29 May 2010

Tidbit on the Trinity

As we prepare for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we thought we might share a word or two about what an important model the Trinity is for a religious community. The Church's document, "Fraternal Life in Community" points out that:

"It is impossible to understand religious community unless we start from its being a gift from on high, from its being a mystery, from its being rooted in the very heart of the blessed and sanctifying Trinity, who wills it as part of the mystery of the Church, for the life of the world."

Religious community life, not unlike family life, calls for a careful distinction between living "in common" and living "in communion" with one another. We can share our food in common and we can share the same space and keep our belongings in common. (Or as one sister was recently heard to quip, "There is no 'mine' and 'thine' in the Visitation.")

Keeping things in common, however -- as important as it is -- is a mere suggestion of the communion that we strive to cultivate in our relationships with one another. This is where the gift of community -- as of family -- is a mystery. The Lord does not call to religious communities those who are cookie-cutter-exact copies of one another. We are different people with different gifts and limitations who may not have chosen each other as "friends" in a common workplace. And although we may not have chosen each other, we have each been chosen by God for the work of building community. When we allow the Lord's grace to work in us to deepen our communion with one another we become a sign of this unity -- which is the life of the Triune God.

"Love not finding us equal, equalizes us, not finding us united, unites us. Now the Father and the Son finding Themselves not only equal and united, but even one same God, one same goodness, one same essence and one same unity, how much must They love one another."

St. Francis de Sales

25 May 2010

Taking Pentecost a Bit Too Literally

Back in 2006, we told the TRUE STORY of our Pentecost adventure in 2005. Click here if you haven't read it.

And just when we thought things couldn't get any more literal than being gathered in one room when a LOUD SOUND filled the house ... this past Saturday afternoon we were visited by tongues of fire. Not on our heads, but in the basement. We have not stopped thanking God for the relatively minimal amount of damage that resulted and the near-disaster that could have come about if the fire reached our (nearby) gas dryer or (adjacent) electrical room.

Sister points out the fire extinguisher which remained undamaged despite the flames which melted the clock on the wall above. (Too bad no one was around to use the fire extinguisher!) By the time the sprinkler head tripped and the fire alarm was sounding, however, there was so much smoke that no one could (safely) find their way to the fire. We had to wait for the FD to arrive and locate the source of the smoke.

A cross suffered some damage -- but not nearly as much as one would have expected. The FD broke one window and two doors (hinges repaired yesterday) but stayed to help clean up a good deal of the water and were very cheerful about the whole ordeal.

We sang a rousing "Te Deum" in Thanksgiving for our safety. A very under-used final verse of "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" expresses well our gratitude:

Spare Thy people, Lord, we pray,
By a thousand snares surrounded:
Keep us without sin today,
Never let us be confounded.
Lo, I put my trust in Thee;
Never, Lord, abandon me.

21 May 2010

Mystery Solved!

We had a bit of a "Who done it?" mystery in the monastery this past week. Every evening the tomato plants would be watered and "put to bed" (their light would be turned off). The following morning three of them would be dead. This went on for about three days (read: nine dead plants) before Sister Mary Marple concluded her investigation.

The evidence was baffling. Each plant was healthy and strong at night and by morning they all died the exact same way: they appeared to be pinched in half at the point where the stem meets the soil. The root ball on each plant was healthy and strong; the leaves were large and strong-looking but the plant was dead. Was someone sneaking into room 212 and snapping the plants in half? Was there a small mammal visiting the nursery nook at night and stepping on the plants?

Sister Mary Marple talked to all the remaining plants about the incidents. She inspected the healthy plants, studied their stems, and examined their leaves, and questioned them thoroughly. Upon visiting the third and final tray of plants, our crime-solving sister found the culprit in the tray: one large and very overfed beetle. The stem-savoring scarab had munched his way through each of the nine plant stems and drowned in the overflow from the tomato plants' evening watering. Since Sister Mary Marple's investigation, no tomato plants have perished. She may not be the crime-buster that Sister Mary Raphael is but she disposed of the accused insect and reassured the remaining plants of their safety.

17 May 2010

One Man's Trash is a Nun's Treasure

On-lookers may have mistakenly identified Sister Rosemarie and Sister Leonie Therese as overgrown squirrels in long blue habits. And that would have been an understandable mistake since they were both found INSIDE some of the dumpsters on the campus of Georgetown University. (No, this isn't a joke. But it is pretty funny!)

During move-out week, Hoyas are known to discard many items which they are unable to take with them as they vacate University housing ... and nuns are known to rescue some of these items.
One trash container, upon arrival at the monastery, was IMMEDIATELY claimed for the pantry to help keep our furry friends from scavenging through household garbage.

Sister Rosemarie found a sewing machine in the dumpster and, below, Sister Leonie found a large pillow which will be cleaned and given to the poor. Some items (such as the quickly-claimed trash container) will find a home in the monastery but most will go to needy families.

We would like to thank our friendly neighbors for their generous donation to our monastery and to the poor to whom we will distribute most of the collected items!

