Monthly Archives: April 2012

Discernment, choosing the path less worn

Posted by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

I came across this passage in the book I am reading. I think it is applicable to discernment, and going through some of the uncomfortableness of it. Elizabeth Lesser says, “I knew what Albert Einstein meant when he said that the most appropriate response to life is ‘Sacred Awe.'” With this in mind I ask you are you once born or twice born?

Are You Once Born or Twice Born?

Elizabeth LesserBroken Open” page 18

It was William James, philosopher who wrote that there are two kinds of people in this world the ‘Once-Born‘ and the ‘Twice-Born‘.

Once-Born people do not stray from the familiar territory of who they think they are, and what they think is expected of them. If fate pushes them to the edge of Dante’s famous dark woods ‘where the straight way is lost’ they turn back. They don’t want to learn something new from life’s darker lessons. They stay with what seems safe, and what is acceptable to their family and society. They stick to what they already know but don’t necessarily want.

Once-Born people may go through life and never even know what lies beyond the woods-or that there are woods at all. Perhaps a once-born person awakens one morning and feels the beckoning finger of fate loosening disturbing questions:

Is this all there is to life?

Will I always feel the same?

Do I not have some purpose to fulfill, some greater kindness to give, some inner freedom to taste?

And then he gets out of bed and dresses for work, and he doesn’t attend to the soul’s questions. The next morning, and all the next mornings, he lives as if the soul was a figment of a flighty imagination. This inattention makes him confused, or numb, or sad, or angry.

Twice-Born person pays attention when the soul pokes it’s head through the clouds of a half-lived life. Whether through choice or calamity, the Twice-Born person goes into the woods, loses the straight way, makes mistakes, suffers loss, and confront that which needs to change within himself in order to live a more genuine and radiant life.

Twice-Born people use the difficult change in their outer lives to make the harder changes within. While Once-Born people avoid or deny or bitterly accept the unpredictable changes of real life, Twice-Born people use adversity for awakening betrayal, illness, divorce, the demise of a dream, the loss of a loved one-all of these can function as initiations into deeper life. The journey from once-born to twice-born brings us to a crossroads where the old ways of doing things are no longer working but a better way lies somewhere at the far edge of the woods. We are afraid to step into those woods but even more afraid to turn back. To turn back is one kind of death. to go forward is another.

The first kind of death ends in ashes, the second leads toward rebirth. For some of us, the day arrives when we step willingly into the woods. A longing to wake up, to feel more alive, to feel ‘something’ spurs us beyond our fear. Some of us resist like hell until the forces of fate deliver a crisis. Some of us get sick and tired of filling an inner emptiness with drugs or drinks or food, and we turn and face our real hunger: our soul hunger, Twice-Born people trade the safety of the known for the power of the un-known.

Something calls them into the woods, where the straight path vanishes, and there is no running back, only going through. This is not easy. It is not a made-up fairy tale. It is very real and difficult. To face our shadow, the dragons and hags that we have spent a lifetime running away from is perhaps the most difficult journey we will ever take. But it is there, in the shadows, that we retrieve our hidden parts, learn our lessons, and give birth to the wise and mature self. From an experience, we know that the difficulty of the dark journey is matched only by it’s rewards.

I know, that every person in this world is offered, time and time again-the chance to take the voyage from once-born innocence, to Twice-born wisdom.

Are you a Once Born or a Twice Born?

Discernment and Leadership: Tuning into the Wisdom of Gamaliel

Before the Sanhedrin

Before the Sanhedrin

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin,
it will destroy itself.
But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” –Gamaliel, respected teacher of the law,  before the Sanhedrin Acts 5: 38-39

How do we discern whether our endeavors are of God’s will, or purely of our own human making and inclination? How are we to tease apart the roots of our intentions in engaging in any activity, or trust those intentions of others’? It’s messy stuff, I believe!

These words from Friday’s scripture give me pause this week, as I consider their context, and weigh their present possible applications in our church and world.

“How do we tune into what is of God’s good pleasure, and like the apostles in this reading, hold fast in our faith and living out Christ’s mission?”

Here are the apostles standing before the Sanhedrin, being judged for their efforts in proclaiming and living the Good News. A wise Pharisee and teacher among them named Gamaliel has the wherewithal to pause, and counsel his peers who seemingly have the power to destroy and/ or disband the apostles altogether. He invites the Sanhedrin to be careful and consider what they are judging and how they may choose to act. Gamaliel offers examples of previous prophetic agents whose efforts died with the Sanhedrin’s sanctions, and utters these true words cited above about the origin of each agent’s mission. Re-stated: “If the activity and mission is of God –divinely ordained — it shall flourish. If not, the endeavor shall die.”

In my vocations ministry with discerning individuals who are trying to lean into God’s call, and live His love, this scripture holds much power and weight. I think of the four young women from NET (National Evangelization Teams) Ministries who came this week to pray and be among the sisters for a short window of time, and tune into the vocational narratives of a number of the community who have and are discerning God’s will for their lives. How do they, and we alike, tune into what is of God’s good pleasure, and like the apostles in this reading, hold fast in our faith and living out Christ’s mission?

