Monthly Archives: June 2010

June in Review: Letting Jesus Lead!

By Sr. Karen Mohan, VHM

Sr. Karen and Camp De Sales friend Tyler

Sr. Karen and Camp De Sales friend Tyler

The long awaited and now completed month of June remains a dynamic presence in my mind and heart.  Beginning with our 400th anniversary celebration on June 6, the days “in review” point to a richness and fullness of life lived in faith community for God’s service and the service of God’s people.

Like the 400  “mini loaves” that Sr. Joanna and I baked for our 400th anniversary Mass which coincided with the feast of  Corpus Christi  (Body and Blood of Christ)  and then asked our guests to share as the  Gospel story of the five loaves  instructed,  there is always  “enough and more” when we let Jesus lead.

And speaking of “leading,” I joined three of our neighborhood teens at our Salesian Leadership Camp in Michigan where 52 Visitation and Salesian students from around the country met at Camp De Sales for  a week long  experience in faith, leadership training, and community.   Talk about HOPE for our Church and for our world!  We all left “fired up” to spread the spirit of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal AND to stay in touch as best we could.

Sometimes it’s good to be led!  That’s how I felt as I rounded off a visit to St. Louis with a family float trip on one of the Ozark streams.  As we canoed, swam, visited and  nibbled away at too many snacks available in the canoe on that  sweltering  June  day,  “reconnecting”  time with my family refreshed me for the days ahead.   Spending time with those we love has that renewing capacity!

The most accessible  “renewal” time is the daily opportunity  we have to communicate with God.

I end this blog with this encouragement from St. Jane, the first leader of the Visitation Order:

Heart to Heart Prayer

Heart to Heart Prayer

When you pray, I suggest you follow your own way.

Speak to the Lord sincerely, lovingly, confidently, as your heart indicates.

Sometimes, come into God’s presence and say nothing at all

—just be in God’s presence as a child with his parent.

When you pray, keep yourself in God’s presence.

Look at God, converse with God, talk to God

heart to heart.

May these summer days be renewing for you!

“Windsock Visitation:” An Invitation to Respond to Art!

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

Windsock Visitation.McGrath

"Windsock Visitation" by Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS

We all know this image. (Well any of us who have had the opportunity to spend any time with the sisters in their Northside monastery, visit this website, or read anything published by the nuns – will most likely recognize this image.) The painting by Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS has become a kind of “logo” for the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis. But how many of us have ever stopped to truly ponder this picture? Ask ourselves what strikes us about the work of art? Contemplate what possible meaning the artist might be working to convey?

The following questions provide us with a way into such contemplative musing and artistic meaning -making. They are known as the Critical Response Protocol:

1. What do you notice?
2. What does this remind you of?
3. What emotion does it trigger?
4. What questions does this work raise for you?
5. What do you speculate is the artist’s intention?

As a form of prayerful meditation this day, I invite you to take five to seven minutes, and respond to these questions. Let the art speak to you; let any memories or emotions surface and be acknowledged. Pose as many questions as you are able. There are no wrong answers. You will find my own personal response entered in the comment section below. I invite you to do the same!

Happy Contemplating!

Be Loving

By Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna ’93

A colleague and myself developed a five week discernment series when we worked together at Santa Clara University. Over the next few weeks I will share portions of this work for your own vocational discernment, this is part five of five.

Image for pray: We are called and empowered to bear fruit.

In the end of our life, our greatest hope is that we loved others, self and God. In return that we felt the love of others, self and

artist Karen Gillis Taylor

artist Karen Gillis Taylor

God. It does not matter the accolades or the prestige that you achieve in your life. It needn’t matter the home you lived in, the neighborhood, or the schools you attended or did not. It will not matter how you kept your home, or presented your children to the world perfectly groomed. What will matter is when you took the time to be with your child, to sit with your parents, to find silence for your soul. It will matter how your heart grew, how it responded to your own needs of love and compassion and others, and how you wept and responded when others were in need of your assistance. Yes in the end it is love that matters. Not money, not power, and not our sins that kept us from being in relationship with others, but how we forgave ourselves to build that bridge of love back again.

