28 November 2009

Trio of Things to Celebrate

This past Thursday was a day chock-full of celebration! In addition to the usual Thanksgiving festivities, it was the birthday of our retreatant, Cynthia and the Feastday of our Mother Mary Berchmans. (Poor St. John Berchmans is often overlooked ... and this year he landed on Thanksgiving!) As a gift for Mother, our friend Stephanie (pictured above with Mother) produced this very exquisite sketch on silk-screen. The lettering around the picture is repeated below.
Holy Mary, Mother of God and Virgin, I choose thee this day for my queen, patron, and advocate, and firmly resolve and purpose never to abandon thee, never to say or do anything against thee, nor to permit that aught be done by others to dishonor thee. Receive me, then, I conjure thee, as thy perpetual servant; assist me in all my actions, and do not abandon me at the hour of my death. Amen.
St. John Berchmans

As we
approach this most sacred season of Advent, we can have no better model to follow than Our Lady. She trusted in the Lord's promise even when earthly wisdom might have protested. When she uttered her "fiat" she gave back to the Lord her claim on shaping her life. And with the word "Yes" she changed the world. Forever. Deo gratias!

24 November 2009

Ever New

This could be an advertisement for the "old technology" meeting the new.

At the conclusion of Saturday's Mass for the Feast of the Presentation of Mary, some of our sisters took the opportunity to sign the vow book. (It needn't be done immediately after Mass but some prefer to sign the book earlier in the day than others -- just so long as each sister has a chance to sign the book before the day is over.) Our venerable Sister Raphael, at 99 years young wheeled herself over to the book and, leaning on the lectionary for balance, signed the ancient vow book. A pen and a 197 year-old book -- it would seem -- qualify for "old technology."

Enter the new technology. As some of us watched Sister Raphael sign her vows we mused about how nice it would be if we had a camera to capture the moment. One of our Oblate seminarians who had joined us at Mass to renew his own vows was quick thinking and reached for his iPhone. Thanks to our very own Michael Castrilli, OSFS we have these lovely photos of Sister Raphael to share. In addition to our photo-snapping seminarian we were joined by three other Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. It was a delightful "family reunion" for a splendid Feast day.

"This is the way, my dear Sister. Grace will never be wanting to us if we are faithful in seconding its attractions; thus will God bless us and our labors."
St. Jane de Chantal

20 November 2009

For Those Who Pray

... that's a literal translation of "Pro Orantibus" which is what the Vatican celebrates on Saturday 21 November, the Feast of the Presentation of Mary. Since 1955, the Church has dedicated the Feast of Our Lady's presentation as a day to pray for those whose contemplative vocations give them the great privilege of being available to pray for others.

Here in our monastery of the Visitation of Georgetown, we are blessed with the best of both worlds. We are steeped in a 400 year monastic tradition (okay: 399 years, 5 months, and 14 days to be exact) and our particular monastery was founded in 1799 for the dual apostolate of prayer and education. So, while we observe a monastic horarium and monastic customs, the "work" we do each day is done -- for the most part -- both in the monastery and in the school. It is a unique blend of contemplative life and the apostolate of education.

This beautiful feast is especially meaningful for us for two reasons:

First, since it is "pro orantibus" day, we are very mindful of the number of people who call, email, write letters, send faxes, etc., with special intentions. And we are grateful for the Church's prayerful support of this precious responsibility of praying for those in need.

Second, 21 November is a very special day for us since it is the day upon which all Visitation sisters around the world renew their vows. Each sister will rewrite and resign her vows (the short formula) in her monastery's vow book. Our vow book dates from 1812 and has the vows of every sister who has even been professed in our house -- or who has ever been visiting on this feast (we have a special page in the vow book for guests, visiting sisters who happen to be with us on this day.)

As is the custom of our Order, all Visitation monasteries observe a mini-retreat for the three days prior to the renewal of vows. Do pray with us as we prepare to reecho our "Yes" to the Lord on Saturday morning!

16 November 2009

Our Friendly Neighbors

We were delighted to welcome members of Georgetown University's Catholic Daughters for a day of reflection on Saturday. After a morning of praying and listening to a spiritual conference ... and before their afternoon spiritual walk-n-talk, the group assembled some foam turkeys in the spirit of Thanksgiving: both the up-coming holiday and in a spirit of gratitude for the many blessings we receive in our daily lives.

How many Georgetown students does it take to assemble a foam turkey? Many, it seems. Turkey-making isn't as easy as it looks!
This is a pretty turkey in progress; her other eye is just about to be attached. She's wearing her finest collar for the day of reflection!

