Monthly Archives: February 2012

Thank You

Written by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

The snow dances between ice and rain outside, and as I walk through the slush it is like I am wading in waves this Leap Year. This Lent, I am throwing myself into greater gratitude. I heard my fellow blogger, Melissa, speak that she is trying to say “Thank you, for everything in her life this Lent, even the messy stuff.” Don’t we often want to leap over the messy stuff of our lives to get to the comort and grace on the other side? But the trick is leaping over the sticky stuff means you miss the good stuff, the stuff that informs our hearts, our minds and our guts to act curouageously down the road. The messiness is where wisdom and grace are born and often where we transform into greater versions of ourselves.

I hold Melissa’s intention and the stories of others I heard recently as I think about the simple and revolutionary act of the two simple words, “Thank you,” in my own Lenten prayer. How do we say thank you to God, others, ourselves even in the slushy parts of our life? So as not to leap over it all, but to really pay attention, which I am told is the beginning of devotion.

“If the only prayer you ever said in your whole life was “Thank you,” that would suffice.” -Meister Eckhart

Thank you. Amen.



Ash Wednesday

By Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

We ready our hearts,

In the desert we swirl from dust to dust,

upon the mountain top as the sun kisses our face;

marking it like a lover.

How to look into the sun’s radiance?

God whispers on the winds of our heart’s longing to be purified, loved, whole.

The desert upon first glance is void of life and vibrancy,

but within deeper prayer the life that lives in the forsaken land is revealed.

Colors become vibrant.

What lives within each of us dying of thirst,

waiting that rare desert rain that hits hard red earth and is readily absorbed?

An invitation for our hearts forty days in the wild desert to become supple and strong, swift and tamed by love.

Readying our Hearts for Lent: Words from St. Francis de Sales

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“The desert experience begins by calling one out of the world. Salesian experience does not. For [St. Jane de Chantal and St. Francis de Sales] the location of that process is first and foremost interior. It is hidden in the heart.” Introduction to the Letters of Spiritual Direction p. 54

On Wednesday, February 22, 2012, we begin our Lenten journey. As individuals, and as a large Catholic faith community, we lean into this season, embracing Christ’s journey to the desert as our own. We empty ourselves and tune into our poverty, our longing, our desire, our suffering, and become more vulnerable as we examine our very humanity and our need for God.

Well, in theory that’s what we all do, right?

In my own pre-Mardi-Gras preparation for this Lenten journey, I turned to our Visitation co-founders, St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal, for a little inspiration and guidance. Opening their “Letters of Spiritual Direction”, (translated by Péronne Marie Thibert, VHM, with an introduction by Wendy Wright and Joseph S. Powers, OSFS; and preface by Fr. Henri Nouwen),  I landed upon some Salesian material in the Introduction to the book that really resonated with me and struck me as particularly “lenten.”   Theme V of Francis and Jane’s letters, as the authors point out,  focuses on the heart-centered nature of their spirituality. The chapter begins with these words by St. Francis:

St. Francis de Sales, Co-Founder of the Visitation Sisters

St. Francis de Sales, Co-Founder of the Visitation Sisters

“Since the heart is the source of all of our actions, as the heart is, so are they.” (Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life III, 23)

The authors go on to define “classic desert spirituality” here and the “extent to which its focus is on the exterior dimensions of spirituality (as opposed to Francis’ attention to the interior).  As indicators of the transformation of the person,  one fleeing society has exterior markers; these include entering a monastery, donning the habit, taking a new name, and being celibate.  Salesian spirituality, on the other hand is first and foremost distinguished as rooted in the interior life, the heart.* (And, I might note, something the laity might aspire to as well as the religious.)

Authors Dr. Wendy Wright and Joseph Powers, OSFS, explain:

“The desert experience begins by calling one out of the world. Salesian experience does not. For Madame de Chantal and the Monseigneur of Geneva the location of that process is first and foremost interior. It is hidden in the heart. It is only after the slow and dramatic change of person has been engraved in the center of one’s being that the issue of that metamorphosis can be seen.  To impress this idea on his readers, Francis relied upon the metaphor of the almond tree (an image shaped by the particular botanic knowledge of his day.)”

