08 July 2013

Rest and revival

Many lay people -- myself included -- struggle with unrealistic schedules and expectations, and the ominous 21st century phenomenon of being available 24/7 to clients and suppliers. 

I have begun to tell my clients, I am not available 24/7. Period. I don't take calls during meals, one-on-one meetings, daily Mass and my daily commitment to a half hour of mental prayer each day. Usually, I am privileged to have this time in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in my parish church during daily adoration. Sometimes, I just pull off the highway and find a quiet spot. 

My spiritual father, St. Francis de Sales has this to say:

"But especially I commend earnest mental prayer to you, more particularly such as bears upon the Life and Passion of our Lord. If you contemplate Him frequently in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with Him, you will grow in His Likeness, and your actions will be moulded on His.."

After 30 minutes with Christ, and Him crucified, I am revived and ready to continue the race. And I am confident that what I do and say is molded on the example of Christ, my God. I rest knowing I am doing my best to be like Him in my daily life.

From David Gardiner, a long-time friend of our community, who has our Cross of Affiliation

07 July 2013

Reflecting back on the 4th of July

July 4th has special meaning here at Georgetown Visitation. Like everyone in the city, from 4 years up,we look forward all year to watching the sensational fountain of fireworks over the Washington Monument.

All other days, we look elsewhere for the sparkle of beauty. In 1673, St. Margaret Mary, a Visitation Sister, was told that the Tabernacle alone can not contain the shower of Love. "The Sacred Heart of Christ is an inexhaustible fountain and its sole desire is to pour itself out into the hearts of the humble…”

Between exciting Holidays, the Sisters know how to soothe the spirit, instead of craving awesome entertainment. The Lord, Himself, so eager to fill all hearts to overflowing, reminded St. Margaret Mary, “But above all preserve peace of heart. This is more valuable than any treasure.”

From our nurse, Priscilla Posch

05 July 2013

Poem that gets to the heart of things

Here's a poem I like by Raymond Carver. It was written shortly before his death at age 50:
"Late Fragment" 

And did you get what

you wanted from this life, even so? 

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself

beloved on the earth.
Sr. Mary Roberta Viano, VHM

29 June 2013

Remembering July 8, 1993

As we move toward the month of July our thoughts turn to July 8, 1993 - 20 years ago- when we experienced a fire that totally destroyed our main academic building. It was a blazing hot day - 103 plus - and painters using heat guns while painting the trim on our main building caused a huge fire that destroyed the five story academic building.

This incident in the history of our monastery and school reminded us of a steadfast teaching of our founder, Francis de Sales; namely, that God's good pleasure may be discovered in the incidents and accidents of our lives. It is our challenge to make certain that these incidents and/or accidents become blessings. 

Our fire indeed brought our monastery and school innumerable blessings as well as some huge challenges. We have grown stronger as a result of this experience which can be likened to the rise of the phoenix from the ashes

In the words of the Editor of our 1995 Yearbook: 

"This year we have truly risen to the occasion. We have adapted to our new situation (classrooms in trailers) and succeeded within its limitations. As the Academy building continues its journey to perfection, so do we. With each new day we rise like the phoenix."

May God be Praised!

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

27 June 2013

Ordination of Ed Ogden

Today will be a day filled with blessings as we attend the ordination of our Campus Minister, Ed Ogden. Ed has been a brother in the Order of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales for 25 years and during the past year discerned a call to the priesthood. 

Many members of our school and monastery communities will be traveling to de Sales University near Allentown, PA to witness this glorious occasion for soon-to-be Father Ed Ogden

Our Campus Minister has been a great source of Salesian spirituality for our faculty and staff and for many of our students who have participated in the Kairos retreats he leads.

Please add your prayers to ours as three members of the Oblate community will be ordained today Thursday, June 27.


Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

26 June 2013

Fill me with grace

Today I wish to share with you an inspiring prayer which fell into my lap a few days ago.  It beautifully expresses our Salesian spirituality and has given me an extra "oomph" in my efforts to follow Jesus more closely.
It comes from the Oblates Helper's Guild.

Jesus, be a guest in my heart today.
Help me always to recognize you.
When I feel sad, send me joy,
when I feel flawed, pour in your love,
when I feel empty, fill me with grace.

Jesus, I am grateful that you live in me.
Make my heart warmer, more vulnerable,
more pliable and easily mended.

O Jesus, let my attitude be yours. 
Help me to empty self
and be filled with service for others.
Engrave LIVE  JESUS on my heart
so that all my actions speak your love.
I ask this in your name.  Amen.

