27 February 2007

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow . . .

On Sunday afternoon we had a rather unexpected snowfall. Pictured above, Sister Mary Berchmans interests Nicholas in a game of catch with a snowball.

The view from the second floor porch. A winter wonderland, indeed!

24 February 2007

"A" is for Archivist

Preparations for our 400th anniversary have begun and as we approach 2010 our Religious Assistant to the Holy See, Father Valentin Viguera, has suggested that the years leading up to this great jubilee be marked by a theme. For 2007 he proposes our Holy Founder, Saint Francis de Sales. In a letter from his feast, 24 January 2007, Father Viguera suggests that we disseminate the spirituality of Saint Francis de Sales in a variety of ways. In the spirit of this request, our blog will post a feature about Saint Francis on the 24th of every month. In this first post, our archivist, Sister Mada-anne, reflects upon one of her favorite quotations:

"St. Francis de Sales wrote frequently about work.Here's a favorite: 'Flies trouble us by their numbers,not their strength; in the same way, little things trouble us more than great things by their very number. Accept the duties that come to you peacefully, taking them one by one . . .' The Georgetown Visitation Monastery Archives contain--literally--millions of manuscripts and papers, some important, some not. All of them must be preserved and catalogued so that the information they contain will be accessible to researchers and scholars. Even more important to the community is the archivist's duty to make sure that the traditions of the monastery itself are handed down from generation to generation intact, and that's a challenge, but also, fun! The office of Archivist is a dream job, especially since it also involves keeping track of the art works in the community. This is a favorite: (note the statue she is touching ... right next to the mouse pad featuring our Holy Founders) a marvelous woodcarving of St. Francis de Sales done in1985 and presented to the sisters by its creator, artist Nancy Hanel. This wonderfully lively statue presides over the archives, with occasional forays into the chapel, or the choir, or the schoolroom--a most important reminder of our living heritage, and, incidentally, the all time favorite of the archivist. "

Coming soon (coming eventually...) a video tour of the new monastery archives.

23 February 2007

Via Crucis - part I

Often we are asked about the symbols on the pectoral cross that we wear. We thought Lent might be an appropriate time to share some of this. Pictures above is one side of our cross. We wear a cross (and not a crucifix) because those who wear it are expected to supply the corpus through our own lives of sacrifice. "MA" are the first two letters of the name "Mary." The three flames (on either side of the "MA" and below the heart) symbolize faith, hope and charity. The mountain at the very bottom is Mt. Sinai, representing the old covenant and the Olive branch emanating from the mountain is the symbol of the Lord's peace and mercy. The double cross and heart out of which it is etched is somewhat unclear to us since we have recorded the words of St. Francis de Sales to St. Jane de Chantal: "Let us take for our coat of arms a single heart surmounted by a crown of thorns."

"Crosses of our invention are never worth much; we make them ourselves. The crosses we encounter in the streets are excellent but still better are those we find at home."
St. Francis de Sales

20 February 2007

Like a Good Neighbor . . .

No, it's not an insurance company -- even better, it's our very own Sister Mary Raphael, pictured at left with Sister Leonie Therese. Sister Raphael, at 94 years young has a sharp mind and a keen sense of humor and just yesterday she added yet another hat (veil??) to the many different responsibilities and jobs she has enjoyed in her 60 plus years as a Visitandine: "Crimebuster!"

This is not a joke -- this really happened: Sister was looking out her window and noticed two suspicious figures climbing the lattice work of a nearby house. Not visible from the street, but visible from her third-floor window, the two figures appeared to be breaking into the house. The police arrived shortly thereafter.

Although we're not yet using the new blogger's label feature, if this post had a label it would be "Life in the monastery is never boring" (part III).

15 February 2007

St. Claude de la Columbiere

To the left is a photo (courtesy of Michael Hoyt) of our chapel's stained glass window of St. Claude de la Columbiere and the Sacred Heart of Our Lord.

St. Claude's early life and formative years have some common threads with our Holy Founders, having spent some of his time in studying in Lyon and completed his training at the College of Clermont in Paris.

In 1675, after pronouncing his Solemn vows as a Jesuit, St. Claude became rector of the college at Paray-le-monial and, later, the spiritual director of our Holy Sister, St. Margaret Mary.
This devout apostle of the Sacred Heart was sent to London less than two years after his arrival in Pary-le-monial. Just two short years into his time in London he was arrested on false charges and spent three weeks in prison after which he returned to France -- after being exiled from England. St. Claude died at the age of 41 in Paray-le-monial.

Interestingly, the Church has made him the patron saint of toy-makers. (Does anybody know why? We sure don't!)

In the Heart of Jesus God shows that he wants to be understood in his absolute desire to love, forgive and save; in the Heart of Jesus God teaches that the Church, in her ministry and Magisterium, must always be loving and sensitive, never aggressive or oppressive, although she must always condemn evil and correct error; in the Heart of Jesus God has us understand that it is necessary to share in his work of salvation through the "apostolate of prayer'' and "commitment to reparation."