To quote Francis de Sales then:

“Men engaged in horticulture tell us that if a word is written on a sound almond seed and it is placed again its shell, carefully wrapped up and planted, whatever fruit the tree bears will have that same writtten word stamped on it. For myself…I cannot approve the methods of those who try to reform a person by beginning with external things, such as bearings, dress or hair. On the contrary, it seems to me that we should begin inside. ‘Be converted to me with your whole heart,’ God said. ‘My child, give me your heart.’  Since the heart is the source of actions, as the heart is, so are they…

For this reason…..I have wished above all else to engrave and inscribe on your heart this holy, sacred maxim, LIVE JESUS! I am sure that your life, which comes from the heart just as the almond tree comes from its seed, will after that produce all its actions — which are its fruits — inscribed and engraved with this sacred word of salvation.”

May you travel to the desert of your own heart this Lent.

May you travel to the desert of your own heart this Lent.


It is my hope that this reflection inspires your journey into Lent, tending to your interiors, to your hearts; may a desert of contemplation and sincerity be cultivated in the midst of your present surroundings. May you know and trust the Divine source of Love that exists in your heart and guides you daily.

Happy Lenten Journey! LIVE JESUS!

*I invite you all to turn to page 54 of this text and simply read the first page of this section of the book — as my attempts to summarize will undoubtedly do injustice to our authors’ work. (Amazon will let you read this online for free by clicking here.)

Join us at St. Jane House for Mardi Gras and a Movie: 2/21, 6pm!

Kelly Schumacher, Vis Intern

Kelly Schumacher, Vis Intern

An Invitation from Kelly Schumacher, Visitation Intern:

After the success of our first installment of Movies with Janelast month, we’re looking to continue offering St. Jane House as a space for movie watching and good discussion!

Join us on Tuesday, 2/21 at 6pm for Mardi Gras and a screening of Tom Shadyac’s inspiring and groundbreaking film “I AM”.

Please consider joining us (and bringing a friend). Snacks will be served and discussion will follow.


Any questions, please contact me at or 630.656.8762

St. Jane House
1403 Emerson Ave N
Minneapolis, MN 55411
(612) 965-9446

Falling in love…what’s it have to do with your vocation?

Written by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

It turns out falling in love has everything to do with your vocation, your calling, your way you express yourself in the world at large.

Often I hear people say go with your gut when making a decision, which can mean tapping into your intuition, acknowledging your heart’s desires, or at the very least getting your logical self out of the way. However, as I reflect on how our heart can lead us especially on a day where the heart is particularly celebrated, I fall back upon the wisdom of three people: Fr. Pedro Arrupe S.J., St. Thomas Aquinas, and Fr. Michael Himes. It is my heart’s desire today that their words speak to your heart’s deepest longings and clearest sense of yourself. Just as we must pay attention to how our minds work and which voices to cultivate, we too must pay attention to the tunings of our hearts and where and whom we pour love toward.

Fr. Pedro Arrupe S.J. said:

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

A Valentine from St. Thomas Aquinas on the Virtue of Love presented and unpacked by Fr. Michael Himes, Professor of Theology at Boston College. Please click on the short video to watch how love is defined by “the effective willing of the good of the other,” and realize the excitement that this approach to love makes for your loved ones.

“My Church: How much I love you, criticize you.” Reflecting on our faith communities

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“How do we cultivate/ create/ call into our lives a community of support for our vocational journeys? What role does church play in this? And what happens if we don’t really like our church?”“Following the Spirit” Discernment Series participant

Beth channels Fr. Michael Himes from Boston College

What role does church play in supporting your discernment?

It was Monday, January 30, 2012, and I was sitting in the living room of St. Jane House, the Visitation Sisters’ Urban Spirituality Center, when a young, 20-something woman posed these questions. As part of the first session in our five-part discernment series reflecting on vocation, I was struck by these questions. As a 43 year old Catholic who has known the struggle and joy of finding a faith community that challenges and supports me in my ongoing journey, I recognized the deep resonance of my younger counterparts’ queries, and was energized by the way they inspired our small group discussion. A young woman from NET (National Evangelization Team) Ministries responded passionately to these questions with her thoughts about church and community. Another participant, who works in the Social Justice arm of the Catholic church, drawing on her lived experience of communal life,  spoke about her frustrations and celebrations; she referred to a passage by Italian spiritual writer, and former National President of Catholic Youth,  Carlo Corretto,* that resonated with her experience as a catholic:

Carlo Carretto

Carlo Carretto

“How much I must criticize you, my church, and yet how much I love you!  You have made me suffer more than anyone, and yet I owe more to you than to anyone.  I should like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence.  You have given me much scandal, and yet you alone have made me understand your holiness.  Never in this world have I seen anything more compromised, more false, yet never have I touched anything more pure, more generous or more beautiful.  Countless times, I have felt like slamming the door of my soul in your face–and yet, every night, I have prayed that I might die in your sure arms!  No, I cannot be free of you, for I am one with you, even if not completely you.  Then too–where would I go?  To build another church?  But I could not build one without the same defects, for they are my defects.  And again, if I were to build another church, it would be my church, not Christ’s church.  No, I am old enough.  I know better.”  –Carlo Carretto, Italian spiritual writer

I wonder how these questions resonate with you? I wonder how Carlo Carretto’s words speak to you? What role does church play in your ongoing faith and discernment journey? How do you create or cultivate a community that supports you in your walk with God?

Comments welcome below!

Carlo Carretto was a leader in Italian “Catholic Action” and served as National President of Catholic Youth from 1946 to 1952. At the age of forty-four he heard the call of God to go into the desert. There he joined the Little Brothers of Jesus of Charles de Foucauld. — From “On Adoration….Silence”
Books by Carlo Carretto

Community–What does it mean to discern?

by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

What does 'community' mean to you?

Often when we speak of discernment we might faultily think this is regarding individual decision making, but perhaps do not give credit to outside influences or considerations that inform and guide our heart’s true longings. For example, what is in the news today, or yesterday might catch our attention and ask us to consider how our gifts could respond to a need in our immediate or global community.

“St. Francis de Sales implores of us to ‘seek sage counsel, and once we have prayed about the decision, to not look back.'”

This morning at a weekly meeting I was asked, “What does community mean to you?” Our group responded with the following: “Community is people you know and love, people who are families; community is made up of concentric circles from those you may casually interact with to those you know more intimately; there is a virtual community and a live community; community is destined by the architecture of the place both constructed and nature-made.”

When we are asked to discern how our gifts could bless our communities needs, we need to also ask the question, “Does our community need the gifts we want to use at this time?” We can not, nor should we discern in isolation. We are prudent to follow what St. Francis de Sales implores of us to “seek sage counsel, and once we have prayed about the decision, to not look back.”

“…our holy decision-makings do not happen in isolation, nor should they happen solely in community.”

A close confident of mine, spoke to me this evening about what he heard on the news about a three month old dying in interment camp in Afghanistan, and then a subsequent story about a mother in Detroit not able to bring her older kids to school because she could not afford the bus money for all six of her kids. He said, “I feel so far removed from the daily sufferings of others, and while I work hard to improve our natural world, there has to be more I can do in our own backyard to help others who are in need.”

I was moved by what caught his heart’s attention and how God was inviting him toward action. Hearing him speak, also had an effect on me. It invited me to reflect more on how I can respond in kind. And so: a discerning community begets a discerning community.

I share these two events of my past week to further illustrate that our holy decision makings do not happen in isolation, nor should they happen solely in community, but in a delicate dance between solitary reflection and the illumination of community needs and invitations. What is your community asking of you? What is your heart’s longing wanting to give of yourself?

For All Discerners: the Prayer of Thomas Merton

Posted by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

On the heels of our first Following the Spirit Discernment eve,  small group participant Anna Andahazy sent the following prayer.  It speaks to me and my own journey tuning into God, and trying, as I may, to Love and lean into the Lord at every juncture. I wonder what lines stand out to you? Feel free to comment below!

Thomas Merton

Fr. Thomas Merton, OCSO

My Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself,
And the fact that I think I am following
your will does not mean
that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope that I have that desire
in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything
apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this, you will lead me
by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death,
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me
to face my perils alone.

Family Valentine Party

Sr. Mary Frances embracing a child

Sr. Mary Frances embracing a childby Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

On Saturday, January 28th, our friend Vicki Bailey hosted the 17th annual Valentine Party! This year had a new twist! Since families have requested more opportunities to enjoy quality time together, we decided to make this a FAMILY FRIENDLY party. Ten of our wonderful families came together and made Valentine’s cards, played games, had treats and went home with a basket overflowing with household items as well as goodies for the children. Two neighborhood ‘helper families’ welcomed the chance to ‘give back’ by running games, etc. It was a great opportunity to bridge with friends from city and suburb…..Sr. Mary Frances’ family even got into the act!

For more photos, click on our photo gallery page.
Coming up: FAMILY SUMMER OLYMPICS!!! Stay tuned…