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

25 June 2013

Calming the Tempest

Today we offer a timely thought from our Foundress, St. Jane de Chantal

She offers us a little model of what we might do when we are taken by surprise as we peacefully row our boat throughout our day.

"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 which are found closer to the shore."

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

Language Immersion Trip to Spain

Sr. Mary Roberta enjoying the beach in Cadiz, Spain, during a two-week, language-immersion trip from June 8th to June 22nd with a group of our school's juniors and seniors. More photos to come later!

24 June 2013

June 24, 1799

Today is the 214th anniversary of the founding of Georgetown Visitation in 1799. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the rich history of our monastery and school. The Sisters who have gone before us experienced with courage the many vicissitudes that life brought them during these early years - wars, depressions, slavery, dire poverty - yet in the midst of these hardships our dear Sisters always showed a beautifully resilient spirit.

Today we stand on the shoulders of these remarkable women with hearts filled with gratitude for the rich heritage they have left us. It is  now our sacred responsibility to carry their spirit forward as we face the challenges of life in this 21st century. 

The history of our monastery and school continues to teach us many lessons of steadfast faith, long-lasting hope intertwined with an undying charity. God has blessed us in so many ways and we are deeply grateful.

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

12 June 2013

St. Francis de Sales on "Devotion," offered by Sr. Eleanor


The virtue of devotion is neither more nor less than a general inclination and promptitude of spirit to do what we know is pleasing to God. It is the joyful expansion of the heart spoken of in the Psalms: "I have run in the way of your commandments since you have set me free."

Ordinary people walk along the path of God; devout people run; very devout people fly.

Times of prayer must become so much a part of our day that we never omit them except out of great necessity.

The length of our prayer should be in proportion to the amount of work we have to do.

From St. Francis de Sales, offered by Sr. Eleanor May Klaber, V.H.M.

We're back on the blog!

Response to moving to Facebook was not good, because even though our Facebook page is open to the public, many people cannot access it because of firewalls at their employers' offices. We know that you want to catch up with Visitation Monastery whenever you can throughout the day, so for now we will post in both places until another solution is found.

If you recall, originally everything posted here also showed up on the Facebook page, but that changed when Blogger (run by Google) and Facebook failed to reach an agreement on cross-posting. We'll do it mechanically for now and then keep you apprised of future changes.

22 May 2013

Final Day, Four Days of Photos From Lourdes

Today is the last of four days of photos from Sr. Anne Francis and Sr. Bernardine's visit to Lourdes. Accompanying the photos have been commentary from Sr. Anne Francis.

Pilgrimage To Lourdes

Pilgrims from all over the world who come here immerse themselves in the grottos, 17 pools (6 for men and 11 for women).

Here is where I was able to see and witness faith uniting all. Everyone was kind and loving. There seemed to be an infusion of love to every soul. Strangers smiled and waved at one another. This was a moment to behold as one watched and felt the Spirit of Gold reign in the hearts of all. I shall live to savor those very beautiful moments for the rest of my life.

21 May 2013

Day Three of Four Days of Photos From Lourdes

Beginning two days ago, plus today and tomorrow, we will post photos from Sr. Anne Francis and Sr. Bernardine's visit to Lourdes. Accompanying the photos will be commentary from Sr. Anne Francis.

Pilgrimage To Lourdes

As you might already have known, Lourdes lies south of Paris in the foothill of the Pyrenees mountains.

The Grotto of Massabielle is the site of St. Bernadette’s visions of the Virgin Mary in 1858. The Blessed Virgin is said to have pointed out a previously undiscovered spring into the grotto and instructed Bernadette to drink from it.

The spring water is believed to possess healing powers from our Blessed Mother, and the Church officially recognizes miraculous healing. (continued tomorrow)

20 May 2013

Day Two of Four Days of Photos From Lourdes

Yesterday, today and for two days to follow we will post photos from Sr. Anne Francis and Sr. Bernardine's visit to Lourdes. Accompanying the photos will be commentary from Sr. Anne Francis.

Pilgrimage To Lourdes

When mother Jacqueline told me that I would be a companion to Sr. Bernardine I was taken by surprise, and it took me a while to think over about the words I had just heard from her. Yes indeed I was going to be part of this wonderful history of our faith. (continued tomorrow)

19 May 2013

Four days of photos from Lourdes

Today and for three days to follow we will post photos from Sr. Anne Francis and Sr. Bernardine's visit to Lourdes. Accompanying the photos will be commentary from Sr. Anne Francis.

