Monthly Archives: August 2013

Contemplating Peace in Syria and the World

Imagining a non-violent response: A Vigil for peace in Syria, held in Gaza in March 2013. – From Oxfam blog.

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

I was chopping zuchinni and bell peppers on Tuesday afternoon when I learned that the United States was considering a military strike on Syria. Standing in my kitchen, tuned into National Public Radio, I heard US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announce that the US was “ready to go” when it comes to launching a military response to the alleged use of chemical weapons on the people of Syria.

“We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take,” Hagel told BBC News.

I tuned into the broadcast for the next 45 minutes, uneasy in my belly, focused in my brain, open in my heart. 

“We can’t go without a reaction when confronted with chemical weapons.  It must be punished, it cannot remain without consequences.”

What is the response of a person of faith to such information? What is the call for a woman of compassion, a man of prayer, a person concerned for all of creation when confronted with news of war and retaliation?

A week earlier, I had read about the suspected use of chemical weapons in the attacks outside Damascus and watched as print media published images of the victims. Updated death tolls are staggering: 1,429 people killed, including 426 children.

It’s heart-wrenching, this news, these horrific, unfathomable kinds of crimes against humanity —  the consequences of a people at war.

As our leaders discern an appropriate response, my faith, education and imagination brings me into questions of next steps alongside those of our world’s leaders.

I wonder:

What is the root cause of this Civil War in Syria?
Who are the factions that are sparring?
What are their needs?Wants?
What is the role of any onlooker, any leader, any humanitarian, any relative outside this war zone?
What does it mean to answer a chemical weapons attack or provide further consequences?
Can we put out a metaphorical fire with more fire?
What would a teacher or middle school principal do if this was a hateful attack in his or her hallway?
What would a prophetic, unpopular Christ request in the face of such venomous activity?

I get to the hopeful, bottom-line of my prayerful inquiry and ask:
What response would transform the circumstances and foster an environment for peace, well-being, and thriving for all involved? 

Is it radical to not want to retaliate on the persons responsible for using chemical weapons? To assert that consequences are unnecessary, because they already naturally exist in the warring heart, the warped leadership, the sad, and terribly hurt humans at the helm of this Syrian regime, and the countless dead.

Nothing will bring back the dead.

But, as a world of resourced humans,  we are able to address the needs and wants of the people on the ground. And we are able to respond with compassion. With diplomacy. With love. With our faithful human witness to the atrocities that have preceded and included these attacks.

I pray about what’s next and I ask you to join me.

Will you hold space for a non-violent response to the already at war and weaponized world? Will you help me seek solutions that honor the dignity and God-given gifts of all involved? Will you help me see the face of Christ in each person, from the Syrian President and Defense Minister to each citizen of this Middle East Region,  to the US and British and French leaders, to the Russian and Chinese and Iranian allies, to those at the helm of Al-Quaeda?

Will you help me “Live + Jesus”?

Relax in Prayer: “Don’t try too Hard”

SFDS quoteby Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

I hyper-extended my knee during prayer this past week. The experience has left me wanting, wondering, and takes me to the center of my reflections on what it means to pray well.

I was off to a rocky start Tuesday morning. Was I running late? Was I anxious about the flow of the morning? Concerned about my responsibilities in attending to – or providing for- some festive, post-prayer-party atmosphere? Who knows. I just know I was a bit off in my rhythms.

We were celebrating five years of Centering Prayer at St. Jane House on Tuesday, along with Director Brian Mogren’s recent Human Services Award. It was a party — a joyous occasion.

I wore a short skirt, and taking my place in the circle of 17 or so other festive-centering-prayer warriors, I all of a sudden got self-conscious.

“What if I flashed someone across the circle?” Ugh. The thought of it took me outside myself, and then inspired a conscious physical correction. “I”ll just cross my legs and all shall be well.”

More easily thought and said than done.

When we pray at Centering Prayer, there’s a universal invitation to position yourself in an open stance. You take a seat. You relax. You soften your gaze. You open your palms and plant your feet firmly on the ground. You take a deep breathe. You let Love pour through you in each inhale and exhale. You take up your sacred word and let this guide you in clearing your mind completely, and letting God have all your thoughts. If you are in a really blissed-out place, or lucky, you have more than 3 seconds of an awareness that Love permeates all things and is the author of all that is good and true and is in charge in this world. You are forgiven and held and know compassion and calm.

But if you cross your legs, and hyper-extend your knee during centering prayer, this bliss is not easily yours.

Sometimes, I think this sort of hyper-extension is true for all of us. We are simply working too hard at prayer;  we are getting too self-conscious of what may be exposed; we are afraid to be truly vulnerable with God. And so we protect ourselves. We cross our legs, so to speak, and avoid all openness with our Creator.

Or not. Maybe some of us are more perfected in the art of prayer — more relaxed in age, experience, development, or practice. I think the sisters are pretty good at prayer, actually. They are my role models. But I know that they would resent this sort of praise or idolizing to a point. They would attest, “Ah, Melissa, we are all human. We all have times of darkness or difficulty in prayer.”

My point is: How do you pray? What is your prayer life like these days? Where do you find yourself in the art of relaxing, giving yourself over to the divine, offering up words of thanks or request or praise? Or simply showing up, presenting your heart to God? 

I’ll close with these sage words from our co-founder, St. Francis de Sales:

“When you come before the Lord, talk to Him if you can. If you can’t, just stay there, let yourself be seen. Don’t try too hard to do anything else.” 

Honoring Our Brother Brian Mogren, aka. “Mr. St. Jane House.”

