30 December 2012

Feast of the Holy Family, a post from Sr. Joanne Gonter

Veneration of the Holy Family was formally begun in the 17th century by Blessed Francois de Laval, the first bishop of Quebec. The Feast of the Holy Family was instituted by Pope Leo XIII in 1893 on the Sunday within the Octave of the Epiphany. In 1969 the feast was moved to the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas. The gospel of the feast, Luke 2:41-52, relates what is referred to as the Finding in the Temple or the Disputations, the usual names in art.

In December 2011 at a weekly audience, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the Holy Family. Here is a short excerpt:

"The house of Nazareth is a school of prayer where we learn to listen, to meditate, to penetrate the deepest meaning of the manifestation of the Son of God, drawing our example from Mary, Joseph and Jesus. The Holy Family is an icon of the domestic Church, which is called to pray together. The family is the first school of prayer where from their infancy, children learn to perceive God thanks to the teaching and example of their parents. An authentically Christian education cannot neglect the experience of prayer. If we do not learn to pray in the family, it will be difficult to fill this gap later. I would, then, like to invite people to rediscover the beauty of praying together as a family, following the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth."

Sr. Joanne Gonter, V.H.M.

29 December 2012

December 28, Feast of the Holy Innocents

Live + Jesus

Yesterday (December 28) marked the Feast of the Holy Innocents.
So much has been said about the children in Newtown, torn from their families and friends.
So many tears shed for them and for the unborn, scraped from their mothers' wombs.
Blood, violence, hate, war, psychosis, human rights
Victims, Innocents,
Madmen, Opportunists, Terrified People, Merchants of Death
Those who are willing to accept the status quo.

Francis de Sales
wrote of the Holy Innocents sacrificed in Jesus' name.
He saw them as victims, but also as powerful intercessors,
powerful spokespersons,
powerful revelations of a peace which can be achieved
if we want to achieve it.

Francis de Sales on the Death of a Child
You mourn for your child's death, but for him it is a great gain.
To you it brings burning sorrow, but to him, eternal joy.
The bitter passing of those who have lost life early
rips through our being.

Your Children
have entered the eternal
and you are left to deal with injustice and anger and pain.

So look at your children in heaven,
alive with the angels and the Holy Innocents.
They are grateful to you for having given them life,
for the care you gave them while they were in your charge.

They pray for you and yours with a thousand longings,
that you will attain the life they enjoy.
Abide in peace then, and keep your heart close to God and these brave little saints.
They remain in your hearts forever, and forever, their hearts are in God.

And let us work bravely with them to ensure that this never happens again.

Post from Sr. Mada-anne Gell, V.H.M.

27 December 2012

From Sr. Mada-anne, "What is our own mystery?"

Live + Jesus!

The Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Advent is marked by the proclamation of one of my favorite Gospels, the Visitation. Mary greets her dear cousin, Elizabeth after an arduous journey. The Virgin carries our newly conceived Savior in her womb; Elizabeth and her husband are still overawed by the news that they will have a child after years of hoping and waiting.

I think of Elizabeth, a barren woman. Perhaps she has been pregnant before. Perhaps she had experienced still births or miscarriages during her married life. Perhaps the child she is expecting now hasn't quickened yet. Perhaps she is living on faith and hope that the Angel's prophecy will be fulfilled, but finds herself tempted, after her many disappointments , by an occasional sense of unease, a twinge of fear.

And then Mary arrives and there is that embrace, and Jesus touches John and John leaps for joy. I like to imagine Mary and Elizabeth at that moment: the laughter, the excitement, the relief, the sure knowledge that God has truly touched them all.

St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal chose the Visitation as the central mystery of the Visitation Order precisely because the circumstances were so ordinary in appearance--a family reunion of sorts, a celebration of new life in the world. New children to anticipate and take joy in. An experience of exuberance, confidence, love and giddy happiness. This good news is not articulated until it is shared.

What is our own mystery, what is our mystery to share? God gives each one of us some special call, a call to be a messenger of love, a unique call that only we can discern. It's there. It's part of you. It could be that you haven't recognized it yet or that you haven't felt it leap in the womb of your hearts, but it is there, it does exist. Let us pray that we will recognize our gift, that we will embrace it, and that we will be brave in announcing such good news as we leap and dance and embrace the Word and each other.

