Monthly Archives: December 2012

Snapshots from the Sisters: Title This!

by Sr. Katherine Mullin, vhm

On Friday, December 28th, the sisters hosted a “Big Christmas teen bowling party.” Fifteen teens had “such a good time!”  — that’s what they said. Everyone came back to the monastery for pizza, ice cream and presents. The following is one of three snapshots I posted on facebook….It is nice for the sisters to keep in touch with those we knew when they were very much younger! It’s an annual event!

Care to provide a creative caption?

Care to provide a creative caption?

Snapshots from the Sisters: Title this!

Photo by Sr. Katherine Mullin, vhm

Care to provide a creative caption?

Care to provide a creative caption? Share one in the comment section below!

This past weekend our neighborhood kids were taken by Visitation School students to Holidazzle! They all came back to the monastery for cocoa, cookies and Christmas carols around the fire. Some entertained, some were entertained. All had fun! –SK2

To see more photos from our Advent gatherings, visit us on Facebook.

Seeking Solace in the Incarnation

The Christ Child, from Sandro Botticellis Madonna of the Pomegranate.

The Christ Child, from Sandro Botticelli's "Madonna of the Pomegranate."

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Her job is to stock shelves. Fill in the cans of Starkist and Campbell’s and Ivory dish soap when they get low. Or maybe his gig is to check people out, scan bar-coded grocery items, weigh cabbage and tomatoes, and bag purchased supplies so they travel home gently in their sacks to a wanting family. But on Monday morning in St. Paul, this clerk (was it a woman or a man? or a whole team of cashiers?) was held up at gun point in the grocery store a few blocks from my home. An attempted robbery during this Advent season.

I keep thinking of this person, unsure of their gender, but keenly connected to their humanity. I wonder: was she afraid? Did he tremble? What ran through her mind when the barrel of the gun came up to her face? Where is he now? How is this person fairing?

***

On Friday people all across this nation were tuned into the horror of one gun-related atrocity. As a plugged-in-people, we couldn’t escape the events of December 14, 2012, when a 20 year-old man opened fire and killed 26 children and adults at Sandy Hill Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. We became a more consciously aware vulnerable nation.

This robbery at the local grocery store, just blocks from my home, had nothing in common with the event in Newtown, CT, save that a gun was involved and that the bearers of those guns are now both dead.

Both incidents leave me feeling very vulnerable — wide open, raw, and a bit afraid. I don’t like being afraid.

***

It’s Advent. It’s a season when God is born among us; he takes human form and enters this world as the Christ Child. He becomes one of us: vulnerable, human, small — perhaps, sometimes, too – afraid. A week from today we celebrate Jesus’ birth, recounting his humble entrance as his earthly parents lay him to rest in a manger.

Can you see this baby? His writhing olive-skinned limbs? His swaddled form being snuggled by first-time mother Mary? Can you smell his new sweet scent and imagine all that perfumes the air on this night? How fragrant is the hay, are the sheep and cattle? What stirs in the heart of Joseph as he first sees Jesus? What instincts kick in as this babe is born in the open air, outside the confines of home or assigned health care?

It’s this vulnerability of our God that makes me weep. It’s this incarnation that gives me comfort. I must admit, as a grown woman, as a seeker of love and tranquility, a significant part of me wants to crawl in alongside Christ and snuggle in. I want to lie right next to the babe, Jesus.

As we count down our days to Christmas and hold open our hearts to the miracles and mysteries of this season, it is my prayer that in our vulnerability we recognize the Christ child. It is my hope that in the midst of headlines that might be wreaking havoc on our sense of security as a people, that we seek solace in the God that is right next to us; that we know we are not alone.

Peace be with us.

Advent Musings: We are all Worthy of Snow Angels, Soup, the Christ Child

"love may increase... in knowledge and every kind of perception."

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

It’s Advent. It’s snowing in Minnesota. Sr. Katherine is skyping with friends in Canada and Missouri. I’m making soup across the river. A few of us Vis Companions are preparing for a meeting tomorrow. And we are all waiting, with anticipation, for the Christ child to be born.

What are you up to this second Sunday in Advent? Anyone shoveling a walk? Chopping down a tree? Adorning their place of dwelling with some white lights or setting out their mangers? Who is baking cookies or reviewing recipes for the company that may join them in the coming days ahead? Who has laid themselves in the snow and fluttered furiously to make an angel appear? Anyone stuck in a rut? Depressed? Wondering how to pay a bill, let alone buy a friend a present? Who among us is without joy as the very notion of “belovedness” escapes us?