Pilgrimage To Lourdes

I had always read about Lourdes and even heard stories about the place. Never at any time of my life have I ever dreamt of ever stepping my feet in that historic place. (continued tomorrow)

13 May 2013

12 May 2013

Fr. Schall and Lord Peter Wimsey

A fascinating article from one of our former chaplains, Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. Fr. Schall has a legendary reputation as a professor and scholar at Georgetown University, and he retired this year.


Sr. Mary Roberta Viano, VHM 

10 May 2013

St. Damien De Veuster, Part II of II

The blog posts for May 9th and 10th will be about Saint Damien De Veuster, known for decades as “Father Damien of Molokai". Saint Damien was canonized on October 11, 2009.

The feast of Saint Damien De Veuster is celebrated today. Usually a saint’s feast day is the date of his or her death, but as April 15th often falls in Lent, the choice was made instead for May 10th. According to the Hawaii Catholic Herald, that date was picked because it marks a significant event in his life, a day on which he performed a particular act of supreme charity and selflessness that would ultimately lead to his canonization. On May 10, 1873 he stepped onto the island of Molokai and made it both his life’s work and eventual place of death. The opening prayer of the feast day Mass reads in part, “Father of mercy, in Saint Damien you have given us a shining witness of love for the poorest and most abandoned. Grant that by his intercession, as faithful witnesses of the heart of your Son Jesus, we too may be servants of the most needy and rejected.”

Sr. Joanne Gonter, VHM

09 May 2013

St. Damien De Veuster, Part I of II

The blog posts for May 9th and 10th will be about Saint Damien De Veuster, known for decades as “Father Damien of Molokai". Saint Damien was canonized on October 11, 2009.

Joseph De Veuster was born in Belgium January 3, 1840. In 1859 he entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts and took the name Damien. Arriving in Honolulu in March 1864, he was ordained for service as a “country missionary” in Hawaii. When the Hawaiian Government deported anyone infected by leprosy, then thought to be an incurable disease, to the island of Molokai, Bishop Louis Maigret asked for priest volunteers to take turns visiting the island. In 1873, Damien was the first to go and then, “at his own request and that of the lepers, he remained on Molokai” for the rest of his life.

When he contracted the disease in 1885, Damien, using the expression “we lepers,” found his strength in the Eucharist. He died on April 15, 1889, having served sixteen years among the lepers.

In 1938 the process for his beatification was introduced in Belgium. Pope Paul VI signed the Decree on the “heroicity of his virtues” in July 1977. In July 1995, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II.

Sr. Joanne Gonter, VHM

07 May 2013

Remembrances from Sr. Josephine

The following quotations are from a small handwritten collection made by Sister Josephine Di Biase (1930-2013) and found after her death in her room:

“The education of children depends less on the spoken word than on the living examples set by the teachers themselves.” Thomas Merton

“Be patient with everyone but above all with yourself.” Saint Francis de Sales

“The opportunity to do great things for God does not come very often, but at every moment we can do little things with great love.” Saint Francis de Sales

“Love is our reason for living. Love is our reason for giving.” (not identified)

Photo of Sr. Josephine with Michelle, a nurse in our infirmary.

Sr. Joanne Gonter, VHM

05 May 2013

More thoughts about Sr. Mary Josephine

Last week we shared a message on two days about Sister Mary Josephine DiBiase, VHM. Sister died in our infirmary on April 25th and her funeral was held in our chapel on April 30th, enabling family members to be present. Sister Josephine, born in Fairmont WV in 1930, was a graduate of Fairmont State University. For 11 years she taught in an elementary school in Loudon County VA. In 1963 she became a member of the Georgetown Visitation community and in 1968 transferred to a Visitation community where there was an elementary program for boys and girls: De Sales Heights Academy in Parkersburg WV. Noted for her skill in teaching reading, she taught there for 23 years. Most recently she was a member of the Visitation community in Wheeling WV for five years and since 2010 has been here at Georgetown. The following is an excerpt from the homily given by Father Charles Currie, SJ, at her funeral:

“Teaching little children is so important, especially in the earliest years when their precious spontaneity and creativity need both channeling and nourish- ing... Teaching reading is a special vocation in itself...What a gift, for a child or an adult, to be able to read, to have the excitement of words bouncing off a page... Sister Josephine made that kind of revelation possible for children for 23 years in Parkersburg WV. Think of what so many women and men today owe to her.”

Sr. Joanne Gonter, VHM

30 April 2013

Sisters' Dinner at the Jesuit Residence, Part 7 of 7

The Visitation Sisters were guests of Georgetown University's Jesuit Community at Wolfington Hall on Monday, April 15. From April 24-30 we'll post photos from the event.