Sr. Mada-anne Gell, V.H.M. Monastery Archivist

26 December 2012

Monastery gifts at Christmas Vespers

Our annual tradition of giving "gifts" (one per sister, chosen at random) continues. You can read a more detailed explanation from 2010 here.

Here is a series of images of the gift cards, not in order:

22 December 2012

Last two O Antiphons for Saturday and Sunday, from Sr. Mary Berchmans

"O King of all the nations,
the only joy of every human heart:
O keystone of the mighty arch of man,
COME and save us
whom you have created out of clay!"

Our hearts are made for you, O God, and they will be restless until they rest in you! These words of St. Augustine capture the essence of this O Antiphon. Our mighty God is sending his beloved Son not just to save us but also to lift us up to supernatural heights.

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, V.H.M.

20 December 2012

Friday post from Sr. Mary Berchmans

"O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal
light, sun of justice:
come, shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death."

As we approach ever closer to the feast of Christmas, the liturgy lights up our hopes and desires, naming our Messiah as the "radiant dawn", "splendor of eternal light" and "sun of justice". Each reference offers rich food for reflection.

Our saving Lord is coming to shine his eternal light on the dark spots of our world, to bring a spirit of peace to those who are in great sorrow and to plant seeds of justice among us so we may all unite in caring for those who live on the margins of society. How blessed we are to have such opportunities come our way. Let's not let them pass us by. COME, Lord Jesus, COME!

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, V.H.M.

Blessings at Christmas and the New Year from All the Sisters

From Saint Francis de Sales, "Sermons for Advent and Christmas"

"This is the grace that I desire for you, that you remain very near to this sacred Savior who is about to gather us all around Himself in order to keep us always under the standard of His most holy protection, just like the shepherd who has care of His sheep and of his flock. May His goodness grant us the grace to hear His voice, as sheep hear that of their shepherd [John 10:27], so that in recognizing Him as our sovereign shepherd we will not stray away nor listen to the voice of the stranger who remains near us like an infernal wolf, always ready to ruin and so devour us [I Peter 5:8]. May we have the fidelity to keep ourselves submissive, obedient and subject to His wishes and commands, in order that we might begin in this life what, with the help of God's grace, we shall do eternally in heaven."

(Image from visitationspirit.org)

Sr. Mary Berchmans: Entering Christ's Redemptive Work

O Key of David, O Royal Power of Israel,
controlling at your will the gate of heaven,
Come, break down the prison walls of death
for those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death,
and lead your captive people into freedom.

In hope, we pray Lord Jesus, that by your coming into our hearts anew this Christmastide, we may enter into your redemptive work of unlocking the hearts of those whose lives are imprisoned by addictions, mental illness, or violence. We pray that the feast of Christmas, the birthday of our God made man, may grace our world with eternal values and break the fetters of godlessness which inflict such suffering.

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, V.H.M.

A series of posts from Vespers with supporters

Last Wednesday evening the Sisters invited some of the Monastery and School's most generous and loyal supporters to join them for Vespers. Over the past several years this event has become a favorite with the school community and many say it is one of the highlights of their Christmas celebrations. A reception follows Vespers, giving the guests a chance to mingle an visit with the Sisters.

Photo 4 of 4.

19 December 2012

Blossoms of good works, Sr. Mary Berchmans

O Flower of Jesse's stem,
you have been raised up
as a sign for all people;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

One translation of this O Antiphon speaks of the "root of Jesse" while this one refers to the "Flower of Jesse's stem."

Perhaps we can see here a rootedness in values which will burst forth into blossoms of good works as our Messiah comes. He comes as a sign of what is to happen when leaders of nations can grow silent before the immensity of God's goodness and all peoples will embrace his norms of peace and justice. Come, dear Lord, to help us achieve this vision of holiness of life, individually and as nations.

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, V.H.M.

A series of posts from Vespers with supporters

Last Wednesday evening the Sisters invited some of the Monastery and School's most generous and loyal supporters to join them for Vespers. Over the past several years this event has become a favorite with the school community and many say it is one of the highlights of their Christmas celebrations. A reception follows Vespers, giving the guests a chance to mingle an visit with the Sisters.

