Monthly Archives: September 2010

A Grounding, Prayerful Exercise: Fill in the blank!

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

What is God calling me to do?

What is God calling me to do?

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope. – Jeremiah 29:11

Fill in the blank:

“Discernment is…………………………. .”

“A recent question or discernment I’ve been holding is …………………………….. .”

“I wonder and ask, ‘How is God calling me to …………………………………………..?'”

We began last night’s “Following the Spirit” Discernment Series planning session with this grounding exercise. Sr. Katherine Mullin,  Vis Alumnae Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan and Brigid Ryan-Ling, and I all worked to respond to these prompts. As members of the Vocations team, we were intentionally convened around this skill (discernment), which is so central to our mission and purpose.

We responded.

cross-in-hands“Discernment is…”




“The prayerful act of discovering God’s will for your life and seeking to follow this.”

In a few words or a couple brief sentences strung together, each of us, as women of faith, worked to give voice to our understanding of the discernment process,  and then articulate in a question what we, as individuals, are currently putting before God in our prayers:

“How is God calling me to balance my life as a parent, partner, professional?”

“I wonder how I am being called to balance my responsibilities in the monastery, in community, in this ministry?”

Blessed be!

This side of our meeting, I wonder how you receive these words? Do these prayerful questions resonate with you? I am curious what queries you are putting before God, inviting Love to lead you on?

On Monday, October 4 at 7:30pm, a group of discerning individuals will convene as participants in this three-part course series. Are you one of these people? Do you desire joining us? Will you hold us in prayer?

For more information on how to be a part of this, check out our events page.

Discern on! Pray on! Live + Jesus!

On Discernment Series Preparation: Intentional, Prayerful Work

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

Joyful DiscernersOn Monday night Sr. Katherine Mullin, Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Brigid Ryan-Ling and I will sit down at St. Jane House to reflect together and plan for the upcoming young adult discernment series. As members of the Vocation partners group we are charged with this glorious task of preparing for our second season of the course entitled “Following the Spirit — Helping Young Adults Figure Out Their Next Steps. It’s delightful work!

As a former classroom teacher and member of the Vocations team, I am excited by this work! I feel beyond fortunate to be convening with these women: a beloved Visitation nun, and two Visitation School Alumnae – all contemplative, prayerful, communicative types  collaborating on our goals to build relationships with – and cultivate the skills of – discerning women and men.

As Sr. Katherine, Elizabeth, Brigid and I meet, we hold the following questions:

holy_spirit_closeup“What is Discernment?”
“How do we follow the Spirit? (As people of faith, as facilitators of this course?)”
“What do our founders, Sts. Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal, teach us about this process of living, loving?”

Reflecting on the experiences of this past Spring’s series, I can hear questions from discernment participants:

Grayson and Group
“How do I pursue certain things, goals, dreams?”
“What do I let go of?”
“What is my role in this city?”
“What relationships am I called to build — or  let go of?”
“Where is God’s voice in this and where is mine?”

Just sitting with these questions, I can feel a kind of electrical current running through my body. I hear the poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s words:

…I would like to beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything.

Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

-Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903 in Letters to a Young Poet

I recognize how lucky I am to get to be part of this planning and course work. It’s nothing short of radical – truly privileged – to sit and hold space with others posing large questions about their life and calling. To collaborate with these women – who each has a desire, gift, passion, purpose in participating in this series- is pure joy. It’s my life’s prayer to work in such circles.

Please join us in extending your good thoughts and energy as we plan for this series, and convene with participants in the upcoming months. Perhaps we will see you there?

Thank you!

Live + Jesus!


By Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

Quiet like the stillness of a windless afternoon, like the darkness of winter with its bare trees framing it, like the still of the house during naps. I never appreciated quiet quite like I do now as a mother. I live for the noise of the children waking up in the morning and then as if to balance out the activity, the joy, the chatter, I crave the quiet of the afternoon when they all go down for naps or rest and I can settle into the late afternoon sunlight and drink in the quiet. Even my dogs know to nap at this time helping to anchor the house in rest as their muzzles sink into the hardwood floors like dancers melting into another dimension.