Pope John Paul II - On the canonization of St. Claude in 1992

13 February 2007


As most readers probably know: this week is Catholic Blog Awards Week. Thanks to some faithful readers who nominated Live + Jesus! in several different categories. Wow! Don't forget to stop by the cyber-voting booth and vote for your favorite blogs; there are lots to choose from in many different categories. For those who are new to voting, you register to create a login by providing your email address and then cybercatholic emails you a link to log into the site.

11 February 2007

From the Mailbag

This is a bit of false advertising: it's not exactly a mailbag, it's a postal container we use for our mail and this "reader question" didn't exactly arrive in the postal container, it came via E-mail. Taking a picture of the computer and saying, "From the community E-mail inbox" just didn't have the same ring to it!

A reader wrote in asking how, in the Salesian tradition, we reconcile a docility to the will of God with the "liberty of spirit" which is found in the writings of St. Francis de Sales. A fabulous question!

To clarify, St. Francis de Sales speaks of the two wills of God. He suggests that we refer to those things which we know the Lord wants us to do as His "signified will" and those things which the Lord permits (but does not necessarily desire) as His "permissive" will. Amid the Lord's permissive will (such as finding the copy machine jammed when we are in a hurry -- to use an everyday example) we are encouraged to remember and observe the Lord's signified will. Surely the Lord did not desire the copy machine to jam; he did, however, permit it to become jammed. As we struggle to accept this, we are encouraged to remember the precepts of good Christian behavior ... such as refraining from the temptation to dismember the person whom we suspect may have caused such a mini-disaster.

Within this context of striving to accept the circumstances in which we find ourselves, how does "liberty of spirit" fit? An example or two of this spiritual gift:

There are suggested methods of introducing a Visitandine novice to a deeper method of prayer when she begins her formation. There is, however, a note in our constitutions that if some other method of prayer seems to work more effectively for one particular novice, the novice mistress, using her judgment, should have a great liberty of spirit to encourage this.

An everyday example: in our rule of life, we are obliged to make one hour of meditation prior to the first community exercise of the day and one half hour in the afternoon. In addition, we are to make one half hour of spiritual reading at some time during the day. Perhaps a sister intended to make her spiritual reading at 4.30pm in the Chapel. If, shortly into her reading, she discovered a guest entering the chapel who needed to be consoled, we hope she would have the liberty of spirit to approach the visitor and ask if she could be of help. And more so, that she would have the liberty of spirit to see her response to circumstances which the Lord permitted as a service, a prayer pleasing to the Lord. Surely one would not plan to do spiritual reading at a time when we expect a visitor -- but, rather, we would try to have the inner freedom to accept the circumstances which we cannot control and allow the Lord to use us as He pleases.

Liberty of spirit is a freedom of heart that allows us to detach ourselves from the "outcome" that we would like to see in a given situation. Perhaps the sister, setting out to do her spiritual reading at 4.30pm, had imagined herself finishing a certain chapter in her book by the time the bell for Vespers is rung. Through the grace of liberty of spirit, however, she is detached from that "outcome" and open to whatever the Lord's permissive will has in store.

"Walk in the presence of God in a holy and absolute liberty of spirit."
St. Jane de Chantal

07 February 2007

St. Francis de Sales on Creation

And then God created . . . the pilgrim.

We have been reading the creation account in Genesis this week and the last two days, in particular, we have read the creation of man. In his own exegesis of the creation account (Genesis ch. 1 in particular), Saint Francis de Sales links the use of reason -- the distinguished wisdom -- of man to our status as pilgrims.
" . . . God has not only bestowed th[is favor of dominion] upon man, but He has also given him full power over all sorts of accidents and events . . . . by the use of reason, he will remain firm and constant amid all the various events and accidents of this mortal life. Let the weather be fine of let it rain, let the air be calm or let the wind blow, the wise man pays no attention to it, knowing well that nothing in this life is lasting, and that this is not a place of rest."
It may be easy to pay little attention to the wind or rain (or snow!) but when the winds blow sand in our eyes and we are faced with difficult circumstances, it is more difficult to "pay no attention." In fact, it may seem foolish, at times, to pay no attention to a situation or circumstance which is troubling to us. This is when the reminder of our "status" as pilgrims will serve us well.

04 February 2007


Yesterday afternoon we welcomed home the last of the "exiles" as our Sister Rosemarie returned from an extended visit to her village in Africa. In fact, we thought that perhaps Sister brought the entire village home with her, in her luggage, which was so heavy (see photo) that it took four sisters (one standing IN the trunk, two helping and one standing nearby ... laughing) to unload the car!

It was a thrill to watch Sister look around the "new" monastery after we deposited her luggage in her new room. Below, she is pictured with Mother Philomena and Sister Mary Roberta in the background.
While she was visiting her village in Lare, Kenya, Sister Rosemarie was able to see, firsthand, the progress of the Mercy Center Project which she, an ocean away from her home, initiated through the generous benefactors who helped her.

Stay tuned for a tour of the new archives and more "new monastery" photos -- coming this week!