This week, we take note of the invitations in the world around us, and our responses to them based on our gifts and limitations. The point of paying attention to consolation and desolation is to notice where God is leading us toward more love and more life. As we look at the present and the future, we look for these invitations that increase love and life.

The goal of discernment is, ultimately, action. In Christian scripture and tradition, this means action that builds up the community and action on behalf of others. In other words, “becoming a person for others.” Learning how to love well and deep and real. The ultimate goal of and reason for action is love. St. Ignatius reminds us that love expresses itself more in deeds than in words. This means God’s love works through us to accomplish God’s will. Often our will and God’s are in sync if we are paying attention.

Heart Be Loving

Heart Be Loving

That’s why discernment is so important, to learn the difference between God’s will and our own. What does it look/feel like when my will and God’s will are in sync or out of sync? (Which is the point of paying attention to consolation & desolation.) We may never know enough to do this perfectly…and yet doing our best is always enough. How do we make our peace with “doing the best we can”? Martin Luther said: “Sin boldly, but believe more boldly still in God’s grace.” This attitude can get us out of the paralysis that comes from trying to do it perfectly because in the end God can use any decision—even the “wrong” one, this is illustrated in the story of Joseph, and in Gen.45:7-8, 50:18-20.

When we act:

1) we feel a pull to respond to something in the world around us (“a portion of reality asserts itself and makes a claim”)

2) we discover the courage and power to say yes to the invitation

3) we bring both our strengths and our weaknesses with us into our action—both can be used

4) we are changed by the process

The ultimate example of God’s love working through weakness is the cross. The cross is the model and standard of self-giving love and of strength through weakness. There is much continuity between giving love and receiving love. St. Ignatius’ “Contemplation to Attain Love” he asks us to contemplate all the times we have felt loved—both in terms of receiving God’s love and “loving like God.” This is why the examen is often phrased in terms of gratitude. Consider the image of holding one’s hands open: the more we are able to open our hands, the more we will be able to receive, and give what we receive. We are invited to rest in God’s love, grace, and freedom. To do this, we can reflect on situations in your life where “reality asserted itself and made a claim.” When and how did you say yes or no?

Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak wisely shares: “It took me a long time to understand that although everyone needs to be loved, I cannot be the source of that gift to everyone who asks me for it. There are some relations in which I am capable of love and others in which I am not. To pretend otherwise, to put out promissory notes I am unable to honor, is to damage my own integrity and that of the person in need—all in the name of love.”

Our closing prayer for this day is:

Last night as I was sleeping

By Antonio Machado (version by Robert Bly)

Last night as I was sleeping,

I dreamt—marvelous error!—

that a spring was breaking out in my heart.

I said: Along which secret aqueduct,

Oh water, are you coming to me,

water of a new life

that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,

I dreamt—marvelous error!—

that I had a beehive here inside my heart.

And the golden bees

honey bee beauty

honey bee beauty

were making white combs

and sweet honey

from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,

I dreamt—marvelous error!—

That a fiery sun was giving

light inside my heart.

It was fiery because I felt

warmth as from a hearth,

and sun because it gave light

and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,

I dreamt—marvelous error!—

that it was God I had

here inside my heart.

Suggested texts for further prayer:

  • Micah 6:8 What do you think God is asking of you personally?
  • Luke 1:26-38 (NRSV) What is wanting to be born in you? What impossibilities stand in the way? Are they real or stories you tell yourself to keep you from acting? When have you said YES?
  • 1 Corinthians 12:4-22 and 12:31-13:3 (NRSV) What part of the body are you? How is it a way of showing love?
  • 1 Corinthians 1:26-2:5 (NRSV), 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NRSV) What fears or weaknesses keep you from becoming your authentic self? Which ones might be drawing you closer toward God? Which ones encourage you to depend on something larger than yourself? How are your gifts and limitations connected to each other?

Previous weeks: Be Attentive, Contemplative Listening, Be Reflective and Silence & Spirit

Silence & Spirit

By Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna ’93

A colleague and myself developed a five week discernment series when we worked together at Santa Clara University. Over the next few weeks I will share portions of this work for your own vocational discernment, this is part four of five

Image for prayer: Rest in the sunshine of God’s love.