2013 Virginia McKnight Binger Human Services Award recipient Brian Mogren surrounded by family, collaborators and northside friends.

He’s making the news, this time being seen for his role in supporting our northside brothers and sisters. We couldn’t be prouder of our dear friend, lay companion and brother, Brian Mogren, who was honored this week with the Virginia McKnight Binger Human Service Award.

“I accepted the award on behalf of everyone I conspire for good with on the north side. It truly takes a village and I’m surrounded by a whole bunch of extraordinary people doing important and good work.” – Brian Mogren, Visitation Companion, St. Jane House Director

As director of St. Jane House, Brian exudes the charism of our Visitation order in and through his hospitality, service and quiet leadership. We can only imagine our co-founders St. Jane de Chantal and St. Francis de Sales smiling broadly down on our brother Brian this day — as he goes about building relationships and “Living+Jesus” in North Minneapolis — and beyond!

We invite you to get to know our dear friend and Visitation Companion who resides just two blocks away from our monastery in the St. Jane House. Come and pray with him on Tuesday morning at Centering Prayer. Or treat yourself to an afternoon of reflection or overnight stay under the hospitable care of brother Brian — and learn first hand what his heart and mind are up to as he seeks to “be who he is, and be that well”.

Read more about Brian and the Virginia McKnight Binger Human Service Award:

 

Neighborhood Night of Peace: Tutus and so much more!

Jody Tigges, Vis Companion

Jody Tigges, Vis Companion

The following post comes to us from Vis Companion Jody Tigges. Jody wrote this reflective piece on the heels of her experience  volunteering at our Neighborhood Night of Peace event. We are happy to publish it here as part of our “Visitation Companions in Service” series. 

The Tutu Lady was at our Neighborhood Night of Peace again this year. She came bearing mountains of boxes of lovingly crafted tutus in a variety of colors.  I was drawn to the little girls of various ages standing at the edges of the boxes with eyes wide.

One small child stood near me in pink tennis shoes with sparkles all over them.

Tutu2“What color do you like?” I asked her.

“Pink,'” she whispered.

I looked among the tutus — all carefully wapped in tissue paper — and spotted a solid bright pink one.  Picking it up, I said, “Here is a tutu in pink, do you think you’d like this one?”

The little girl, possibly 5 or 6 years old, dropped all her prizes from the fish pond on the ground. She placed her hands on her cheeks and her voice quivered as she said, “Oh my gosh! Is this for me?”

“Yes, if you’d like to have it,” I replied.

“Oh, I’ve always wanted my very own tutu!” she exclaimed.

"Princess" tutus!

“Princess” tutus!

“Would you like to wear it?” I asked her.  She nodded in the affirmitive as together we worked to untie the ribbon from around the tissue paper.

As the paper fell away, she began to tremble with excitement. She gripped my legs as together we worked so she could step into her new skirt. A huge smile took its place on her face as she looked down at the tutu.

“Momma I finally have a princess tutu!” she said beaming.

Another volunteer said that she could shake it to get all the tulle to hang down properly.

The little girl stopped, did a little dance, thanked the tutu lady and skipped off alongside her mom.

For this little girl and many others ages 1 year to 12, Neighborhood Night of Peace was the night that dreams came true.

I smile as I think of how blessed I am to have been part of it all, tutus and so much more.

The Angelus: Garden Meditation

“The Garden Guest” photo by Anisa

by Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

In the evening, as I stood in the garden at Girard watering the plants after a dry spell, I could hear the Basilica bells ringing out the Angelus — that lovely prayer that Catholics pray 3 times a day.

As that sound echoed across the city to our monastery, as a reminder I began:

“The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived by the Holy Spirit. Hail Mary…..”

At that moment the tiniest bird I had ever seen landed in the stream of water that my sprinkles created and began a splashing bath.

Could the Holy Sprit take such a small form?

I continued:

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.  Hail Mary….”

A young mother carrying her infant walked by and greeted me.

“Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.  Hail Mary….”

My prayer was made real by the shouts of angry voices on the corner.

And so I concluded,  as we always do in the morning and at noon:

“Pour forth, we ask you, Oh Lord, thy grace into our hearts; that we to whom the incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the message of  the Angel, may, by his passion and death be brought to the glory of the resurrection.”

The flowers stood straighter, the hastas seemed sturdier, the impatients were more colorful.
Where was that tiny bird? Where was that young Mom going? What hushed the angry voices?

Amen.

Neighborhood Night of Peace/ Noche de Paz: 8/07/2013

Our neighborhood night out is coming soon! ¡Pronto viene la noche de paz del vecindario!

Get to know your neighbors, and have fun!  ¡Vengan a conocer a los vecinos y diviértense!

NNOP Facepaint girlsEVERYONE  WELCOME!  ¡TODOS  SON  BIENVENIDOS!

  • Free food         •Comida gratis
  • Free games      •Juegos
  • Prizes              •Premios

Please bring a lawn chair!  ¡Favor de traer una silla portátil!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 Miércoles, 7 de agosto, 2013

5:30 – 7 p.m.

Church of the Ascension  Iglesias de la Ascensión
(1723 Bryant Ave N)

Participating Organizations: Church of the Ascension, Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis, Basilica of Saint Mary, Turning Point, Cub Foods, Kemps, Ascension Place, & Our Lady of the Lakes church Mission Group (Spicer, MN). For more information, please call:  612-529-9684

Organizaciones paraticipantes: Iglesia de la Ascensión, Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis, Basilica of Saint Mary, Turning Point, Cub Foods, Kemps, Ascension Place, & Our Lady of the Lakes Church Mission Group (Spicer, MN). Para más información, llame:  612-529-9684.