29 April 2013

Sisters' Dinner at the Jesuit Residence, Part 6 of 7

The Visitation Sisters were guests of Georgetown University's Jesuit Community at Wolfington Hall on Monday, April 15. From April 24-30 we'll post photos from the event.

Cute Catholic meme

From http://www.catholicmemes.com/success-kid/did-you-just-say-and-also-with-you/:

28 April 2013

Sisters' Dinner at the Jesuit Residence, Part 5 of 7

The Visitation Sisters were guests of Georgetown University's Jesuit Community at Wolfington Hall on Monday, April 15. From April 24-30 we'll post photos from the event.

Angels in the sky

Taken in Florida after announcement of Pope Francis
Taken from: http://pinterest.com/pin/569986896559342302/

Sr. Mary Roberta Viano, VHM

Antiphon for Morning Prayer on the 4th Saturday of Easter

Live + Jesus!

"God loved the world so much that He gave us his only Son"

Francis de Sales held that, even if we had never committed the original sin, Jesus would have come down to earth anyway, because He loves us and enjoys our company. He said it Himself:

"My delight is to be with the Children of Men."

He walks among usl, but we seldom recognize Him. He is present in the people around us, the world and the good that it holds.

The spirit of the Lord lives within each of us, the source of our life's breath. When we listen and when we speak, God is speaking and listening too.

He loves us. He delights in our presence. He became one of us, with all the pains and sorrows and regrets that entails. He tells us that we bring Him more joy, even in our sin and struggles, than pain.

He tells us that we are worth dying for.

May God be praised!

Sr. Mada-anne Gell, VHM

27 April 2013

Sisters' Dinner at the Jesuit Residence, Part 4 of 7

The Visitation Sisters were guests of Georgetown University's Jesuit Community at Wolfington Hall on Monday, April 15. From April 24-30 we'll post photos from the event.

A Truly Faithful Visitation Sister

As we bid a final farewell to our dear Sister Josephine who left us in a hurry yesterday to meet her loving God, our thoughts are filled with the beauty of her life - a life which mirrored our Salesian virtues in so many different ways.

Sister possessed the virtues of humility and gentleness to perfection. Her simplicity in meeting the events of each day was refreshing while her genuine acceptance of God's will in the challenges of her life inspired us all. She was not one to complain; on the contrary she always expressed a lovely spirit of gratitude.

Perhaps her greatest gift was her selfless and loving care of one of her Sisters in Parkersburg; a Sister whose physical condition demanded a tremendous amount of support. Sister Josephine was always at her side and gave of herself unstintingly as she ministered to her Sister until her friend's final days.

One of the graces of living in community life is the joy of experiencing the everyday holiness of our Sisters. Our gratitude for the example Sister Josephine offered us of the power of holy living will long remain with us.

Requiescat in pace, dear Sister!

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

Angels Around Us

Make yourself familiar with the angels, and behold them frequently in spirit for without being seen, they are present with you.

-St. Francis de Sales

Sr. Mary Roberta Viano, VHM

26 April 2013

Sisters' Dinner at the Jesuit Residence, Part 3 of 7

The Visitation Sisters were guests of Georgetown University's Jesuit Community at Wolfington Hall on Monday, April 15. From April 24-30 we'll post photos from the event.

25 April 2013

Passing of a Gentle Soul

Sr. Mary Josephine DiBiase, VHM, died this morning on the Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist. Below is a photograph of her with Sr. Rose Wangui. She was 83.

She originally entered the Monastery here in Georgetown, but later moved to our house in Wheeling, West Virginia. After that closed, she and the other Wheeling sisters returned to us in Georgetown. She taught elementary school for many years.

Watch for new intrusions

Another Salesian Principle for Holy Living has to include an important element:

Strive for Balance
and Moderation

In this age of texting, tweeting, emailing, voice mailing, etc. etc.it is easy to allow these new "toys" to intrude into our lives, especially in our personal social relations with friends. I use the word "intrude" purposely because I think it is quite easy to become addicted to these social media and this can create an imbalance in our lives.

Perhaps if St. Francis de Sales were with us today he would caution, "Salt and sugar are both excellent things, but too much of either will spoil the dish."

May we discover helpful ways to introduce balance and moderation into our lives!

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

Sisters' Dinner at the Jesuit Residence, Part 2 of 7

The Visitation Sisters were guests of Georgetown University's Jesuit Community at Wolfington Hall on Monday, April 15. From April 24-30 we'll post photos from the event.