Photo 3 of 4, with one more coming tomorrow.

18 December 2012

Sunday homily after the Sandy Hook tragedy, from an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales

Homily for December 16, 2012
Monthly "Salesian Mass" at Visitation (larger mass in the auditorium that is frequently attended by alumni)
Fr. Kevin Nadolski, OSFS

A great social prophet once said that our faith is meant to help us make sense out of the nonsense of our lives. We live amid so much nonsense: our important relationships fail, our loved ones struggle with illness or die, our dreams are dashed by the chill of life’s realities. And, this morning just 73 hours from Friday’s shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, we are struggling to make sense out of the nonsense of the evil, senseless, horrific pain that 27 families and one community are experiencing as the whole world empathizes at the unnecessary loss of innocent life. If our faith is to help us make sense out of that nonsense, then our faith has a lot of heavy lifting to do today. 

We come to church amid a school community—this Visitation faith community—where we define ourselves by Salesian gentleness, a virtue treasured by St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal, our founders.  Such violence is not only foreign to us; it is repulsive and has the power to sicken us if we think of it too much or watch too much media coverage of the carnage. 

Yet, in this church we hear some powerful words that are hard to hear, no less put into action in the aftermath of the shooting in Connecticut or in the wake of the challenges we experience in our lives: “Shout for joy; sing joyfully; be glad and exult with all your heart,” says Zephaniah. And Paul is equally ecstatic: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again, rejoice!”

I don’t think many people in our nation feel quite like rejoicing or shouting for joy. And, neither did Zephaniah and Paul. Zephaniah was trying to get his Jewish people to stop worshipping false gods in the Temple, a huge problem, and Paul was in prison and the Phillipians were being persecuted, experiencing dissension, and worried about Paul. Nobody was happy, everyone had heavy hearts, but here they were being exhorted to rejoice. And, so are we on this Third Sunday of Advent. Still, a hard task. 

The question that Zephaniah and Paul were asking themselves was not the “why” question, as in “Why is this happening to us?”  “Why did God let this happen to me?”  Rather, they are asking themselves the “How” question:  “How do I move forward in faith amid such pain, grief, anger, rage, and yes, evil?”

They exhort their followers, in faith, to dig deep, deep down within themselves to find a place of joy, a cause of goodness in themselves, and within their lives. From prison Paul writes “Rejoice!” Not from a beautiful beach vista. Not some warm, fuzzy experience of community. No, in the lonely, isolated pain of a prison cell. But, his words go on: “In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”  Maybe this is the way we are to pray for our neighbors in Newtown, Connecticut. In petition for them, but with thanksgiving for the blessings of our lives. As we continue our prayers, what thanksgivings will we add to them?  What are we most thankful for as we pray for those who live in pain?  Might this move us, like Paul and Zephaniah, from pain to some faith-filled joy?

Joy is different from happiness, fun, and frivolity. It is more like an anchor; it keeps us in the presence of God.  An anchor that gives us stability to endure the challenges of life. It is also an anchor that allows to sit still and not rush from the delights of life. 

It is joy that can have a family laugh and reminisce with great stories even at the funeral of a loved one.  It allows us to celebrate with gusto and dance at a wedding when we know the honeymoon can’t last forever.  To move on when even the marriage doesn’t last. It lets a family care for a sick child afraid of the possibilities but in love with smiles whenever they come. Or to quote Robbie Parker, father of six-year-old Emilie who was murdered on Friday: “As we move on from what happened here, what happened to so many people, let us not let it turn into something that defines us.” He went on to offer his prayers and condolences to the family of the man who executed his little girl.

Dorothy Day said it well:  “Joy and sorrow, life and death, always so close together.” Perhaps they are so close together because they only make sense when we are anchored in the presence of God. 

It is living in the presence of God where joy is found. Marjory Zoet Bankson, president of Faith At Work, an ecumenical resource center that develops small faith groups in the churches, says it best in her consideration about the joy among the poor.  She quotes Michael Curry, an Episcopal priest who works in the inner city of Baltimore, He says that the biblical vision of peace and justice provides the basis for true joy out of gratitude. 

