Monthly Archives: February 2013

“Following the Spirit:” Discernment Tools for Your Life

Princess small group

How do we hear God’s voice?

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Monday, February 25, 2013, marks our second discernment session of the “Following the Spirit” series at St. Jane House. This evening will focus on how we tune in and hear God’s voice and invitation for our lives. What follows are a few links to resources for discernment that we are offering here for participants and blog readers alike.

These tools include:

Blessings on your journey!

Next “Books with Jane:” “The Little Monk” by Harry Farra, 4/25/13

An Invitation from Kathryn Kaatz, Coordinator of “Books with Jane” Series:

Kathryn Kaatz, Series Coordinator for "Books with Jane"We are excited to announce our next selection for the ‘“Books with Jane” series at our Urban Spirituality Center  in north Minneapolis.  Join us Thursday, April 25, 2013, from 6-8pm at the St. Jane House for a discussion of The Little Monk by Harry Farra. (Doors open at 6pm for refreshments and book discussion starts at 6:30pm.)

More on “The Little Monk” by Harry Farra

“Can we read something more…relaxed — but has a deep meaning that can touch the core of our soul?” asked Books-with-Jane-participant TuAhn Holm. Following this query, Ms. Holm provided us with the following information on The Little Monk, that inspires our selection of the text for the next book in this series:

The Little Monk by Harry Farra offers:
-Gentle lessons for life
-Wisdom for everyday decisions
-Stories for spiritual reflection

“The Bishop came to town one day and called the entire village to worship. The Bishop had many gifts, but non so compelling as his wisdom in the work of prayer. ‘It is time again to speak to the world,’ the Bishop announced with an ancient voice in the great cathedral.  But he abruptly stopped in midspeech as though held by an invisible power.  After a pause that seemed to last forever, he suddenly stood up from his two-hundred-year-old chair in the cathedral and pointed a patriarchal finger at a short, squat, barefooted monk who was all but invisible in the large congregation. ‘You shall be the monk of prayer,’ he declared with all the decisiveness his office and position would bear.”

And so, a humble and self-effacing little monk becomes the hero of this gentle tale, the tale of a man after God’s own heart that will put us in touch with the holy monk that lives in all of us.

Harry Farra holds a Ph.D in Rhetoric from Pennsylvania State University.  He has taught in the communications Department of Geneva College for thirty years and currently heads the Speech/Visual Communications Department.  Dr. Farra is author of “The Sermon Doctor” (Baker Book House, 1989)

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Click to order a copy of The Little Monk.

Lenten Fasting Ideas from the Prophet Isaiah

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

What is the path for an immigrant in this country?

What is the path for an immigrant in this country?

Ideas for Friday fasting during this Lenten season? Ready, go!

Giving up something during these forty days and nights, as a means to align ourselves, prayerfully, with Christ, is pretty standard Lenten protocol. Today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah, however,  inspires me to consider taking on something. Maybe I tune into our democratic system a bit more? Perhaps I follow a particular court case? Or track the immigration process for one person in my community? Do I know anyone in prison that I could write to or visit? What addict in my family  needs forgiving?  (Is it me?) What forms of oppression might I more compassionately work to understand? Maybe just visiting a local food shelf, this Lent, or volunteering to serve a meal at a homeless shelter is what I could try?

What ideas does Isaiah inspire you to consider this Lent?

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

-Isaiah 58: 6-9A

I know: this kind of justice-driven “fasting” isn’t a new idea, it’s simply refreshing for me to consider as I make my way through the first days of this season. I hope it speaks to you!

LIVE + JESUS!

Lent Begins! Papal Discernments and Vocation Journeys

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“Did you know the Pope resigned?”
It was six o’clock on Monday, February 11, 2013. I was sitting outside the Girard House when my “Following the Spirit” co-facilitator Meagan McLaughlin rang with this headlines question.
“Did you know?” she asked. “I’m sitting here with the TV on in the background and just heard this on the nightly news!”