I learned the practice of Zen meditation this week, the sitting, the slow walking, and found that with an intentional practice that



punctuated my days I soaked more into the quiet, observed myself settling upon myself, and realized that quiet can be further nurtured, silence further engaged, and its sweetness further understood. Focusing on my breath its inhalation and exhalation I learned to settle my mind. Sitting and sinking into silence my spine grew straighter, my shoulders relaxed downward, my sit bones became more grounded. As my mind wandered from place to place and my monkey mind occasionally engaged I found it an invitation to let go of my critic, that voice in your head that says what you fear. And, to instead develop my darling “Keep going, you can do it.”

I never feared quiet, but I am not sure I embraced it quite as I did this autumnal equinox when I noticed the balance it brought to my life. Like the balance of light and dark. It was as if the moon and sun sat on the hips of the earth balancing our days and nights for one sweet span of twenty four hours. I marked this moment of the year with celebration of fire, of the marking of the end of summer, of the sweetness of the beginning of the dark when living things take time to rejuvenate, recreate themselves through winter’s quiet and active hibernation in anticipation of the spring. Spring, when the earth balances again and then tips its scale toward the light.

Liam, my second son, said the other day before I left, as he went down for his nap, “Mom, I’m so lonely.” It’s a refrain I heard my grandmother utter often, a refrain I’ve ridded myself of, a story I no longer tell well before his coming into this world. So how did the whispers of my ancestors enter into his sweet, husky, three year old voice?

I reply, “Liam if you’re lonely then you need more time with yourself–not more time with others. Sink into your nap, rest with yourself. Focus on your breath, in then out.”

My oldest, Finny, chimes in from the top bunk, “Yeah, everyone you have ever loved is within you Liam. Right mom?” Recalling a conversation we had recently, that I hadn’t known sunk into him.

We’ve skittered across this grand Country and I claim each place I have lived, held–the crest of Steamers Lane, the the trails of the Dale Ball, the rivers of the Minnesota, the jagged, granite, rocks of the Atlantic coast. May my boys know how to settle their

grandeur of autumn

grandeur of autumn

self upon their self. May I be a teacher to them, may I learn from them, and may they too grow to love the quiet and sink into their new home.

How might you find balance in the quiet parts of your life? How does your quiet inform your activity? Allow you a supple and strong spine ready to respond to the world?

A “Pilgrimage Place for My Soul:” Sr. Suzanne Reflects on Sacred Space at Villa Maria

Back from her eight day retreat, Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM, responds to a recent blog about creating contemplative space, with particulars about her prayerful space at Villa Maria.

Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Just a few words about my retreat…I was blessed to be able to have a sunny, quiet corner room at the Villa Maria Retreat and Conference Center in Frontenac, Minnesota. This place is owned by the Ursuline sisters and is staffed by a small live-in community composed of one Dominican sister and two lay women. Also there is a staff of local people who are employed in every capacity from executive director to volunteer receptionists.

My room was very simply furnished and sort of ‘cell-like’ as in the cell space of a monk….Just a twin bed, desk, chair and a small chest of drawers and tiny closet….I added a stool which I borrowed from the library down the hall to create a prayer corner….I had brought a bread basket cloth with the words,  “Give us this day our daily bread” embroidered at the edges…I had a votive candle and a picture of my 3 1/2 year old great nephew, a tiny glass dish for burnt matches, and my profession cross….This became my altar.

Villa Maria

Villa Maria

As far as books, I brought a brand new spiral notebook with two pockets (college-ruled sheets), and for prayer: a book entitled, Everyday With Thomas Merton and also Kathleen Deignan’s Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours. Light Reading was Sara Mile’s Take This Bread. I also took a personal journal to use for reflection of the past several months of life and recording precious moments of this retreat, little fine point pen drawings, or hopes and dreams and miscellaneous mental minutia one creates when alone with her self for eight days.