‘Why didn’t the slaves go crazy?’ Curry asks, ‘They had no doctors, no therapists or social workers.  Even families were separated and sold. I believe it was their singing. The church spirituals took away their shame, wiped away their tears and made them part of God’s family.’ Without the larger framework of God’s purpose and promise, joy would have been absurd.” 

This larger framework of God’s purpose and promise is living—and singing—in God’s presence, even when there is little to sing about. The slaves certainly knew this! (The Living Pulpit: Joy, October/Decemeber 1996).

Joy doesn’t occur when we get what we want.  In fact, it gives us stability when we are not getting what we want. And it lets us delight in those times when we do, in fact, get what we want—and need.

Our Advent icon, Mary, the Mother of God, definitely was a joyful woman. Yet, she did not want to be the mother of God. In fact, I am willing to bet that she didn’t want the job at all. But, her anchoring joy allowed her to be stable enough to cherish the beauty of raising Jesus and allowed her to endure and survive the pain
of watching him die.

And, our anchoring joy will allow us to live Jesus, during these days of preparing for Christmas with conflicted, heavy hearts and whether we feel like singing or not. 

I close with the words that conclude our first reading, but for some reason, the church left them out. The second part of the verse 18 is very, very important for us today as we mourn as a nation or at anytime we try to make sense out of the nonsense of our lives: The prophet writes: “I will remove disaster from among you, so that no one may recount your disgrace.” Yes, God will remove disaster from among us, so that we may live in true grace. This is cause for rejoicing, and this is the promise of God who comes through the life of the Holy Child and the eternal lives of 20 children and their teachers. To counter violence, we can’t wait to hear the great Christmas message that greeted a little child and is needed now more than ever: “Peace on earth!”

May this peace be with you!

Sr. Mary Berchmans, Second "O Antiphon"

O Adonai and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the flaming bush,
and gave him the law on Sinai,
COME and redeem us by your outstretched arm.

The symbol of the burning bush is a familiar one. It conveys two meanings: God reveals himself as a compassionate God who encourages Moses to free his people from the bonds of Egyptian slavery. Secondly, God will be with Moses, supporting him and his people as he leads them out of Egypt.

God's outstretched arm will always reach out to those in need of his redeeming love. Today we pray that Adonai, leader of the house of Israel, will bring peace to our world, especially to the people of Israel and Palestine.

May the God of gentle strength enter our hearts anew as we continue to prepare for his birth on Christmas Day. 

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, V.H.M.

A series of posts from Vespers with supporters

Last Wednesday evening the Sisters invited some of the Monastery and School's most generous and loyal supporters to join them for Vespers. Over the past several years this event has become a favorite with the school community and many say it is one of the highlights of their Christmas celebrations. A reception follows Vespers, giving the guests a chance to mingle an visit with the Sisters.

Photo 2 of 4, to be posted over the next few days.

17 December 2012

A series of photos from Vespers with supporters

Last Wednesday evening the Sisters invited some of the Monastery and School's most generous and loyal supporters to join them for Vespers. Over the past several years this event has become a favorite with the school community and many say it is one of the highlights of their Christmas celebrations. A reception follows Vespers, giving the guests a chance to mingle an visit with the Sisters.

Photo 1 of 4, to be posted over the next few days.

O Monday, O Antiphons

This week the liturgy highlights the "O Antiphons," both during Mass and at Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. These antiphons address our coming Savior using familiar names from the Old Testament.

Today, on the 17th, we pray:

"O Wisdom, that proceeds from the mouth of the most High, reaching from end to end mightily and disposing all things sweetly, come and teach us the way of prudence."

How greatly we need to urge the Wisdom of the Spirit to penetrate our world today ordering all things with gentle strength and teaching us how to walk paths of prudence. 

We yearn to see the wisdom and gentle strength of our loving God  replace the ignorance and violence, which is rampant in so many places of our world today. Help us, Lord, to concentrate on preparing paths of peace and prudence as we move ever closer to your birth in Bethlehem.. May this be our Christmas prayer. 