This poor turkey lost an eye during assembly. His owner wanted to emphasize that, despite his loss, he is still a "thankful turkey." A subtle reminder to all of us not to forget to count our blessings -- even during challenging times.

12 November 2009

Advent Approaching

It's hard to believe that Advent is just around the corner. Today's first reading whets our appetite for the first of the Great O Antiphons which we will sing on 17 December:

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: Veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
O Wisdom, you who come forth from the mouth of the Most High, and reaching from end to end, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

We are reminded that the Lord, to whom the title of "WISDOM" is applied, is the great choreographer of creation. And the image of him ordering all things "sweetly and mightily" is a poignant -- and delicate combination -- of attributes. The created world around us is not the only place where the Lord's order can be seen. The circumstances which surround us -- the "soup in which we find ourselves," to use an expression from St. Francis de Sales -- are also part of Wisdom's work. It can be easy to acquiesce to the Lord's ordering of circumstances when they are pleasing to us; it can be a challenge, however, to accept them when they interrupt our own order and our own plans. Let us, this day, pray for the grace to accept the circumstances that the Lord orders, trusting that his might and his sweetness will assist us. Let us entrust our day -- and our lives -- to his divine Wisdom.

"There is nothing so gentle as true strength and nothing so strong as true gentleness."
St. Francis de Sales

08 November 2009


WOW! Our friend, NC Sue at "In Him We Live and Move and Have Our Being" was thoughtful enough to consider us as a "Gorgeous Blogger" in her post of 30 October. We are, admittedly, a bit late in our acceptance and conferral of our own six "Gorgeous Blogger" titles.

As part of the award, we will be telling you six things about ourselves which are little known and then recommending six other blogs for this honor.

In no particular order, here are six random facts about our monastery:
  1. The oak beams which support both wings of the monastery are all hand-cut and are held together with hand-fashioned nails (you don't find those at Home Depot!)
  2. Sunday, in season and out of season, is ice-cream for dessert at dinner. Heaven help the dispenser who runs out of ice-cream!
  3. The community is evenly (and hopefully charitably) divided along "GOLD TEAM" and "WHITE TEAM" lines. This Saturday is the fall Gold-White contest ... Sister Mary Blogger doesn't want to be biased, but she's got a tiger print-tie to take to the game with her!
  4. In our monastery cemetery, one will find the graves of the Foisy sisters; they were blood sisters who joined our community and received the religious names, "Sister Mary Ambrose" and "Sister Mary Augustine." They happen to be cousins of Blessed Andre Bessette.
  5. Prior to our renovation in 2006-2007 most of us slept on beds which were donated to us from hospitals after the Civil War ended.
  6. Our vow book, in which every professed sister writes her vows, dates to 1816 and has the name of every sister who has ever professed her vows (or renewed her vows) in our house!
Here are six Gorgeous Blogs worth visiting:
  1. Our monastic buddies up in the Garden State, the Dominican Sisters of Summit!
  2. The fabulous flower garden at Little Flowers by our local friend, Elizabeth.
  3. Our "repeat-offender" whose made her annual retreat with us several times has a beautiful blog about life as a consecrated virgin.
  4. It's hard to resist the wonderful reflections of Sister Genevieve Glen, OSB who has penned many of the hymns found in the "Magnificat" for which she serves as editor of the daily offices.
  5. We enjoy the adventures and reflections of Sister Veronica at Franciscan Footprints.
  6. Lastly, the "Gorgeous" blog is no longer continued but has ended for a "Gorgeous" reason ... and the nifty title was too good for this grammarphile to resist. Do have a peek at Quantitative Metathesis.
Thanks to our friend, Sue, for the award. We look forward to reading six things about some of our fellow bloggers.

04 November 2009

The Sophomores Cometh!

Yesterday marked the first of several visits we'll be having with members of our sophomore class. In a series of seven gatherings of 15-20 students, our campus ministry staff is introducing the second-year students to different ways of praying with scripture. They receive some background information on the Liturgy of the Hours, attend daytime prayer, eat dinner ("lunch" to them) with us and then, after lunch, they learn about Lectio Divina. Pictured above, the sophomores and sisters gather for a brief introduction before grace.

"Simplicity towards God consists in seeking Him only in all our actions, whether we are going to the Office or to the refectory . . . let us go everywhere to seek God and to obey God."
St. Jane de Chantal