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

22 February 2013

Salesian Soup for the Soul

Here at Georgetown Visitation faculty and staff members meet at lunch once a month to discuss some aspect of Salesian spirituality.

Because of the recent news about our Holy Father's retirement, this month we are discussing his Message for Lent 2013 which quite beautifully describes the close relationship between faith and charity.

I quote: "The celebration of Lent, in the context of the Year of Faith, offers us a valuable opportunity to meditate on the relationship between faith and charity; between believing in God - the God of Jesus Christ - and love, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and which guides us on the path of devotion to God and others.

Pope Benedict closes this message with these words of encouragement:

Dear brothers and sisters,

In this season of Lent, as we celebrate the event of the Cross and Resurrection - in which the love of God redeemed the world and shone its light upon history - I express my wish that all of you may spend this precious time rekindling your faith in Jesus Christ, so as to enter with him in the dynamic love for the Father and for every brother and sister that we encounter in our lives. For this intention, I raise my prayer to God, and I invoke the Lord's blessing upon each individual and upon every community!

You may find the entire message on line by googling Pope Benedict's Lenten message.

Let us pray in gratitude for
God's tremendous love for us!!!!

Sister Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

21 February 2013

Don't be shy in storming heaven!

Today's Gospel is one of my favorites:

"Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you." Matthew 7: 7-12

This is a strong invitation to faith: our loving God is welcoming our humble petitions and Francis de Sales would advise us to add to our requests the phrase, "Thy will be done."

Recognizing the great love God the Father has for us Francis encourages us not to be shy in storming heaven for our spiritual needs.

"Spiritual avarice, he says, whereby we unceasingly sigh for the pure gold of sacred love, is the root of all good. One who truly desires love seeks it; he who truly seeks it finds it."

Let's make this Lent a time to practice some spiritual avarice.

Sister Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

20 February 2013

God's Will in Everyday Life

Today's Gospel reminds us that we must be alert to signs which the Lord allows to enter our lives in the humdrum of every day existence. This is a favorite theme of St. Francis de Sales

"Live in the present moment and discern the will of God in the unfolding circumstances of your life."

The people of Nineveh certainly were alert to God's will in accepting Jonah's message to repent while the Queen of Sheba was also alert in seeking the wisdom of Solomon.

Father Pocetto ended this day's reflection on the Gospel with an inspiring prayer which I share with you.

"Time and again, dear Lord, you have demonstrated your presence and love in my life in so many ordinary and unsuspecting ways. Yet, I have so often been too slow to acknowledge, praise and thank you for these blessings. Sharpen the eyes of my faith that I may be more aware of the many signs of your presence in my life and the lives of others. Grant this through Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen"

(I use green as a sign of new life and hope)!

Sister Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

19 February 2013

Thy Will Be Done

Our Saint's advice on prayer as a reflection on today's Gospel

In these two words, "Our Father", you reveal to me, O Lord, another great mystery, namely, that you desire that I greatly love your holy law of love and charity, because you have reduced it all to love of you and love of my neighbor. By the first word, "Father," you ask me to love your most supreme majesty; by the second, "our", you ask me to love my neighbors since you gave them to me as a sibling and you desire that I pray for him."

Let us also grasp the "thy will be done" part of this powerful prayer. In whatever circumstances I find my self today, may I lift my eyes to heaven and pray: "Thy will be done!" 

Sister Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

18 February 2013

The Image of God

Today's Gospel message defines simply yet clearly the meaning and extent of charity in our lives. As we ponder the threefold call of Lent to prayer, fasting and almsgiving, Jesus marks the path for us. We will not only feed the hungry and clothe the naked, but we will intensify our giving through prayers for the marginalized people in our world. In the realm of fasting, we will supplant quick judgments on the actions of others with words of gentle support. Charity will direct our life-giving actions.

Words of Advice from St. Francis de Sales

"We cannot excuse ourselves from this and say we do not know that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, because God has imprinted this truth in the bottom of our hearts in creating all of us in the image and likeness of one another. Bearing the image of God in ourselves, all of us are consequently the image of each other. Together we constitute the image of one portrait, that of God."

Sister Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

17 February 2013

First Sunday in Lent

Live + Jesus

As we enter the Holy Season of Lent our thoughts and our hearts turn toward the tremendous power of God’s love in our lives. We probably will be unable to grasp the depths of this love fully until we reach our final stepping stone into heaven, but hopefully we will be able to grow in it day by day now.

During this first week of Lent I wish to share with you some of these stepping stones, which can smooth our path in the here and now, in the guise of thoughts from St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal. Hopefully they will speak to your heart and help you to embrace these holy days with spiritual gusto!