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, V.H.M.

16 December 2012

Third Sunday of Advent With Sr. Mary Berchmans

As we move forward to the Third Sunday in Advent, our thoughts and prayers turn to embrace Emmanuel “God with us.” We pray very especially for the good people of Newtown Connecticut whose pain and suffering at this time defy description; may Emmanuel be with them to give them strength, courage and compassion at a time when their lives have changed so dramatically.

The horrific events that took place in Newtown Connecticut bring us to our knees in an earnest prayer that our loving God will be with the inconsolable people of this lovely, peaceful town as they mourn the loss of twenty little children and their faithful self-sacrificing teachers and their school principal.

Each time we kneel before the crèche during these blessed days, each time we receive a card picturing a Madonna and child, let us stop for just a moment and offer a prayer for the parents who have lost a child and the children who have lost a parent or loved one in this sad, sad event.

Mary, Mother of all Consolation, be with these grieving parents and children who are feeling the loss of their loved ones so keenly, especially at this time when the feast of Christmas approaches.

In the words of St Francis de Sales, "May their hearts be full of courage and their courage full of confidence in God!" 

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, V.H.M. 

15 December 2012

Four days of Advent photos, day four

The fourth photo from a set of four. These were taken when children from Holy Trinity School came to Visitation to sing carols for the sisters during Advent.

14 December 2012

Four days of Advent photos, day three

The third photo from a set of four. These were taken when children from Holy Trinity School came to Visitation to sing carols for the sisters during Advent.

13 December 2012

Four days of Advent photos, day two

The second photo from a set of four. These were taken when children from Holy Trinity School came to Visitation to sing carols for the sisters during Advent.

12 December 2012

Four days of Advent photos, day one

Today and the following three days we'll post photos from Ana Kelly, the Communications Director at Holy Trinity Catholic Church next door to our Monastery and School.

Children from Holy Trinity School visited the Sisters last Sunday to sing Christmas carols in the chapel. Looks like a wonderful time was had by all!

09 December 2012

Advent Post From Mother Jackie: The Rosary of Our Lady

Dearest Everyone,

This selection for my Advent Blog Entry is from a very favorite spiritual author and guide of mine! Msgr. Romano Guardini was a truly, deeply spiritual priest and director of souls. I think you will find his meditations on the "Advent" mysteries and "Christmas" mysteries as beautiful and powerful as I do!
The life of Mary, as the Gospel tells it, is as humanly true as it can possibly be, but in this human quality it is filled with a mystery of divine communion and love, the depth of which is unfathomable. The Rosary points in this direction.
May Our Lady of the Rosary bless you with her Son, Jesus, especially during these beautiful seasons of the Church year!

Mother Jacqueline Burke, VHM

(Note from the blog editor... we will post very short selections this week. However, the book has much more, and you may purchase the book here.) And here is what the publisher says about it:
Christians of many denominations are rediscovering the Rosary of Our Lady, an ancient form of prayer that has brought consolation, peace, and profound happiness to countless generations of believers.

If you are turning to this venerable prayer for the first time, you will find in these pages a clear, concise, and grace-filled introduction to the Rosary and its Mysteries.
If you have long been a devotee of the Rosary, your ardor for it will be quickened by the author’s revelations of new riches in this prayer. You will be grateful for his sage guidance as he leads you — by way of the Rosary — closer to holiness, and to your final union with God.

“In this book, Msgr. Guardini makes the Mysteries of the Rosary come alive.
1 recommend it highly for spiritual reading.”
John Cardinal O’Connor

“I urge all the faithful to rediscover this form of Marl an devotion in which we contemplate the mysteries of Christ’s life with Mary’s heart.”
Pope John Paul II

03 December 2012

New post on Salesian Spirituality from Sr. Eleanor

Salesian spirituality is optimistic. It affirms the innate, God-given dignity of each person. It believes in the possibility of living a happy, healthy and holy life.

Salesian spirituality is relational. Growing in holiness does not occur in a vacuum. Rather, striving for Christian perfection always takes pace within the context of our relationships with God, ourselves, and one another.

"Have confidencein 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."

Sr. Eleanor May Klaber, VHM