Start today’s reflection by taking a moment to be silent. What sounds do you notice in this moment? A cat purring, a refrigerator humming, the wind blowing, a door creaking, someone typing on the computer, the sun being covered by clouds and revealed a moment later. How long do you think you were silent for? Was it easy for you to sink into silence? What was challenging about it?

Learning to be still with God is a skill we can practice. We are better listeners (and therefore discerners) when we take time to be still and quiet. Sometimes it helps to call to mind that we are surrounded by God’s love, grace and freedom. In doing so we begin to slow down all the “doing,” and focus on “being.” This is a challenge in our culture so much of who we are is defined by what we do, but truly there is nothing you can do to make God love you less…there is nothing you can do to make God love you more. God’s love is unconditional and a love of abundance.

This week I invite you to create space for you to enter into silence. There are many ways of doing this, and perhaps you have ways you already do it that you would like to share with us. I welcome that!

Possible ways to enter into silence:

  • Mindful walking.
  • Holding something in your hand such as a smooth stone.
  • Sitting in the Visitation Chapel in North Minneapolis or a quiet, beautiful place of your choice.
  • Focusing on your own breath, and relaxing all the parts of your body.
  • Reading a scripture of sacred text slowly/prayerfully.
  • Or talking to God, Jesus, or Mary, or a wise guide of yours.

Some say, and I would agree that our first vocation in this life is to be human. How does silence steep us in our own humanity? Irenaeus says, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” Unless we take the time to be silent, we don’t really know our own humanity.

It is okay to be nervous about this, lot’s of people are! Some common fears people share when they start a practice of silence are:

  • What if we hear things in the quiet that we don’t want to hear, i.e. an invitation to a difficult action, or a feeling we have been avoiding?
  • What if when we stop “doing,” we never get started again?
  • What if we notice how tired, (or depressed, or in pain) we really are?
  • What if God is the one who is silent

Let me assure you that wonderful gifts come from silence. Afterall, what if we hear our true song that only we can sing? What if we find balance we have craved? What if we find a stillness that is beautiful? God does not give us anything we cannot handle, nor abandon us.

When I worked at Santa Clara I often attended a Quaker meeting a few blocks from campus. I welcomed their way of worship

Contemplative Silence

Contemplative Silence

since most of my work week involved lots of talking and interaction. To sit with others in silence was a gift. You might want to try attending a meeting yourself if you crave silence, and wish to experience it with others. This week try on two ways of being silent. See what it holds for you. Get support around doing this if you like, ask a friend to try it with you. Know that I will be doing it with you this week and will hold a space of silence for you to enter into, you needn’t be alone.

Suggested Texts for Prayer:

Luke 10:38-42 (NIV) How do you balance the tension between doing and being? How would you put into words the ‘one thing needed’? At this point in your life, do you identify with Martha or Mary?

Psalm 46:10 (NRSV) When is it easiest to be still?

Luke 11:9-13 (NRSV) What are you asking for? What are your desires? How do you bring this to prayer?

From Kathleen Norris:

“Over the years when I worked as an artist in elementary schools I devised an exercise for the children regarding noise and silence. I’ll make a deal with you, I said—first you get to make noise, and then you’ll make silence….I found that we’d usually have to make two or three attempts to attain an acceptable din—shouting, pounding, stomping….

“The rules for silence were equally simple. Don’t hold your breath and make funny faces, I learned to say, as this is how third graders typically imagine silence. Just breathe normally but quietly: the only hard thing is to sit so still that you make no noise at all. We always had to try this more than once. A pencil would roll down someone’s desk, or someone would shift in a seat. But in every case but one, over many years, I found that children were able to become so still that silence became a presence in the classroom.“Some kids loved it. I believe it was a revelation to them, and certainly to their teachers, that they could be so quiet. ‘Let’s do it again,’ they’d say. Others weren’t so sure. ‘It’s scary,’ a fifth grader complained. ‘Why?’ I asked, and I believe that he got to the heart of it when he replied, ‘It’s like we’re waiting for something—it’s scary!’…