I think of all women religious in the United States, whose leadership has been put on notice as the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) appoints a team of bishops to oversee the reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). (USCCB, April 18, 2012.) I long for Gamaliel’s voice in reviewing the claims about women religious and their work. And simultaneously, my heart is filled with gratitude for the possibilities of this review process over the next five years.

I pose questions and I pray….

  • How are the apostles from 2000 years ago alive and at work in this day and age?
  • What Good News are we proclaiming with full voice?
  • How is God’s will present in all facets of our lives and in all charged or messy circumstances?
  • As faithful, faith-filled beings, how are each of us before a present day assembly of the Sanhedrin?
  • What roles are we each called to fill or claim?
  • Where is Gamaliel? Can we recognize Judas the Galilean, whose efforts amounted to naught?
  • Who among us will be flogged, but persist in our appointed goals and missions?
  • How will God himself be fought with?
  • How can we give God thanks for all of this activity and the guidance to move through it in a transformational, inspiring, life-giving manner?

I pray.


An invitation from Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, vhm and the Visitation Community:

Smiling retreatantsWhat: Northside Women’s Retreat

When: Friday and Saturday, May 18 and 19. you must be able to attend the entire retreat. Friday night runs from 6 pm until 9 pm and Saturday we go from 8:30 am until 3 pm.

Where: Retreat will be in the Cafeteria of the Ascension School on the corner of Dupont and 17th Avenue North.

Speakers will be: Dr. Barbara Sutton of St. John’s University and Ms. Dorice Law, a northsider and former participant in the Women’s Retreat. Dorice is currently a student at St. John’s.

Focus of retreat: PRAYING WITH THE FACE OF WOMEN IN SCRIPTURES. The presenters have done extensive work on Women in the St. John’s Bible.

NOTE: Registration will be limited to the first 50 women who register. Keep watching our website, the mail and Acension’s church bulletin and listen for pulpit announcements telling you when registration forms are available.

No thanks!

Written by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

With our life’s discernment, it is good to take heed about what we have learned that we do not like. Instead of finding this frustrating that once again we find ourselves not loving our work, let’s flip it into an invitation of yet another thing to check off, “No thanks, this is not for me.”

These glimpses into what we find draining us of energy, or avoiding can inform what we need to prune away from our life in order to make room for what we are being called toward.

Often, without awareness, we continue in our tried patterns, our tired treads, because it is habitual and not because it is life giving. When we take the time to pause and ask ourselves why am I resisting this? Or why do I find upon waking I have little energy to attend to my job at hand, whatever that may be, we can gain insight into our discernment–that if left unquestioned we would never gain the wisdom our life is asking of us.

In short, what we dislike, or dare I say hate, is just as important to pay attention to, as to what we often are asked to consider–what gives us joy.

So give thanks for what you do not like! Say Amen, let go. And move on to what does give you joy! You and your community will be better for it in the long run! Take courage and press on!

Join us for “Food, Inc” at St. Jane House: Tuesday, 4/17, 6pm!

Kelly Schumacher, Vis Intern

Kelly Schumacher, Vis Intern

An Invitation from Kelly Schumacher, Visitation Intern:

Come join us at St. Jane House on Tuesday, April 17th for a screening of Food Inc., a film about food justice and food production. (Just in time to prepare for Earth Day!) This is the next in our series, “Movies with Jane” featuring thought provoking films that inspire and/or challenge us to become better people!


6:00pm – Doors open to St. Jane House, 1403 Emerson Ave N
6:30pm – Film begins, followed by discussion

Limited to 20 people. RSVP here or to
When we hit capacity we will start a waiting list.

About the film: In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto) along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield’s Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms’ Joel Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.

Salesian Monday: A Prayer for Leaders

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“The greatest among you will be the one who serves the rest.” – Matthew 23:11

Monday, April 9, 2012, marked our final gathering for this season of  Salesian Spirituality focusing on the Leadership traits exemplified by our co-founders, Sts. Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal. “Salesian Mondays,” as these evenings are called, are part of a Spirituality program of the Visitation Sisters in partnership with their lay companions that occur the second Monday of each month during the Fall to Spring seasons. Each evening begins with a light meal, followed by a collaborative presentation highlighting some aspect of Salesian life and then concludes with night prayer.

Leadership in the Salesian tradition begins with Jesus, whose leadership was one of Selfless, Loving, Suffering Service.

TuAnh Holm

TuAnh Holm shares some of her wisdom

This last session was lead by Visitation Companion Maryann Pearson and a new friend to the Visitation community, Ms. TuAnh Holm. Following Sr. Mary Frances’ introduction to the evening centering on “Love and Prayer” as Leadership traits,  Maryann and TuAnh broke open these themes before the crowd of 25+ people using story-telling and wise illustrations; they included a third element in their talk: courage. Ms. Holm drew on her  own Vietnamese Buddhist background, weaving a teaching from Thich Nhat Hanh into the evening, followed by a tale from her young life discerning a religious calling with Catholic sisters at a monastery in France. Maryann brought these illustrations of prayer and love to further life with her own elaboration on the role of courage when it comes to acting and leading.