24 April 2013

Sisters' Dinner at the Jesuit Residence, Part 1 of 7

The Visitation Sisters were guests of Georgetown University's Jesuit Community at Wolfington Hall on Monday, April 15. From April 24-30 we'll post photos from the event.

Live in the Present Moment

Here is another important hint for Holy Living in the Salesian Tradition:

Live in The Present Moment:

St. Francis de Sales offers us this helpful advice: "Leave the past to God's mercy, the future to his Divine Providence and embrace the present willingly and lovingly."

It can be very futile to dwell on the past and even more so to worry about the future. The Romans expressed it well: "Carpe Diem!" Live today well.

Living in the present moment is an important element in Salesian spirituality which encourages us to concentrate on the gifts or challenges of the present and accept them as coming from the loving hand of God - no matter how indirectly. Use them well to grow in holiness!
Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

23 April 2013

Gentleness and Humility

Today let's listen to Father John Fisher, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, as he speaks of the beauty of the virtues of gentleness and humility.

To be humble is to live in the truth of who we are in the sight of God. Name your weaknesses; name your strengths; most of all name your need for God's love, mercy, forgiveness and justice. "Sometimes," says St. Francis de Sales,  "we so occupy ourselves with trying to live like angels that we neglect to be good men and women."

"Be gentle: live in the truth of who you are in relation to yourself and others. Put yourself in others' shoes. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Powerful is St. Francis de Sales' insight: "Nothing is so strong as gentleness; nothing so gentle as real strength."

May your day be filled with gentle strength!

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

22 April 2013

After Alumnae Weekend

This past weekend we welcomed close to 400 alumnae back to our lovely campus. This is always a wonderful weekend as we meet and greet our alums from as far back as 75 years since graduation.

One of our alums who came back from Boston to celebrate her 65th anniversary of graduation - hard to believe it has been that long - sent a lovely thank you note mentioning how great it was to hear younger young alumnae express admiration for the values which have remained with her for these 65 years.

I gave a little day of reflection for about 40 alumnae on Ten Qualities for Holy Living in the Salesian Tradition. I will share some of these key points with you this week - a few at a time.

Here is a great one: "roll with the punches!:" Pick your battles, Be steadfast on principle but flexible in detail, "Blessed are the hearts that bend", observes St. Francis de Sales, "for they shall never be broken."

Sr. Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

18 April 2013

Imitators of Jesus

An article in the January 7-14, 2013 issue of America magazine predates the election of our outstanding, humble, Holy Father, Pope Francis, a Jesuit himself.  I wanted to share Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J., with you as my inspiration, like Pope Francis – both of whom are imitators of Jesus – loving, reaching out to the disenfranchised.  For Fr. Ciszek, this meant prisoners in Russia . . . it meant suffering with them, himself.  Please know both saintly men – one in Heaven, the other on earth at this time – are holding us all in the Lord Jesus’ Heart and Hands – in His Risen Blessing of us, born of His dying for us!  The article can be found at:   http://americamagazine.org/issue/article/chained-free

Mother Jacqueline

14 April 2013

Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening

“God has drawn you out of this nothing to make you what you are, merely out of his own pure goodness, since He has no need of you whatsoever.” St. Francis de Sales

Am I presumptuous to claim God does have a need for me? Not a “need” as we humans understand the word. But I believe He has a work has chosen from all eternity for each of us. Only the individual person knows it is.

Can he miss the “call” altogether? Of course! For some of us it is a long time before we wake up to what He is asking - so many things crowd into our lives. We become attached to the “World,” whatever that may be.

Speak Lord, show me the way, Your way. What is He saying? Is He saying “I want all of you”?

I think of Joan of Arc - called totally out of her serene life into battle, fighting, ultimately dying on the stake.

How many holy people are called to be of “use” for God? Who followed His inner calling: Dorothy Day, St. Louis (king and crusader), Caryll Houslander, Kateri Tekawitha, St. Rose of Lima.

These are known saints who answered God’s call. How many have said and are saying “yes” to God asking? “Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening.”

Sr. Eleanor May Klaber, VHM

13 April 2013

Spring blossoms at Visitation

Visitation sophomore Catherine Mary Barr took this photo on our grounds.

"We get to see God’s artistic talents each day as our campus is in full bloom!  Here is a picture right outside Founder’s Hall."

Beloved beyond all measure

Make yourself familiar with the angels, and behold them frequently in spirit; for without being seen they are present with you - St. Francis de Sales

So I am with you always means when you look for God, God is in the back of your eyes, in the thought of locking, nearer to you than yourself, or things that have happened to you.