“What interests me most about my experiment is the way in which making silence liberated the imagination of so many children. Very few wrote with any originality about making noise. Most of their images were clichés such as ‘we sound like a herd of elephants.’ But silence was another matter: here, their images often had a depth and maturity that was unlike anything else they wrote. One boy came up with an image of strength as being ‘as slow and silent as a tree,’ another wrote that ‘silence is me sleeping waiting to wake up. Silence is a tree spreading its branches to the sun.’ In a parochial school, one third grader’s poem turned into a prayer: ‘Silence is spiders spinning their webs, it’s like a silkworm making its silk. Lord, help me to know when to be silent.’ And in a tiny town in western North Dakota a little girl offered a gem of spiritual wisdom that I find myself returning to when my life becomes too noisy and distractions overwhelm me: ‘Silence reminds me to take my soul with me wherever I go.’ ”[1]

Does silence scare you? Does silence comfort you? Why?

[1] Kathleen Norris, “Silence,” Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, pp.16-17

Previous weeks: Be Attentive, Contemplative Listening, & Be Reflective

400th Anniversary Mass: A Celebration in Images!

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

On  Sunday, June 6th, the Visitation Sisters celebrated the 400th anniversary of their founding in Annecy, France. The following photographs, courtesy of Vis Companion, Brian Mogren, reveal a bit of the spirit of the blessed mass and party held in North Minneapolis at Ascension Church. What do they say to you? Feel free to leave your comments below!

Be Reflective

By Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna ’93

A colleague and myself developed a five week discernment series when we worked together at Santa Clara University. Over the next few weeks I will share portions of this work for your own vocational discernment, this is part three of five.

Mantra for prayer: Pruning helps us grow in a good direction.

What patterns of consolation and desolation have you noticed in your life? What was contemplative listening like for you?

This week we further our understanding of discernment by carving out time to intentionally become more reflective about how our heart is moved by what happens in the world? Noticing if you are in balance or out of balance? And why?

For some the daily examen is a wonderful way to be reflective. For others getting out in nature and taking a walk in the rose gardens of Minneapolis. There you can contemplate how a rose needs to be pruned to stay healthy and grow, and how you might be called to prune your own life? This kind of reflection on our lives we invite to happen in the context of God’s grace and love, that is why the examen begins as it does praying for light. God’s grace and love provide the “standards” for our discernment and for the choices we make accordingly.

In Judeo-Christian Scripture and tradition, the standard is the image of God in ourselves. Jesus Christ is that image, and the model for us. (St. Paul has lots of metaphors for that: putting on Christ, having the mind of Christ, being conformed to Christ, etc.) Tradition teaches us that the more we come to know God’s grace and love, and the image of Christ in ourselves, through our spiritual lives, the better we’ll get to know God’s will and the clearer our discernment can be. Perhaps the question is not so much “what would Jesus do,” but “what is the Holy Spirit doing in me” or “who would Jesus have me become.”

According to the examen, or any tool you use for getting into a reflective space, we make choices based on what leads us toward

Millenium Park, Chicago, IL-- a space of reflection

Millenium Park, Chicago, IL-- a space of reflection

Christ and what is leading us away. Hence, the pruning metaphor. What has been pruned away in your life? What was the gift of this pruning? Was it a gift?

Some ways to further practice reflective discernment is to “try on a decision.” Discernment does not happen between a good and a bad decision, but usually between two goods. So try on the decision you are least excited about, this may give you insight into what you truly desire and what God desires for us. Imagine telling your friends and family, perhaps even go so far as to tell one of them. How do you feel? The other discernment exercise is to imagine yourself on your deathbed, it is called the Final Examen. The book Sleeping with Bread explains the final examen:”In your prayer imagine that you are 85 years old and dying. See the events in your life flash before you. For what are you grateful? What do you wish you had done differently? Pay special attention to the years between your present age and your death.”

Suggested Texts for Prayer on Reflection:

  • John 15:1-5 (NRSV) What are you being invited to let go of, in order to bear more fruit?
  • Genesis 1:26, 27 Can you imagine having something in common with God?
  • Galatians 5:22-23, 25 How does your life invite you to live by these fruits?