First Sunday in Lent

It is important to note that Jesus returned from the Jordan filled with the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is a powerful guide in leading us along the path to sanctity, just as it helped Jesus respond to the devil’s temptations with fortitude and wisdom.

Perhaps a good intention for Lent would be to reflect upon the gifts which the presence of the Holy Spirit brings into our lives. I have found it helpful to select an action or two each day as a reminder of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. Perhaps making a bed, turning on the dishwasher, or turning the key in the ignition in your car - or so many other mundane actions might serve as reminders.

Let each of these actions – or others you may think of – become tangible reminders that God lives within you, most especially his Holy Spirit is there to guide your every step.

I would like to recommend a book which will help you on this journey. Its title is A Lenten Journey with Jesus Christ and Saint Francis de Sales by Father Alexander Pocetto, OSFS. It is a real treasure in offering the Gospel for each day of Lent followed by reflections on this Gospel from St. Francis de Sales and Father Pocetto, ending with a short prayer. It can be purchased on line through the De Sales Resource Center.

There is a beautifully inspiring thought on the back cover of this book which is my prayer for you – our blog readers - as we begin Lent together:

“May the presence of Jesus Christ and the gentle and loving kindness of St. Francis de Sales, guide you on your Lenten journey, and lead you to God’s Holy Easter of Peace, Love and Joy!”

Sister Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM

15 February 2013

Our Holy Father's Feast Day, Part IV of IV

January 24 was the feast day of our Holy Father, St. Francis de Sales. Over the next few days we will post photos from our celebration.

14 February 2013

Our Holy Father's Feast Day, Part III of IV

January 24 was the feast day of our Holy Father, St. Francis de Sales. Over the next few days we will post photos from our celebration.

13 February 2013

Our Holy Father's Feast Day, Part II of IV

January 24 was the feast day of our Holy Father, St. Francis de Sales. Over the next few days we will post photos from our celebration.

12 February 2013

Our Holy Father's Feast Day, Part I of IV

January 24 was the feast day of our Holy Father, St. Francis de Sales. He founded our Visitation order in 1610 with St. Jane de Chantal in Annecy, France. Then our male counterparts, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, were founded in 1870, thanks to a Visitandine's (Mother Mary de Sales Chappuis's) badgering Fr. Henri Brisson (newly beatified) in Troyes, France, until he finally gave in and founded the Oblate order.

Over the next few days we will post photos from our celebration.

Here's what our Oblate brother, Fr. Michael Murray OSFS wrote about the Feast day:

(January 24, 2013: Francis de Sales - Bishop, Founder and Doctor of the Church) 
* * * * *
“A patient person is better than a warrior, and those who master their tempers are stronger than one who would capture a city.” 

So close, yet so far. 

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that that’s how Francis de Sales might have characterized his feelings regarding one of his greatest hopes that remained – sadly – unfulfilled - the return of Catholicism to the city of Geneva. Notwithstanding his success in the Chablais Region during the first four years of his priesthood, his pivotal prominence as Bishop of Geneva, his reputation as a man who could reach minds and soften hearts, his gift for shuttle diplomacy, and as one who “befriended many along the road to salvation,” the full restoration of his See remained frustratingly beyond his reach. 

It’s easy to overlook, but Francis de Sales isn’t remembered for having the “Midas Touch.” It’s not like every initiative or endeavor that the “Gentleman Saint” touched turned to gold or ended with overwhelming success. Nevertheless, the Church recognizes him as a spiritual giant precisely because of his willingness to master the city of his own temper, to curb the city of his own enthusiasm and to discipline the city of his own passion in pursuing God and the things of God by choosing to focus his energies on evangelizing those whom he could reach rather than becoming embittered about those he could not reach. True to Fr. Brisson’s assessment of the Salesian method for spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ, Francis de Sales met people where they were – not where they weren’t. 

Not unlike Our Lord Himself! 

On his Feast day of the “Bishop of Geneva” let us ask for the grace to imitate his example! May we experience the self-mastery that is even “better than a warrior” by focusing our energies and effort on everything that is within our power to do for the love of God and neighbor, and to let go of whatever is not.

09 February 2013

Answering God's Call

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 He has chosen from all eternity for each of us. Only the individual person knows what 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, ultimate death 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."

Mary Bernardine, VHM

08 February 2013

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, February 2, 2013

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
Candle Mass Day

Thought for the day:

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

Lo I am with you always, means when you look for God, God is in the look of your eyes, in the thought of looking, 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.

Sr. Eleanor May Klaber, VHM