Nothing or no one is more beautiful than I, since God - beauty itself - has fallen in love with me.

Ask God for the gift of seeing yourself as God sees you - beloved beyond all measure.

Love means showing the other how beautiful he or she is. The other person cannot discover this alone; even a mirror will not suffice. Another human being is needed. Where that happens, love is realized.

Reflection by Sister Eleanor May Klaber VHM

09 April 2013

Thoughts for the Day and Week from St. Francis de Sales

Helpful Salesian Hints for Living in The Present Moment

1. Don't let the past drag you down. Develop short memories.
2. Don't fear the future.
3. Be a doer, and not a worrier. Don't let boredom reign in life.
4. Be appreciative. Show gratitude often.
5. Overlook flaws; see the big picture.
6. Pick the virtue you need now, and practice it!
7. Look to faith for answers when everything else fails!
8. Bury the hatchet about your past. Start over again.
9. Get some fresh air!
10. Laugh at yourself.

St. Francis de Sales

Sr. Eleanor May Klaber, VHM

08 April 2013

Thoughts for the Day and Week from St. Francis de Sales

I do not see anything in the world that can more rightly be called our own and over which we have so much power as the food that we consume to keep our body alive, and Our Lord went so far as this excess of love, making Himself our food. And what should not our response be, so that He may possess us, shape and consume us, fashioning us according to his liking?

St. Francis de Sales

Sr. Eleanor May Klaber, VHM

02 April 2013

There is one life

These are words of Fr. John Tauler, OP (died 1361) that really made me stop and think:
Out of death comes life that dies no more. There is no true and undying life in us except the life that comes forth from death. If water is to become hot, then cold must die out of it. If wood is to be made fire, then the nature of wood must die. The life we seek cannot be in us, it cannot become our very selves, we cannot be itself, unless we gain it by first ceasing to be what we are; we acquire this life through death.

In very truth there is rightly speaking, but one death and one life. However many deaths there may seem to be, they all are but one, namely, the death a man dies to his own will, to his sense of proprietorship, to division and multiplicity and activity - in so far as this is possible to a creature. And there is one life, and only one, namely, the one ineffable, incomprehensible, uncreated, essential, divine life. Toward this life all other life hurries on, is driven forward, streams along, being irresistibly drawn to possess it. The nearer our life comes to this essential life, and the more it is likened to it, the more truly do we live, for in this and from this life is all life.

Sr. Mary Roberta Viano, VHM

31 March 2013

May the risen Christ be our hope and joy! Buona Pasqua!

Faith in the resurrection of Jesus says that there is a future for every human being; the cry for unending life which is a part of the person is indeed answered… God exists: that is the real message of Easter. Anyone who even begins to grasp what this means also knows what it means to be redeemed.

– Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

28 March 2013

Slipping Into the Arms of Love

Memorial Day in the United States is a time for remembering those who have died.

Whether they died in war of by disease or dementia or accident, we remember how it was that they went into the gateway between this world and the next.

Someone I love is getting to that gateway. There has been a progressive impoverishment of his or her life.

I have watched them lose the riches of their strength, independence, memory, freedom from pain, even, most wrenchingly, their ability to do things for others.

As possessions of the body and mind slip away, they hold on with a kind of valiant gratitude to their greatest treasure; their faith in God’s loving presence.

Dear Lord, as we move toward the gateway of life, as we lose what we have treasured,

Console us with the truth that we never lose you, we are only leaving behind the camel as we slip through the eye of the needle into the arms of love, Amen.

Sr. Anne Francis

24 March 2013

A Modern Fan

This blog posting comes from one of our nurses, who has our Cross of Affiliation

I travel in 2 tandem worlds. One is infected with “Bieber Fever." The other is saturated with “Salesian Soup for the Soul."

When Justin Bieber gets old, and the “Fever” flips to another performer, St. Francis de Sales will still be famous. Not even four hundred years have smothered the devotion of his followers. Could that be because his message is timeless?

Even during the War of 1812, when the Visitation Sisters saw the British troops swarming down the streets,burning everything in sight, they knew God would help. The Community gathered their pupils and began praying the Rosary. Huge balls of hail started banging on the upper Monastery window. Peering out,their disbelief turned to laughter. Drenched soldiers, with fizzling torches, were running towards the Potomac, to the safety of their ships. God still knows how to put out our fires, without calling the Fire Department!