A closing prayer:

Patient Trust[1]

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is a lot of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability –
and that may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas and mature gradually – let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

[1] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ.

Place of Delight and Rest: St. Jane House!

by Sr. Joanna O’Meara, VHM

Sidewalk Chalk WELCOME TO ST. JANE's!What makes a ‘house’ a ‘home’?  Approaching the St. Jane House this morning to celebrate its second anniversary, the writing was not exactly on the wall, but beneath our feet:

This is the place of our delight and rest” – the words spoken by Jane De Chantal as she entered the Gallery House, 400 years ago were inscribed as a welcome mat to greet us as we gathered to celebrate the life of all have made the Jane House ‘home’ over the past two years. The welcome presence of “Mr. St. Jane” (Brian Mogren) welcomes, invites and ensures that all who enter find their place & rest in the heart of north Minneapolis.

Faithful prayers including Sr. Karen and "Mr. St. Jane" Brian Mogren

Faithful prayers including Sr. Karen and "Mr. St. Jane" Brian Mogren

Gathering many regulars together this morning for centering prayer followed by a breakfast celebration reminded me that the ripple effect of Salesian Spirituality continues to create waves of stability, peacefulness and an awareness that we are all part of creating a world community for Jesus to be lived in.  A variety of youth groups, college-urban plunge groups, ‘Two mothers’ healing groups for women affected by violence,  Church groups  – just a small snapshot of the many people who have found the St. Jane House to be ‘home’ for them.  As we begin our fifth century as an Order, I can visualize Francis and Jane meeting ‘Mr. St. Jane’ and being thoroughly delighted with this oasis of peace in our neighborhood.


St. Jane House: A place where we are literally and spiritually fed.

The Jane House is funded solely through donations. We welcome anyone who is able to donate to this worthy cause. If you would like to visit, check out the Jane House link on our website for more information. We look forward to opening the door to you!

Discernment Poem: “Ask Me” by William Stafford

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

How many ways are there for us to pray? How do we tune into the voice of the Divine, hear God at work in our hearts, in our lives, in our circumstances, or present settings? The following poem by William Stafford reminds me of  a way any one of us might “tune in” and do the work of discernment – through poetry and nature. Here, Stafford –  as poet – pays attention to his environment as well as to his own inner voice, making a connection between the literal and figurative currents that flow in our spirits alongside that of a river. I came across this text two years ago when the Vis Companions were reading Parker Palmer’s book, “Let your Life Speak: Listening to the Voice of Vocation.” I offer it now for each of you as prayer, as fodder for your own reflections or musings on your life. What does your life say to you?


frozen riverAsk Me

By William Stafford

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

The Story Behind the 7 Blesseds

By Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna ’93

Anniversaries are miraculous. On June 6, 1610 St. Jane de Chantal and three other women crossed the threshold of the first Visitation, this weekend we celebrate 400 years of tradition and growth of the joyous Visitation order. Anniversaries are times for reflection. Invitations to rituals that allow us to look where we have been, and envision where we are being called.

This year we continue to actively dream about the Visitation. We call forth seven more visionary women to join the seven joyous

Seven Martys of Madrid

Seven Martys of Madrid

sisters of North Minneapolis’ Urban Monastery. In putting forth this invitation we reflect on the seven Visitandines of the First Monastery of Madrid, Spain, martyred during the Spanish Revolution of 1936, who were beatified on May 10, 1998,. They are Blesseds Maria Gabriela, Teresa Maria, Josefa Maria, Maria Ines, Maria Cecilia, Maria Engracia, and Maria Angela.

We pray to these wise and loving guides as they join us to support the next seven women who are called to cross the threshold of this Visitation community in the year 2010. Join us as we celebrate with great gratitude and fervent faith, and as Julian of Norwich prayed, “All shall be well, all shall be well, all good things shall be well.”

You are Invited: 400th Anniversary Celebration!

Please consider joining us for this momentous occasion. All are welcome!
(Further details and directions follow.)


Sunday, June 6, 2010
Mass: 9:30am
Birthday Party: Following
RSVP 612-521-6113

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