28 November 2007

Shameless Promotion!

This coming weekend we are hosting an overnight retreat for women who are interested in the monastic life. A little last-minute promotion, as it is not (exactly) too late to email a reservation. Click here to email for more information. Please pray for those who will be attending!

24 November 2007

J is for Jesus

This month's spotlight on St. Francis de Sales is from the pen of our faithful portress, Sister Mary Immaculata. If anyone is an example of "Live + Jesus" it is our very own "SMI" -- as she signs her initials. Sister is known for her gentleness and her fidelity to our life of prayer. While she is minding the phone and the door, Sister makes rosaries, prepares correspondence and does a myriad of other tasks. Sister takes phone calls from people requesting prayers and asking us to pray for special intentions. She is such a warm and gentle presence on the phone that we suspect some of our family and friends call just to talk to Sister Immaculata! She writes:

Live + Jesus!

What a blessing to belong to the Order founded by St. Francis de Sales! I love, admire and am grateful to him for these reasons (and lots more!).

St. Francis de Sales was gentle, kind and so approachable. He was always willing to listen to and to advise all: the lowly and the lofty, the saint and the sinner, the humble person and the nobleman.

Who would not admire one so persevering in his combat against heresy. And did you ever consider the number and content of his letters; so full of understanding, wisdom and as practical and fresh now as then?

Lastly, I am eternally grateful for the grace to be received into the Visitation Order , when other orders wanted only the physically strong and robust. God is good! Thank you, dear father, Francis de Sales!

God be praised!

21 November 2007

Renewal of Vows

Today we share a bit of our history and a little taste of our tradition. As is the custom of our Order, we renew our Vows during Mass each year on the 21st of November. In addition, each sister writes and signs her vows in our vow book (each year, every year!) This vow book dates to 1816, when our monastery replaced our first vow book because it was too small! Every sister who has made profession in our house has signed this book. If a sister happens to be visiting on the Feast of the Presentation, she signs our book on the guest page. Our Vow Book is a rich piece of our history and we are very fortunate that it was preserved from harm during our 1993 fire when our intrepid archivist, pictured below, went back into the burning building to retrieve the book!

The Vow Book is enshrined in our chapel, on the west wall, between the stained glass pictures of the Visitation and the giving of the constitutions to St. Jane de Chantal. Below is a close-up of a sister's page in the book, dating from the late 19th century.

"Grant, O Jesus, holy and sweet love of our souls, that the year in which each Sister shall inscribe her oblation in this book may be a year of sanctification for her; the day, a day of salvation, the hour an hour of lasting benediction."

From the three wishes of St. Francis de Sales written into the front of every monastery's Vow Book.

18 November 2007

A Quiet Memorial

As we celebrate the thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, we whisper a quiet "Happy Feast Day" to our Blessed Martyrs of Spain. Blessed Maria Gabriela Hinojosa and her six companions were martyred in 1936 during the civil war in Spain. In his 1998 homily at their beatification, the late Pope John Paul II prayed that they may draw to Visitation houses "may vocations who will follow the sweet and gentle spirit of Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Jane de Chantal." And so we continue his prayer for vocations as we invoke them daily at the end of morning prayer. Below is a prayer to obtain favors -- for private use only -- approved by the bishop of Madrid. Please join us in asking for the intercession of our Holy Sisters of Spain!

"Most loving Heart of Jesus! You have willed to choose, in Your beloved Visitation, seven Sisters who have had the happiness of shedding their blood and giving their life for You. Deign to glorify Your servants by hearing our prayers and granting us the grace we ask of you though their intercession, if it be for Your greater glory and the good of our souls. Amen."

Recite three Gloria Patri in honor of the Holy Trinity.

Sacred Heart of Jesus,

I place my trust in You!