The spirituality center has converted a gym into an inner heart chartres patterned labyrinth and a rather whimsical indoor patio complete with cushioned bamboo chairs and huge beach umbrellas….This was my sacred space…I spent hours there everyday….reading Merton, walking/praying the labyrinth several times day and night….It was a pilgrimage place for my soul.

Other stuff this sister took on retreat was comfy clothes, sturdy shoes and my swiss army knife! And God companioned me all the way.

Sr. Suzanne

Doesn’t it sound divine? Thanks for sharing this Sr. Suzanne! We look forward to hearing more from you here soon!

Poetry as Prayer: From Rainer Maria Rilke, (Joanna Macy and Krista Tippett)

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

Here’s something from German Poet Ranier Maria Rilke for your prayer, mediation, reflection.

You, sent out beyond your recall, go to the limits of your longing.

You, sent out beyond your recall, go to the limits of your longing.

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.
—Rilke’s Book of Hours, I, 59

"Being" Radio Host, Krista Tippett

"Being" Radio Host, Krista Tippett

I extend giant thanks to Krista Tippett, Public Radio journalist and host of the newly named program, “Being,” for writing beautifully about this poem as well as its translator, Buddhist philosopher of ecology, Joanna Macy. The former “Speaking of Faith” creator inspired me deeply in her reflective writing in and around this poem. In Ms. Tippett’s journal dated September 16, 2010, she states:

“After reading this poem for the first time those years ago, I began to breathe again. It cleared none of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles away. It simply gave me courage to keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other. This project might not work out, the dream might not come true, but I would see it through to the end.”

I wonder if the poets’ words, and Ms. Tippett’s excerpted journal lines, might also speak to you? What are the limits of your longing? What shadows do you create? What beauty and terror have you encountered? What hands have you reached out for?

Contemplative blessings to each and every one of you this day!


By Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

I am reading a book called Momma Zen Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood by Karen Maezen Miller. Last night as I paused to pray and consider that the days are growing shorter, darker, notice that my breath becomes shallower with the crisp cold air, anticipate the approach of the fall equinox, and witness neighbors prepare for Yom Kippur, a chapter, “Magic Words,” in this wonderful book caught my heart. So I share these words of wisdom, of prayer, as we look to atone ourselves with our changing seasons, with our loved ones, with our neighbors, and with ourselves.

Karen Maezen Miller writes about reconciling with her toddler: “We want to end the battle by winning, not by ending. These contrivences begin, ‘I’m sorry, but…’ After the ‘but’ comes self-defense and justification, explanation and blame, a fist in a glove. Then there is the imperial ‘I’m sorry that you feel that way.’ There is no sorry in this kind of sorry, and we know it, but that’s the kind of sorry that we trade in. No wonder hostilities never cease.

“It had been a long time since I had said simply, ‘I’m sorry,’ and let the silence afterward enfold and erase the harm done. But I begin to do it now, because my need to undo is urgent and unquestioned. ‘I’m sorry,’ I say when I’ve buckled and the sky has fallen. ‘I’m sorry,’ I say to someone who has no conceptual understanding of the words. ‘I’m sorry,’ I say to myself. And, miraculously, the world is made right again. The whole world, the only world my daughter and I live in, the fifteen hundred square feet that composes our universe. She holds no grudges; she doesn’t know how. When I say I’m sorry, we can begin anew, awash in love and tenderness toward each other.

“Saying your sorry is a rather miraculous act of atonement, and all the great religions talk up atonement…. Atonement means reconciliation or reparation. Maezumi Roshi, who found wisdom on every page of Webster’s, used to marvel at the very appearance of the word, because there, hidden in plain sight, is the whole enchilada: at-one-ment. Being one with everything. Unified. Harmonious. Being sorry, truly sorry, closes the gap that has grown wide between you and your beloved. The gap doesn’t really exist, but when you think it does, it does. This is your new spiritual practice: saying ‘I’m sorry.'”

