, how could we do evil? How much more pleasing to God would be all our good deeds!... God said to Abraham: “Would you be blameless? Walk in my presence” (Genesis 17,1). How could we possibly forget God so easily when we have Him always with us? Why are we not full of respect and gratitude towards our angels, who accompany us day and night?... Perhaps you will say: “I'm too unworthy to merit it.” My brethren, not only does God not lose sight of you for an instant but he gives you an angel who never ceases to guide your steps. Ah, happiness too great, yet too little known!

Sr. Mary Roberta Viano, VHM

From Sr. Eleanor: Being Authentic

Jesus' inside and Jesus outside' [were the same]: He taught and spoke "with authority." People found Jesus to be not only informative; more importantly, they found Him to be believable.

We are called to be holy and authentic whatever our state in life. We need to know who we are and to be who we are.

When we are authentic, we are in right relationship with ourselves.
St. Francis de Sales

Sister Eleanor May Klaber, VHM

01 October 2012

From Sr. Mary Alicia: Reading from St. Louis de Montfort

From The Love of Eternal Wisdom, St. Louis de Montfort. Excerpt from Chapter 13, "Summary of the Unbelievable Sorrows the Incarnate Wisdom Chose to Endure Out of Love For Us."

Read by Sr. Mary Alicia Sours, VHM
(Sister is pictured at the left in this photograph. In the middle is Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM, and at right is Sr. Joanne Gonter, VHM)

A visitor at Visitation

The son of our foundress, St. Jane de Chantal, wasn't as glad as Sr. Mary Roberta's son at her choice of the consecrated life! (Here is a link to that famous story...)