Her surprise was not unlike my own experience in the earlier hours of the day when I first learned of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation – while standing in my bathroom.

Stammering surprise. Overwhelming wonder. Inherent disbelief. Human intrigue. How many ways are there to categorize my initial response? I was disconcerted. I was sad. I was hopeful. I was ultimately curious. “Why did he resign?”

***

I help facilitate people’s discernment processes. Because I work alongside Catholic sisters inviting individuals to prayerfully reflect on their vocations and share their stories of how they hear God calling them,  the story of the Pope’s resignation came to me as a discernment story. I read his words to the religious convened around him Monday morning, and was struck by the following lines:

“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God..
I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.

[L]et us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ…” – Pope Benedict XVI  Vatican, January 10, 2013

His words were bold. Courageous. Inspiring to me.

Writing on this first day of Lent, Pope Benedict’s resignation informs my prayer for the next forty days and nights. As the elected leader of our Catholic church has discerned this historic move, honoring his capacity and calling by God, I wonder how I am called to listen and act on my own discerned capacities, gifts, and abilities? I think of Christ’s journey over the next few weeks, his time in the desert, his relationship with our first Pope, Peter, and I invite this story of forgiveness and mercy and sacrifice and leadership to inspire my own.

What,  in the stillness of my prayer, do I hear God asking of me?
How is my heart inspired by the boldness of Christ’s life and ministry?
What happens if I entrust my life to the Supreme Pastor, as Pope Benedict suggests we do of our beloved Holy Church?

Will you join me in these prayerful questions and vocation journey this Lenten Season?

LIVE + JESUS!


On Silence: More from VIP Anna D (Or: What do Gandalf, Dumbledore and St. Francis de Sales have in common?)

Anna Dourgarian, 2012 -2013 VIP

Anna Dourgarian, 2012 -2013 VIP

by Guest blogger Anna Dourgarian, Visitation Intern Volunteer

The 2012-2013 Salesian Monday Night series focuses on the 7 Essentials of Monastic Life that the Vis Sisters have outlined for their community. The following post is part two* of VIP Anna Dourgarian’s co-presentation with Sr. Karen on Silence.

My two favorite role models have shown me the fruits of silence. These role models are—drum roll, please—Gandalf from Lord of the Rings and Dumbledore from Harry Potter. They are two serene and wise men who are so in tune with their surroundings that their every word and action is powerfully beneficial. How do they do it? How do they always know what’s going on, and how do they always know how to make it right? They don’t do it by chattering their heads off. They are intensely attentive. They choose their words carefully. They know when their world needs them to talk, but otherwise they settle back and let the world do its thing.

We have another role model who demonstrates the same art: St. Francis de Sales. We know how much he achieved, and he did it with silence. When he was serving as bishop of Annecy, after his long and hectic days, he would retreat to his room and—when you or I would probably fall straight to sleep—sat up for hours and meditated by candlelight. This fulfillment of his need for silence let him accomplish his loving acts with people during the day.

If you’ve ever tried to be quiet, though, it immediately becomes apparent that not talking isn’t the whole story. It’s a big part, but you could not talk and still not be attentive. It’s like there are two voices: one in your mouth, and one in your head. You have to stop talking to listen, but you have to stop thinking to hear.

I don’t know about you, but I have this voice in my head that loves to talk. It is always going on about something: what’s for dinner, what are you doing, what were you thinking, what did you forget, wasn’t that so frustrating? It’s a little voice that just talksandtalksandtalksandtalks. It’s really distracting. Mine is especially problematic during prayer. A whole Bible passage will be read, and I’ll be sitting there—not listening.

Even Jesus told us that learning to control our thoughts is extremely important. He told us on His Sermon on the Mount that yes, it’s important not to kill, but it’s also important not to get angry at our brother. Anger is a thought. If we can’t control our thoughts, then we are very vulnerable to sin.