I think of each of these possible activities, or states of being,  and I return to meditate specifically on my own; I’m simmering a pound of diced potatoes in stock with kale, red pepper and onion as the snow falls, and my heart feels about to burst with the beauty of this quiet Sunday afternoon. But I know what it is to know sorrow at this time of year.

I caught a particularly inspired homily from Fr. Michael O’Connell this morning at Church of the Ascension, that links together all these disparate thoughts. In his reflection, Father spoke of  the debilitating role of shame in our lives — how feeling worthless keeps us stuck — feeling unable to take our next best steps and unworthy to live our callings.  He discussed the role of the Christ child, God being born among us, to remind us of our belovedness, to heal of us our brokenness, and to teach us how to forgive and stand upright. He concluded his homily, reading again this selection from the first Chapter of Paul’s letter to the Phillipians:

Reading 2 

Brothers and sisters:
I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you,
because of your partnership for the gospel
from the first day until now.
I am confident of this,
that the one who began a good work in you
will continue to complete it
until the day of Christ Jesus.
God is my witness,
how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer:
that your love may increase ever more and more
in knowledge and every kind of perception,
to discern what is of value,
so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness
that comes through Jesus Christ
for the glory and praise of God.

Phil 1:4-6, 8-11

As my closing prayer, I invite you to consider how you are a partner to St. Paul in the gospel. What good work has God begun in you? How will this get complete as Christ makes his way to be born? I join the apostle in my prayers, that we may all know an increase in love; that we may discern what is of value; that we may count ourselves as worthy to receive the child born among us this Advent season.

BLESSINGS!

Christ: The Social Innovator – A Meditation for this Advent Season

Nativity Scene by G Cuffia

Nativity Scene by G Cuffia

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“..and she gave birth to her firstborn son. 3 She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”  Luke 2:7

And Advent is upon us! As I make my way into this first week of the holy season, these images return to me: a teenage Mary who is pregnant; a radiant angel with big news; a baffled bachelor named Joseph;  doors closing at the hands of (perhaps unapologetic) innkeepers; a bright star overhead; and a blanketed olive-skinned babe laying atop a bed of straw. And I marvel on the historic narrative informing this Advent season. This is a tale of woe and wonder. It’s a tale of adversity and mystery. It’s a tale of ache and awesomeness. It’s a tale that at its core, lays bare a God who chooses to come to us in this frail human form: as a child born into poverty, squalor and strife. I think, “This Incarnation is something to behold.”

***

On Tuesday, December 4, 2012, Sr. Katherine and I attended a leadership event at Macalester College sponsored by InCommons – Supporting the Courage to Lead. The “Social Innovation Lab” as this event was referred to, was on “Vulnerability as a Resource for Innovation.” Visitation Companion, director of St. Jane house and northside community leader Brian Mogren invited us to attend this event organized by a former Visitation Neighbor, Michael Bischoff.  It was a perfect sort of Advent experience.

As the room of 120 or so participants convened, we were invited to reflect on a time when we had led from a place of vulnerability.

Q: What do we mean by vulnerability?
A: Uncertainty, risk, transparency, and openness to diverse perspectives.

A goal for our gathering was to help shift the dominant view of “judging vulnerability as weakness to valuing vulnerability as a positive resource that takes strength and courage.”

Okay.

My thoughts went immediately to Christ. To Mary. To Joseph. To the cast of characters that make up the gospel story of Jesus’ birth. I thought, “How many of Jesus’ encounters depicted in scripture are about a person who leads from vulnerability?” I took a breathe and then considered, “What is God inviting us to do today and everyday?”

Discerning a step into uncertainty, taking a risk, being transparent in our motivations and situation, and opening ourselves to diverse perspectives is a radical step — one demonstrated to us continually by God’s human son.

There are some very important disclaimers to make about vulnerability. First of all, it’s something we must choose if we are seeking to lead from this place. Discerning a step into uncertainty, taking a risk, being transparent in our motivations and situation, and opening ourselves to diverse perspectives is a radical step — one demonstrated to us continually by God’s human son.  It’s a space of incredible privilege, however, to elect to see vulnerability as a gift and to act on it.  This is my second disclaimer: To have power wielded over us that renders us vulnerable, or to be in deep crisis,  instability or mentally unwell and be invited to lead, is not what the conference leaders meant by their invitation; and I would assert is not what Christ meant through his humble example as servant leader and as the son of God.

***

What is your story of vulnerability? How do you seek to align yourself with the swaddled babe or the teenage mom or the baffled boyfriend-turned-father who are all homeless? How are you choosing uncertainty, risk, transparency and openness this Advent Season?

Blessings as you meditate and respond.