15 November 2007

The End of Ordinary Time

As we draw closer to the end of the Liturgical year, the Solemnity of Christ the King, the Feast of St. Andrew and the beginning of Advent, it seems a good moment to examine the "ordinary." St. Francis de Sales, as many saints before him and many after, believed that the most direct route to holiness was a daily faithfulness to the ordinary tasks required by each person's state in life. And so, Ordinary Time can be a reminder for us that even the "ordinary" moments of our Liturgical year can be lived with extraordinary fidelity and devotion.

Fifty-five years before being elected Pope and one year before being ordained a priest, Angelo Roncalli wrote the following on 29th January, the former date of the Feast of St. Francis de Sales:

"Today was a perfect feast, I spent it in the company of Saint Francis de Sales, gentlest of saints. What a magnificent figure of a man, priest and bishop! If I were like him, I would not mind even if they were to make me pope! . . . My life, so the Lord tells me, must be a perfect copy of that of Saint Francis de Sales, if I wish to bear good fruit. There is nothing extraordinary in me or in my behavior, except my way of doing ordinary things -- 'all ordinary things but done in no ordinary way.' "

11 November 2007

Winding Down

With just three weeks remaining in Ordinary Time, we are reminded, in today's Gospel, to keep our eyes fixed on the kingdom of heaven. In the longer form of today's Gospel, when Jesus is confronted by the Sadducees who, not believing in the resurrection of the body, ask a technical question about a seemingly-unlikely scenario, he directs their attention (and ours) elsewhere. Instead of entering into a discussion about the proper heavenly spouse of a woman who was seven times a widow, Jesus reminds us that heaven is altogether unlike our earthly life. We know very little about what the resurrection of our earthly bodies will be like, but we do know that the Lord promises a share in his resurrection to those who share in his cross.

There may be another lesson that lies hidden in today's Gospel. In addition to theme of the resurrection, perhaps the theme of "redirection" might speak to us as well. Sometimes we find ourselves in conversations which are difficult, as Jesus was in his confrontation with the Sadducees. Perhaps we sense that the person who has questioned us is less curious about what we believe and more interested in exposing it for the purpose of belittling it. We may have no evidence of this, but sometimes our soul can be disturbed by a challenging confrontation and we may feel threatened. Let us follow the example of Jesus and not be discouraged; let us point the discussion (and those who have challenged us) toward the promise that awaits us.

"Take good care not to fall into any discouragement when you are murmured at or criticized. I assure you that the business of finding fault is very easy and that of doing better very difficult."
St. Francis de Sales

07 November 2007


Many readers may have been aware of this, as the AP press release came out a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday it made the cover of the PRINT version of the "Washington Post." Tempting as it is to begin a social commentary, the power of this story speaks for itself (and brings a ray of hope!) We've attached several links.

Washington Post Article (Funny thing about it, the page "aborted" twice while uploading. Coincidence?)

Newsbuster's positive commentary on Vargas' Post article

Her Uncle has a blog and he posted about her.

God be praised!

03 November 2007

A Humble Soul

Although he is only an "optional memorial" today's commemoration of St. Martin de Porres could not have had a more appropriate Gospel. St. Martin truly sought the lowest and most humble work available to him. He began his association with the Dominicans as a servant when he was a young boy. At age 24, thirteen years later, he made his religious profession as a brother.
Among the sick for whom he cared in the Dominican Monastery's infirmary were stray cats and dogs and, if legend serves us well, other (less-popular) small mammals. The on-line greeting card service sponsored by the Franciscans has a rodent (cartoon) card in honor of dear St. Martin, who also happens to be a patron for those bothered by uninvited rats and mice. Scroll down to see the entire card -- it is a very sweet card, emphasizing the good works of this humble saint.
"Humility and generosity are so closely joined and united to one another that they never are and can never be separated. There are persons who deceive themselves by a false and foolish humility which prevents them from looking at the real good which God has planted in them. In this they are quite wrong, for the gifts which God has bestowed on us ought to be recognized, esteemed and highly honored."
St. Francis de Sales