Since I have started practicing silence, there are times when I’m aware that my brain has ceased to think. There are no thoughts, opinions, or emotions in my head. I am just living in the present moment, enjoying life.

When my mind is silent, it is free to focus on the world around me. It is open to details like how my friends are feeling, what’s going on in their lives, what they need from me. I can be truly attentive. To have a silent mind is to be cleansed, to leave a free ground for God to interpret any new information for me. When I’m not thinking, I’m not quick to judge.

*Click here to read Part One.

A Discernment Story: Part II

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

When I walked into work that Monday morning, the assistant principal at the school approached me about interviewing for the newly posted teaching position. There were two of us in the Professional Practice School who had been asked to apply — one position. In my heart, I knew I didn’t want the job.

The course load was too much; the job, as posted, was inappropriate for any one educator.   Pre-IB English 9, Comprehensive English 10, and Stage Management were the subjects the teacher was being asked to teach. In my two years at the school, I’d covered all of these courses. Individually, I loved them; combined, they were deadly, in my estimation — or again: a recipe for burnout.

The Stage management course alone meant supervising productions and student work on evenings and weekends at the school. Stage Management was a full time job in a school with an active student body and thriving performance arts classes.  The course spilled over from its allotted time into after school hours involving moving vehicles, rental equipment, construction personnel, and collaboration with other faculty, parents and empowered student leaders.  (In my one year of teaching stage management and taking on this role in after school hours,  I recalled being at the school every day straight for the month of March. I still have vivid memories of looking at my watch at 1am  in the auditorium, while wearing an insulation mask and student graffiti artists painted the back wall of the stage for a rock concert production. It was fun. I was tired. It was late. I didn’t need to sign on for more hours than there were in the day to be a good teacher.) I’d happily teach the  English classes. But these two courses to prep for – combined with the stage management responsibilities, were a no go. I knew my limits.

My cousin Jill’s sage counsel still rang in my ears: “Just interview for the job, Melis. Get the position, before you ask to change it.”  The advice from my elder English and theater teaching cousin, coupled with the priest’s prophetic words at mass at Old Saint Pat’s the day before, (“Ask why you are there. If it’s a not a fit, God will show you an open door.“) gave me a kind of peace in my decision: Yes, I would interview. Yes, I would draw on my experience teaching all the courses. Yes, I would trust that God would show me a way out.

We were building a 17 foot volcano out of chicken wire and paper mache’ that day in the stage management class. I came to school dressed for paint and paper and glue mess, not for interviewing with the faculty and administrative team. I still remember wiping green paint off my jeans when I sat down before my colleagues. I smiled. I was already doing the job they were interviewing me for; the irony and humor were not lost on any of us.

***

My colleague accepted the position about two hours later. I felt relief and a kind of holy gratitude and awe. “What next, God?” I wondered. Surely, I wouldn’t have been given such a strong sign and direct words as that from my dream and the priest, that God would leave me flailing.

Within a week, my full time position at North High for summer school was solidified. I left the seeming  beauty and pristine of a more resourced area of the Twin Cities for north Minneapolis. And my life changed. (The Northside was where I would meet the Vis Sisters after all!)

Epilogue:
I was offered a full time job for the regular school year on my last day teaching summer school at North High. My colleague, who accepted the post we had both interviewed for,  resigned two months into the following school year citing mental health issues. I learned this from our mentor at the Professional Practice School. “Does an ‘I told you so” make you feel better, Melis?” she asked.
“Perhaps vindicated,” I think now.

I thank God for the directions my life has taken,  my journey to north Minneapolis, and the way Spirit has lead me.

Invitation to reflect:
What is your story? How have you arrived in your own particular perch or area of the world? What has inspired your course of action or decision making? How has your heart, mind, and prayer lead you? What sage counsel have you sought in discerning your next best step? How have dreams influenced your journey ? What wise, inspired, pastoral presence or mentorship has influenced, or affirmed your discernment process?

I welcome your words.