"Nothing brings so much temporal prosperity as free almsgiving, but meanwhile, you are sensibly poorer for what you give. Truly that is a holy and rich poverty which results from almsgiving."
St. Francis de Sales

13 May 2010

Cheerful Optimism

We try to inculcate in our students -- and all those with whom we interact -- a sense of cheerful optimism, as one of the "little virtues" St. Francis de Sales bequeathed to his spiritual children. Recently, we received a news magazine called, "Wellsprings of Love" from the St. Francis de Sales Family Spiritual Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. Among the different facets of Salesian Spirituality which they highlight is a segment called "The Positive Side of Life." We share here a few excerpts which give examples of the cheerful optimism of our common spiritual heritage:
  • Living on earth is expensive, but it does include a free trip around the sun every year.
  • Birthdays are good for you; the more you have, the longer you live.
  • Happiness comes through doors you didn't even know you left open.
  • People who are late are often much jollier than the people who are waiting for them.
  • We could learn a lot from crayons: some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, some have weird names, and all are different colors ... but they all exist very nicely in the same box.
  • A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.

09 May 2010

Bringing Jesus to Others - LITERALLY!

Some of us have been heard to remark that it would be lovely to have a Eucharistic Procession down 35th Street for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. It may not have been the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, but it happened this past Friday afternoon (albeit unplanned).

Two of our sisters and our retreatant left the monastery at 4.10pm to attend the Holy Hour for Vocations at the St. Ignatius Chapel at nearby Holy Trinity. When they arrived for the 4.20pm start of the Holy Hour, they were informed that the parish didn't have a consecrated host for the monstrance. The choices were two: celebrate Mass before (and, as planned, after) the Holy Hour or run back to the Monastery for Jesus. "We can bring Jesus" said the sisters. "Faster than Mass?" asked the few gathered patrons. "Eight minutes" replied the hot-footed sisters.

Setting off in haste they didn't go to the hill country, but back up the street to the Monastery where they procured a consecrated host. Returning the way they came, the sisters processed -- one with candle ahead and the other carrying Jesus behind -- two blocks down 35th Street. Passers-by looked on with quizzical looks at the fast-moving sisters.

Adoration began just before 4.30pm and the 5.30pm Mass was followed by a delightful gathering on the rectory porch. The sisters and other guests enjoyed meeting Flannery, the 3 1/2 month old puppy who has recently moved into the rectory.

05 May 2010

Archdiocesan Vocation Fair

A woman stepped out of the door to the Basilica just as Sister Mary Snapshot was going to take a picture of Sister Anne Francis carrying this six-foot table on her head. She was going to ask Sister Anne Francis if some of her students could help carry the table. At exactly the same moment, Sister took her left hand off the table and struck a pose for the camera. The thoughtful on-looker stood in the doorway with her mouth agape and said, "I guess she probably doesn't need any help after all."

Eighth grade students from archdiocesan schools attended a 10.30am Mass and then proceeded to visit tables set up by local religious communities. Students were given a sheet with facts about each community and they had to identify correctly the institute to which each fact referred. Above, Sister Anne Francis helps a young man answer question number seven: Which order is 400 years old and was founded by St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal?

In an inspiring homily by Fr. Mark Ivany, parochial vicar at Little Flower parish, students were invited to listen to the Lord's voice in their lives as they would listen to the coach on a sports team: amid all the other noises and distractions, we must train ourselves to listen to the voice of one who can see the whole picture.

For more pictures from the vocations fair, visit our page on Facebook.

01 May 2010

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's a Cotyledon!

Former biology teacher, Sister Philomena, is nice enough to move her computer and allow her desk space to be used as a mini nursery for our tomato seedlings. She's also thoughtful enough to share some wisdom with the "backyard biologists" who will be planting the seedlings in a few weeks when they're ready for the great outdoors. Just yesterday about 25 of the seeds poked their heads up through the soil ... only they don't have heads, they have cotyledons. Tomatoes, like many plants, have "baby leaves" which push off the seed casing and begin the photosynthesis process of nourishing the plant. These, however, are not "true leaves" because they are actually present in the seed prior to the germination process. The first set of "true leaves" will grow at the intersection of the two cotyledons (see below).

The seedling on the left still has the seed casing stuck on the end of the cotyledons. If it does not come off in a day (on its own) Sister Philomena's gentle touch may have to ease the casing off and free the cotyledons. The seedling on the right has already lost its seed casing and is ready to begin its journey to the garden!

Historians disagree about when tomatoes were first used as food in Europe. Some assert that they were popular in Spain by the early 16th century and in Britain by the late 16th or early 17th century. It is unlikely that St. Francis de Sales would have been exposed to tomato seedlings, but his penchant for botanical metaphors provides us with a wealth of spiritual insights.

"The root of a good name is to be found in virtue and honesty, which will always cause it to spring up afresh, however it may be assaulted. . . . Be sure that if [anyone] should succeed in rousing any evil impression against you, your good name will soon revive, and the razor of slander will strengthen your honor, just as the pruning-knife strengthens the vine and causes it to bring forth more abundant fruit."
St. Francis de Sales