Ahhh to make amends with our little ones, the ones who rely on us for so much is a gift of atonement Karen Maezen Miller calls me back to. It allows me to be gentle with my weaknesses, and to love my little ones deeper, fuller, and more. At-one-ment brings  oneness with another that brings intimacy, brings love, brings joy. As I go to sleep tonight I whisper my prayers of I’m sorry where I fell short of patience, a whisper of I’m sorry where I was short of perspective, I’m sorry where I was short of joy, and with my I’m sorries I promise to begin anew tomorrow just as the leaves that fall this September will begin anew in the spring.

On Retreat: Making Space to Listen to Love

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

“Be Still and Know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:11

How do you make retreat space?

How do you make retreat space?

The Visitation Sisters are making their separate, but concurrent retreats this week. As they find themselves, quiet, still, at Pacem in Terris or Clare’s Well – or wherever the Spirit has called them – they are claiming this intentional time and space to listen to Love speak. What a radical action, eh? It makes me wonder and crave deeply images from their respective sites. What are our beloved sisters seeing? Hearing? Opening their hearts and minds to?

Are they immersed in the woods? Holed up in a cabin or simple room where nothing, save a bed, chair, blanket, maybe a candle adorns their space? Do they take any sacred objects to help focus their listening, their prayer? What texts might they be mediating with? I wonder how many have spiritual directors that they connect with? Do they have companionship at meal time? I wonder.

I crave such an experience this day. In the midst of my blessed busy life raising Maggie, navigating married matters with my beloved partner, François, I find myself achy with desire for this simple quiet space of retreat. I hold the sisters in my heart, and know I am held there, with them in prayer.

Candle 2bMeditation: How do we create retreat space?
What sacred objects or texts help settle us, and rest in the Divine’s Love, this present moment?

Feel free to share your responses about how you make retreat time below in the comments section.

God Bless!

On the Uncertainty of Our Futures: St. Padre Pio (and Sr. Eileen Currie!)

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

St. Padre Pio

St. Padre Pio

I am oppressed by the uncertainty of my future, but I cherish the lively hope of seeing my dreams fulfilled, because the Lord cannot place thoughts and desires in a person’s soul and not really intend to fulfill them, to gratify these longings which Our Lord alone has caused.

-St. Padre Pio


Oh, how I love this quote from St. Padre Pio! Who has ever wondered about their future? About what they are called to do, create, be, share? Who among us hasn’t ever experienced a level of anxiety around something we desire deeply within our bones? It seems like human nature to wonder about or long for resolution to our dreams — to what we imagine and put before God in prayer.

night of the prophetI was fishing around on Facebook this morning before mass, and saw a posting from our Sisters at the Georgetown Monastery. The third Friday of each month, they host Adoration, followed by pizza and a movie. I wondered which film they would be showing this next week, and one of the sisters responded to my query, stating:  “‘Night of the Prophet’” the story of St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio).”

Immediately, I thought of these words of Fr. Pio’s. I recalled my initial unpacking of this reassuring statement of his. I was taken to the first conversation I ever had with my spiritual director at Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House: Sr. Eileen Currie, MSC.

Sr. Eileen Currie, OSM

Sr. Eileen Currie, MSC

“Tell me what you want, what you really, really want,” Sr. Currie said the first time we sat down together. After hemming and hawing a bit at the seeming foolishness of articulating my dreams and desires, Sr. Currie said,  “Who do you think gives you your desires?” And then without skipping a beat: “God does!”

She went on to say that Love places dreams within our hearts, minds, and that it’s our job to protect these, see them into being — with God’s grace and guidance.

Enter Padre Pio, and these beautiful, reassuring words of his.

On this day, this glorious Sunday afternoon, I take a deep breath, and rest calmly in this truth:

cross-in-hands“the Lord cannot place thoughts and desires in a person’s soul and not really intend to fulfill them.”

