Monthly Archives: May 2010

Mary & Elizabeth

Mary and Elizabeth model the incredible bond of women friendship. They are intimately connected across miles. They celebrate each others milestones, and grieve at each others losses. They go to great lengths to support one another, and to grow individually and in their relationship with one another. Their connection is one of joy! Joy according to Fr. Himes, “Is the sense of the rightness of the way in which one is living one’s life.”

The sisters of the Visitation of North Minneapolis are joyous, they model women friendship, they model this inter-generational relationship, they model living a life open to the Holy Spirit.

Who are your closest women friends?

How do you nurture these relationships?

How do you continue to grow in friendship over time as people change and grow themselves?

When I was four and five I had an altar dedicated to Mary with a statue of her on it. I would spread my blanket out on the ground

Our Lady of Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes

and sit in front of her praying and then take a rest. The church at my cabin, has a statue of Mary appearing to children in Lourdes, where she became known as Our Lady of Lourdes, Mother to all children. I wanted that deeply, her to appear to me like that.

At the time of the Visitation Mary and Elizabeth are both pregnant, expecting children under challenging circumstances, one unwed, and the other in advanced age. Together they embrace the joy and uncertainty of pregnancy, such a profound life event. The angel Gabriel visits each couple to tell them about the child within, one to be named Jesus the other to be John. Together I imagine, they celebrated their joy at the holy life growing within them. I imagine they shared their dreams for their children, for their families as well as shared their fears at becoming mothers, their doubts, and spoke about how God and the Holy Spirit would guide them through this passage into motherhood under the circumstances they each found themselves.

How do you support your women friends as they enter this sacred time of pregnancy, of expecting, of active holy waiting?

How do you welcome new life in yourself and in others?

How do you hold that which is forming with gentle strength?

Reflecting on this now as a mother to three sons it is an invitation to rediscover Mary and Elizabeth, mothers to precociously holy boys. I deeply cherish my women friends, my own mother, my sister, my women cousins, I cherish them as we raise our children together, grappling with hopes and worries, celebrating milestones, holding each others hearts as they are stretched by the invitation of children to hold them close enough to give them roots, and love them deep enough to give them wings to fly on their own, to live out their greatest potential. As Francis de Sales says, “To be who they are and to be that perfectly well.” The sisters of North Minneapolis are mothers to many, to women raising children in the neighborhood, to the children themselves through picnics, birthdays, karate lessons, to a safe harbor of being a prayerful presence in North Minneapolis.

How do you support your relationship with your own mother?

Might Mary and Elizabeth be a model for how you mother yourself? For how you mother others by being in relationship, in friendship with other women raising our children together across the homes, the miles that physically separate us, how are our hearts united for our children?

Are you or someone you know called to join this joyous, urban monastic community and mother in this innovative way that is steeped in 400 years of tradition?

Happy Mother’s Day this Month of May, the month of Mary!

Elizabeth Mary Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna ’93

Visitation Mary: An Invitation to Prayer and Reflection this May

by Sr. Karen Mohan, VHM

Mary with Lilacs White and lavender lilacs placed in a glass vase with a sampling of other garden flowers rest at the base of the Marian statue in our second floor Girard house chapel; it serves as a visual reminder of this month specially dedicated to Our Lady.    It is here, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament  with this image of the Mother of Jesus near,  that  our Sisters gather for Night Prayer (Compline) which,  during the Easter season, ends with the ancient Marian hymn, “Regina Coeli:”

O queen of heaven  be joyful, alleluia

For he  whom you  were worthy to bring forth, alleluia

Has arisen as he promised, alleluia

Offer now our prayer to God, alleluia

It is here, too, where in quiet prayer we seek the astounding faith that characterized the Mother of Jesus.  The Gospel gives us very few words uttered by Mary, but those we have are worth noting. Some of the ones I am pondering this month:

“Be it done to me according to your (God’s) will”

“My soul proclaims the greatness of God”

“Do whatever he (Jesus) tells you”

I want to learn from Mary how to be more available for the Holy Spirit, and I pray that Mary will help me — and others through me— to live Jesus’ way of love .

Mary Close upAs a  child growing up in a Catholic environment,  my classmates and I had May altars in school and May processions with special songs and prayers to keep us alert to Mary. These  practices left their own mark on me, one that prepared me to look to  Mary as “Mother” and role model.

Later on, in my teen years, I had to rediscover Mary as someone far more complex than the pious statues and paintings once presented themselves to me.  Eventually,  I was drawn to enter a community dedicated to Mary in the  setting of her “Visitation”  to her cousin, Elizabeth.   As our community brochure describes this,

Visitation” refers to the momentous, intimate and joyful encounter of Mary, the mother of Jesus, with her cousin, Elizabeth.  Each woman lived a radical openness to the Holy Spirit; each needed the support and companionship of the other; each responded humbly, gently, and with great liberty of spirit to the designs of God in her life.  Such a way of life is the vision for Sisters of the Visitation.”

Our founder, St. Francis de Sales, wanted  his new community  to be named after this Gospel event known as “The Visitation”  because it was a story of  women in  relationship with God and each other. It is less showy than many  other Gospel stories,  and it offers countless opportunities for reflection about God at work in daily life.   I agree!  After many years  of reflecting on the two women of  this Gospel scene,  it is still a fresh and inviting passage for me in my own faith journey.

The month of May ends with the Feast of the Visitation on May 31.

May I recommend  a reading of the Visitation Gospel,  (Luke 1 :39-56)  a few times during this month of May?

  • I suggest that it be read first as if you were “Elizabeth” — the one needing Mary. What is it that you need from Mary’s presence in your life? How do you greet her when she comes  to visit your heart ?
  • Next, read it as if you were Mary needing ElizabethWhat is it that you need from the “Elizabeth’s” in your life?  Do you let  your “elders in faith” support the “God life” within you?
  • Finally,  read and pray Mary’s “Magnificat”– her song of praise and justice.  Then take out a pen and paper  and let the Spirit lead you in writing your own hymn to God!

Perhaps you will share some of  your reflections in the Blog response section below? (Please do!)

As we reflect on these two women of faith, let us also be mindful of women around the globe who may need someone to visit them in prayer.

Put a few spring flowers  on your own May altar and welcome a “heart to heart” visit  from the woman who proclaims and lives the greatness of our God.