No ticket is needed to tune in to an amazing lifetime experience, as an avid fan of St. Francis de Sales. Read his quotes; study his words; contemplate his wisdom. The “Saint of Common Sense” will guide you through the tragedies of life, urging you to idolize only the One Who created you. “Trust in the Lord, lean on His mercy. Fear nothing.”

23 March 2013

Generous With Encouraging Words

What a beautiful mission is ours! To be an encouragement to others!

Sometimes all it takes is a smile or a pat on the back or just a loving glance. Some forms of encouragement go deeper. Someone needs a gentle urge to continue efforts toward reconciliation.

Someone needs a “you can do it” to undergo yet another treatment of cancer. Someone needs a prodding to return to church. In God’s design we provide that urge, that “you can do it." That prodding.

Sometimes just our presence lends the encouragement another needs.May we be so blessed.

In allowing Jesus to use our lives as open letters of love and encouragement with those we encounter every day.

Sr. Anne Francis

18 March 2013

Good words to think about

Do you have something that sustains you? If not, we're always starting over. We put all of our hope in novelty: we wait for this to change, then that to change, until there's nothing left to change, and then what do we say? There's no solution! And we become skeptical. But the novelty is Christ himself. The answer to life is a Presence...The Mystery happens again, continually, to redeem us from the life we lose in living.

by Father Julian Carron (Spanish priest and professor of theology at the University of Milan)

Mary Roberta Viano, VHM

13 March 2013

Profile of Amos

By Monsignor Gregory E.S. Malovetz - priest of the Diocese of Metuchen, NJ and pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Montgomery Township, NJ (read in a Magnificat publication):
Profile of Amos

A résumé can only give you a small glimpse into a person's abilities and talents. If he had to write a résumé, Amos would have included shepherd, herdsman, and sycamore fig farmer. In considering him for the job of prophet, we might have discarded his resume'. But God sees something in him that will make Amos a compelling prophet.

Living in the eighth century BC, Amos' jobs have given him a keen glimpse into the disparity between the rich and the poor. God sends him to the northern kingdom of Israel where the increase of wealth is matched with a decline of religious faith and indifference to the poor. Amos, without any special training and relying only on the power of God, finds his voice. He is not the kind of prophet who uses poetic words and beautiful images. Amos is blunt as he insists those who follow God must be people of justice. Prayers and rituals are meaningless if they do not lead to service. It is believed that his career as prophet lasted less than a year, yet Amos' voice still challenges us today. No special skills are needed to work for justice, only a heart that sees God in every human need.

Sr. Mary Roberta Viano, VHM

12 March 2013

Love is Repaid by Love Alone

My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled you will not spurn. (Psalm 51:19)
The Miserere, a magnificent penitential song from the heart, could be considered the psalm for the Lenten season.

In this psalm, the Holy Spirit illuminates our situation: it is not the sacrifice that pleases God, but the love behind the sacrifice. As St. John Fisher notes, "It was not Christ's great suffering itself that pleased the Father, but the love with which He did it."

In our case, true penitential love is manifested by a humbled and contrite heart. In today's first reading, the prophet Hosea prepares us for this truth: For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

May the sacrifices, alms-giving, and fasting of Lent be inspired by our love for God, the God who first loved us. As St. John of the Cross puts it, "Love is repaid by love alone."

Lawrence Martone, OCDS

Sr. Mary Roberta Viano, VHM

11 March 2013

The Daring of St. Francis de Sales

Fr. Francois Corrignan was recently appointed by the Vatican as the General Assistant to our worldwide Visitation Order. One book he's written is entitled, THE SPIRITUALITY OF FRANCIS DE SALES: A WAY OF LIFE, published in 1992. Here's an interesting except from it:

"Francis de Sales writes: 'My purpose is to instruct those who live in cities, within families, and at court, and whose situation obliges them to live an ordinary life as far as externals are concerned. But since they are under the assumption that it is altogether impossible for them to do undertake the devout life, these people will often not even consider doing it...'

What gives Francis the daring to extend this invitation to everyone without exception?

His reason is simple but profound: holiness is not something one achieves on one's own. It isn't a matter of sculpting a statue of one's self to be placed in some niche or store window for the admiration of passersby.

Holiness is never the result of human effort. It is not something that one can attain by dint of some training or by using some human means alone. It is not, for example, realized thanks to some exotic gymnastics, or thanks to some program and rhythm of life, or to some asceticism of body and spirit.

Such things are not of course altogether useless, nor are they lacking from one's spiritual journey. Francis de Sales will speak of them. But holiness is the result of something other than human effort, however noble. Holiness is a divine-human adventure: It was God who entered human history and it is He who leads people into His own proper life."