Hold fast, dear friends. Whatever burns in your body, longs to be realized in the present moment, seen in the fullness of light, trust that God longs and wishes for this, too.

Blessed Be!
Happy Weekend!

Daily with DeSales-Discernment of the Heart

By Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

St Francis de Sales On Love:

“We must keep our hearts continually unshakably serene throughout the vicissitudes of life. Even though everything turns and changes around us, we must ever remain steady–always looking, striving, and aspiring toward God. No matter what course the ship takes, no matter it sails to the east, west, north or south, no matter what winds drive it on, the mariner’s needle never points in any direction except toward the polar star. …the fine point of our heart, our spirit, our higher will, which is our compass, must ever look and tend toward the love of God, its Creator, its Savior, its sole and sovereign good.”

What do you do when you prayerfully discern that the path you are on is leading you in a new direction, like the beauty of a new sprout on an old branch in the springtime? How do you respond? Do you heed its call, pay attention to its loveliness even if it comes with the discomfort of new growth? Or do you hide from it? Try to stuff it down? Stifle its call?

With the recent events at the monastery, discernment of the heart has been on my mind and in my prayer. I took to St. Francis de Sales and what he advises when life happens. I came to a deeper realization that the heart is a lovely and true compass especially when it is set on God’s love. But wow can it take us for a ride! How do we honor our hearts callings and how do we respond with grace to what our life is asking of us?

When we turn away from our heart’s deepest desires, from what God calls us toward we often no longer feel like ourselves, and it is difficult to respond to others, ourselves, and God with authenticity.

discernment of the heart

discernment of the heart

When we turn into the fray of the “vicissitudes of life” we find the courage, the grace, the honesty to take the ship’s course no matter the direction, no matter the waters nor the winds, no matter the adventure. God places in our journey the people, the supplies, and the food we need to weather the course to face our fears, our feelings, our opportunities. With faith our “mariner’s needle never points in any direction except toward the polar star. …the fine point of our heart, our spirit, our higher will, which is our compass, must ever look and tend toward the love of God, its Creator, its Savior, its sole and sovereign good.” If that’s not salve, not honey for when our life presents us with an invitation we may initially resist, I am not sure what else could be!

Follow your polar star! Live Jesus!

“Seeing with Contemplative Eyes” – Juxtaposing Richard Rohr and Rumi

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. -Rev. 21:1

Fr. Rohr’s words have really been speaking to me lately. His articulation about, and invitation to move beyond, dualistic thinking resonates. He reminds me so much of the 13th century Persian Sufi Mystic, Jelal ad-Din Rumi, in this regard.

Today, I post pieces from each of these wise, contemplative figures as my prayer. Perhaps the juxtaposition will speak to you? To your heart? Mind? To your own  contemplative spirit? Your responses are welcome; feel free to record a comment below.

Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, Center for Action and Contemplation

Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, Center for Action and Contemplation


The ego prefers the dualistic mind, it gives it games to play, distinctions to make, and battles to win.  In contrast, the soul prefers to embrace things, not to just name things correctly.  It is what it is—without a name.  It is what it is—as it is.

My assumption is that the soul sees with contemplative eyes.  It sees things without needing to label them up or down, in or out, with me or against me, totally right or totally wrong.  That gives you time to actually meet the moment, without agenda, and leave the field open until God shows up and takes the lead.

From Emerging Christianity: the conference recordings.

Jelal ad-Din Rumi, 13th Century Sufi Mystic

Jelal ad-Din Rumi, 13th Century Sufi Mystic

– Rumi

Out beyond ideas of
wrong-doing and right-doing
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there

When the soul lies down in that
the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase,
each other
doesn’t make any sense.

This moment this love comes to rest in me.
Many beings in one being.
In one wheat-grain
a thousand sheaf stacks.

Inside the needle’s eye,
a turning night of stars.