Our co-presenters invited us to reflect on our own tales of how prayer, love and courage played out in a specific action we took —  a small, but sincere act of leadership. The invitation was provocative and elicited some thoughts on how we are called to lead as Christians in today’s world and church.

The evening concluded with the group reading aloud a prayer that Sr. Mary Frances Reis wrote on this topic:

Sr. Mary Frances

Sr. Mary Frances

A Prayer for Leaders

Dear Jesus,
Most Gentle and Humble of Heart,
We praise and thank you that you came to teach us  how to serve in a spirit of Love and Concern.
Help us to Live Jesus in such a way that we will learn to serve one another in humble love and compassion.
Help us to see and appreciate our own gifts and those of our brothers and sisters.
May Love and Prayer fashion our relationships with one another;
through the intercession of Saints Jane de Chantal and Francis de Sales,
may we become imitators of you as we strive to Live Jesus in thought, word and deed.
We ask this in your Holy Name.

Easter Vigil

Written by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

Easter Vigil

Easter Vigil

As the sun sets tonight we enter a most sacred time. A time that is punctuated by the darkness of dusk to the early rays of dawn. In these short twelve hours our salvation will be transformed from death to a resurrection.

How can we be vigilant during this time?

Being vigilant means a time of purposeful sleeplessness, a close watch, a period of observation.What are you being vigilant of in your own life? What is Christ asking of you to watch closely? to observe? to stay awake for? When we wait, it is not a passive action, quite contrary it is very active. We wait with hope, with our imaginations, with love of what is to come into our lives, even when it might be through a painful experience.

How do we prepare our hearts, our minds, our guts for such intense watchfulness of Christ’s passing from our physical world to being present to us in the spiritual form? It seems to me that Easter Vigil requires a delicate balance of being both part Mary and part Martha–we need both the preparation of doing so that during the



darkest of the night we may just be. My dear friend reminded me the other day to sink into being Mary, to be attentive to what is before me, instead of getting wrapped up in all I wanted to accomplish, the Martha in me. I know these dynamic women can not be summed up so simplistically, but it is good to remind ourselves to hold the tension of being and doing so that we may be vigilant to our lives this Easter season.

Washing Feet: A Holy Contemplation

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

It’s Holy Week, and I’m trying to enter into this most sacred time with an empty heart, mind, spirit. But I tell you, it’s hectic. It’s hard to slow down and put away desire, to-do’s, and tune out the news. Yet, here I am. Trying.

Can you even try to fathom the feet of Peter or James or John or Judas? These weren’t nike-wearing brothers, were they?

In my coffee shop meditation, I slide away my cell phone, recognize my ice tea glass is empty, and savor the smell of fresh, hot garlic french fries – for just a minute more – as I try to make way for Holy Thursday’s scripture. As I tune my spirit to focus, I can see: I am like this glass in this moment: empty, cold, waiting to be filled. Yes!  I know the flavor of and satisfaction possible through meditation, if I just tune in; I can savor these biblical readings…..

From the USCCB’s website, where I go for online readings, I find “Holy Thursday: Evening Mass for the Lord’s Supper.”

I scan Exodus, I hum the psalm, (and hear my choir mate, Ann Shallbetter singing, “Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.” ) I linger over St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, recognizing the heart of the mass present in Christ’s instructive prayer. I pause and hold on the central image in John’s gospel:

He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.

And now I am still.

A towel.

A basin of water.


Christ washing His disciples’ feet.

I want to be Christ’s hands. I want to wash those feet. I want to be a disciple. I want to know what it’s like to have Jesus pour water over me.

I think of this act literally. Fingers, hands, immersed in water, maybe soap, and then touching another’s skin. Ankles, toes, soles of feet. Are there callouses? Can you even try to fathom the feet of Peter or James or John or Judas? These weren’t nike-wearing brothers, were they? I don’t think so. Sandal-clad gents with exposed toes, me thinks. Dusty. A little salt and sand and dirt under the toe nails. Is it necessary that I go this far in my meditation? It’s where my brain takes me. I don’t push these images out, but let them carry me to this place, this room where He is.

I want to be Christ’s hands. I want to wash those feet. I want to be a disciple. I want to know what it’s like to have Jesus pour water over me.

It’s humbling, this exercise of prayer and imagination. For a minute I’m in Jerusalem, it’s warm, and I’m a robe-and-sandal-sporting fellow present in Christ’s company (far removed from this Grand Avenue, St. Paul coffee shop.) I am seated. I am in awe at what I’m witnessing. My heart is on fire with a desire to do just this: serve. I marvel at this man, my friend, Jesus, who has gotten down to clean our feet.

Who does such a thing? A mother? A nurse? Someone whose ego allows such a bowed, bent stance?

I will carry this feeling of awe, humility and desire with me this day. I will pray that the proximity afforded me in my imaginings of Christ will keep me near Him in his journey to the garden, to Golgotha, the cross and to the tomb. I will pray that my Easter journey be aligned beyond this week’s holy re-enactments and continue to inspire my work as a Lover, Follower, Teacher, Visitation Companion.

Will you join me in this prayer?

Happy Holy Thursday!


Related Posts:

A Prayer for Holy Week: 2010