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