Sr. Mary Roberta Viano, VHM

10 March 2013

Lenten poem

Here's a Lenten poem by Rita A. Simmonds that is a profound reflection on Our Lord's Passion:


Nailed to the Cross
pinned down
that strange intimacy - then

It is finished.

Suffering is not casual
any more than intimacy
is a chance encounter,
yet we offer ourselves - body and soul,
never knowing the gift.
Blood has been sweat
for sins such as this,
pleading palms
and centered
to spike
the Self in all selflessness.

The wounds of love
will never be felt
full awareness -
Being lad bare
everything given and taken
to its infinite end.

Sr. Mary Roberta Viano, VHM

05 March 2013

Let Peace Fill My Heart

Many years ago, I learned about a prayer card entitled "Let Peace Fill My Heart - Prayers for a Peaceful World." A prayer is given for each day of the week, including three from non-Christian sources. The following is one of these prayers:

Keep us, O God,
from all pettiness.
Let us be large in thought,
          in word, in deed.
          Let us be done
          with fault-finding
and leave off all self-seeking.
May we put away all pretense
and meet each other face to face,
          without self-pity
          and without prejudice.
Grant that we may realize that
it is the little things of life that
create differences, that in the
big things of life we are as one.
          And, O God,
let us not forget to be kind.

          Mary Stewart

From "Let Peace Fill My Heart":

Lead me from death to life,
          from falsehood to truth.
Lead me from despair to hope,
          from fear to trust.
Lead me from hate to love,
          from war to peace.
Let peace fill my heart,
          my world, my universe. Amen.

Sr. Joanne Gonter, VHM

01 March 2013

Reflections on Lent and The Baltimore Visitation Academy

In 1837, a band of Visitandines from Georgetown established a new monastery in Baltimore along with an academy for young women. Some eighty plus years later, the nuns moved their monastery and academy to Roland Park, a pleasant suburb, in fact one of the first planned suburban communities in the United States.

Unlike many of the Visitation academies in the United States, the nuns decided to take advantage of the country-like campus and re-order their apostolate as a coeducational day school.

Following the example of the community, the rhythm of the school was the rhythm of the liturgical year. Seasons, feasts, processions, etc. punctuated the calendar as regularly as mid-terms, athletics, plays, etc. Lent was especially memorable. The nuns always encouraged us to do more than giving something up (although even in the turbulent 60s, that noble discipline wasn't abandoned). There was at the heart of the Visitation Lent, the commitment to engage in some kind of transforming activity that would make us better Christians and live lives pleasing to Christ.

One particular Lenten exercise was the distribution of holy cards with sentences from the sermons of St. Francis de Sales. I still have several of those cards, and one is dated Lent 1967.

"Even the persecutions wrought by His enemies were not powerful enough to vanquish the incomparable solidity and constancy of the love with which He loved us. Such ought to be our love for the neighbor: firm, ardent, solid and persevering"

The above sentence can become an excellent nightly Lenten examen for all of us. Was was my love for my neighbor firm, ardent, solid and persevering today? Did I waver in my love of neighbor? Is my love for my neighbor cooling or withering in its vigor? Did I even notice my neighbor and his or her own worries, cares, struggles? How do I amend my life and persevere in the Lord's service?

I still trust in the gentle example of the Baltimore sisters -- all now gone home to God - especially in their example of how to observe a good Lent.

God be praised.

David M. Gardiner

23 February 2013

In Rhythm With the Heart of Jesus

As this first week of Lent comes to a close the Gospel reminds us that we must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. This is a tall order for us - perfection seems an impossible goal. But once again, the common sense, down-to-earth spirituality of St. Francis de Sales offers a formula for perfection which is within reach of all who live by faith. In his words, "perfection consists in fighting against our imperfections".We must, in a spirit of love not constraint, be on the alert to squash our imperfections.

As this first week of Lent draws to a close, I share with you a thought which inspired my prayer this morning. It is from Carroll Stuhlmueller's book entitled Biblical Meditations for Lent.

"Lent, therefore is a time of prayer and fasting, of much human work and dedication, but only that we may be so disposed that the beat of God's heart and the rhythm of his Spirit take possession of ours."

These words remind me of Wendy Wright's encouragement that we strive to have our heart beat in rhythm with the Heart of Jesus.

As we step into this rhythm let us also be aware of our daily struggle against our imperfections so we may move closer to the perfection God wills for us.

May he be praised in all we do and say!

Sister Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM