Monthly Archives: September 2013

Drawing on the Quakers: Practicing Clearness Committee

Image from UCC: 7 Steps to Discerning Your Vocation

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

“Many of us are drawn to this way of listening and leading in the midst of complex, diverse settings–and we hunger to do it with more integrity and in more connection with others on this path.” – Spirit-Led Leadership: Contemplative Leadership for the 21st Century

It’s a Sunday afternoon in April, and I am with a group of thirty or so other women and men in the Carondelet Center – a retreat space of the Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Paul. We are convened for a workshop entitled, “Spirit-Led Leadership: Contemplative Leadership for the 21st Century.” I am grateful to be one among many, joined by several Visitation Sisters and Companion friends. We are leaders; we are contemplative-sorts; we aspire to be Spirit-led. We are here to practice and grow in our abilities to tune in and take our next steps, listening to the Divine, for the benefit of our communities.

“There is a way of leading that trusts that an invisible force, much larger than our own will, is seeking to work through us individually and together. This force moves toward wholeness and is actively seeking to be in relationship with us. Through stillness, discernment, and reflective action it is possible to move in close connection with this force–in business, in social change, and personally.” – From Spirit-Led Leadership

On this day, we are led by Margaret Benefiel and Michael Bischoff. It was Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM who circulated the invitation amongst our Companions, and my recent experience under Michael’s leadership at a Social Innovation Lab event, that catalyzed my limbs. Yes! I will go! Yes! This will be helpful!

To this day, I am drawing on the experiences of that afternoon in almost every conscious working, waking, moment.

“How can I listen well? How can I know with a sense of peace and freedom what it means to choose wisely, powerfully, and take my next step?”

Clearness Committee Experience

After introductions, and a grounding in the theory behind this kind of work, our room of thirty plus individuals divided into triads, and Margaret led us through a practice the Quakers call a “Clearness Committee.”

Through quiet and meditation, we identified our root sources, the strength of our being, the Spirit’s presence, and recognized our safety in this circle.

The protocol for this experience was clearly stated and posted. As participants, we simply listened to the instructions, and were free then to tune in, quietly, to all stirring and movement up within ourselves and inside our groups.

  1. We began with a minute of silence, holding the first of our three group members in our hearts, focusing on them, the circumstances they were about to describe for our triad.
  2. We listened intently for three minutes to presenter number one. Without interruption, we tuned into their words and what we felt their heart to be saying.
  3. We had an opportunity to then pose simple, clarifying questions.
  4. We returned to quiet and prayer, holding the focus person and the circumstances in our heart, cherishing the person and the gifts he or she brings to the world.
  5. After another sixty seconds, we took turns giving voice to the information surfacing in our own hearts. We echoed back statements of the speaker. We paraphrased with as much integrity as possible their circumstances. We communicated that they had been heard. We put words to the questions that bubbled up in our hearts and minds — with the goal of helping the focus person get in touch with their own deep wisdom.  The speaker-leader-discerner just listened. During this time, one of us took notes for the presenter to review later.
  6. Before our last movement of the clearness committee, we paused again, bowing our heads, or closing our eyes, to honor the sacredness of this time.
  7. As a closing to the 25 minute clearness committee discernment activity, the speaker was invited to share which form of closing they desired. A prayer? A song? A dance? More silence?

***

I invite you into this experience today. Seek out a circle. Claim the quiet. Recognize the Spirit at work in your life — leading, nudging, loving you.

 

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For more information on Quaker Clearness Committee:
The Clearness Committee: A Communal Approach To Discernment
by Parker J. Palmer

Paying Attention: Contemplations from a September morning walk

September blossoms

September blossoms

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

“The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.” – Julia Cameron, “The Artist’s Way.”

I paused this morning on my walk to pick dying leaves from a tall, yellow Golden Glow flower in our front garden.  Next to this plant, was a bright pink budded and blooming variety with dark green foliage — so alive and so precious with little flowers emerging in the fall landscape.

As I worked to remove dead leaves from one plant, and make way for the growing beauty of the other, my eye took in a whole host of dried flowers needing attention;  I decided I would “dead head” the bee balm growing close by.

Pausing in this moment,  I took note of the smells emerging from the decomposing bee balm blossoms, squishing between my fingers,  and I was overwhelmed with joy. A fragrance like rosemary and thyme was released from the dying buds; it was pure delight in my palm.

“Aha! Perhaps this is why my friends Mary and Stephanie suggested I save these blossoms to make tea?” I tried to imagine the flavor of a steeped bud. In all of this imagining, I experienced such happiness; a kind of deep joy overcoming me.

At the exact moment of deadheading and tea-wondering, appeared the first-ever humming bird that I have observed at 1196 Selby Avenue. He or she came to linger over the bush next to me.

I thought I might start to cry. Such furiously fast fluttering of wings, such hovering over the barely alive blossoms, such beauty in the attempt to savor and suck any nectar from the bee balm.

A line from a Birago Diop poem came to my lips:

“The dead are not dead… they’re in the rustling tree.”

I improvised a new line:

“They are in the hovering humingbird…”

In this month, as we honor the memory of our son birthed a buried one year ago, I’m tuned into how small things — savoring tiny details — is helpful in a healing sort of way.

Julia Cameron, in her book, “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” writes:

“The reward for attention is always healing. It may begin as a healing of a particular pain – the lost lover, the sickly child, the shattered dream. But what is healed, finally, is the pain that underlies all pain: the pain that we are, as Rilke phrases it, “unutterably alone.” More than anything else, attention is an act of connection.

And so I pay attention.

In the process, I think, we are all connected. Me. These decomposing flowers. Me, these blooming buds. Me, this humming bird, seeking nectar or pollen or a meal to satiate his hunger, his hope, his deepest longings. Me and you.

We are all connected.

I invite you into this prayerful, attention-paying, healing activity. What do you notice on your walks? What life blooms close by, in the same space of something letting go of its vitality? What hovers close by? What fires your imagination and inspires your sense of connectedness with all of God’s creation?

Peace, Prayers! LIVE + JESUS!

 

Visitation Evangelization: “LIVE + JESUS!”

IMG_0854by Phil SoucherayVisitation Companion

What is evangelization anyway?

Faith in the context of organized religion often seems decorated with a lot of trappings. The array of dogma and doctrine that we get immersed in and the rituals we are told we are obliged to participate in for the saving of our very souls offer a lot of mystery and beauty, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve found that these elements serve to distract me from my efforts to know and understand my true purpose for being. I often hear a little voice in my head screaming, “Can we please just get to the point?”

I know I’m not unique in this regard. Anyone who has faith in God addresses the “purpose” question from their own perspectives. Still, I am always fascinated by the fact that, at least in my case, I keep coming at the subject from different angles depending on my situation at the moment.

I suspect I’m not alone. Indeed, I think it’s the shared questioning that draws me and other fellow faith trekkers to the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis. It is there that I find a sense of certainty amid uncertainty, rooted in the encouragement to “Live Jesus.”

The steadfastness that the sisters exercise in trying to identify and live purposeful lives — as individuals and as a community — reminds me there is grace simply in asking the questions. And their example keeps challenging me to not give up in my efforts.

Mass at MonasteryWhy, you may ask, am I bringing any of this up?  Well, just recently I was asked by an old friend whether I would be applying for the position of Director of Evangelization at the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

There might be reason for me to consider it. I did serve in somewhat of a similar capacity for the Archdiocese between 2002 and 2007. But when I looked at the job description, I realized it probably wouldn’t be a good fit. For one thing, I’m not sure I would be qualified. They prefer someone with a master’s in Theology. Strike one. They also want someone who’s a “Catholic in good standing.” (I don’t always get to Mass on Sunday). Strike two.

But the biggest reason I don’t think it would be a good fit is that I don’t know how the current leadership of the Archdiocese defines evangelization. Based on what I do know, though, I suspect there might be a clash of ideologies.

You see, when I was working in this area back in the last decade, I found that everyone’s definition of evangelization was different. Some people thought it meant going door to door inviting people to come to “our church.” The ultimate goal was get more bodies in the pews. Others thought it meant being an apologist for the Church.

So, one of the first priorities of our evangelization initiative was to clearly state that our definition of the task was, “To make Jesus Christ known and loved, in our time, by choosing to live out the Gospel in every moment.

Do you hear the Visitation tenet inherent in that line? Live Jesus. Sweep past all the veils, unknowns, mysteries of dogma, doctrine and ritual and what you are left with is that.

Live+Jesus!

Now that’s evangelization, I think.

 

 

Salesian Second Mondays: Mark your Calendars!

A 2nd Monday night gathering of Salesian friends.

A 2nd Monday night gathering of Salesian friends.

Dear Friends,

We are looking ahead with excitement to a new season of SALESIAN 2nd MONDAY EVENINGS.  This is a lively gathering of Visitation Sisters, Neighbors, Visitation Companions and friends for a light pot luck supper and fellowship, followed by guided conversation around a topic related to Salesian spirituality.  We close with Night Prayer.  All are welcome!

This year our theme will be “The Little Virtues.”  For Francis de Sales, these are the ‘habits of the heart’ such as gentleness, patience, and kindness with which we can go about our daily lives and actions; small things we do that can make a big difference in the world!

The dates are as follows:

  • MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 9TH, 2013
  • MONDAY, OCTOBER 14th, 2013;           6:00-8:30 pm
  • MONDAY, NOVEMBER 11th, 2013    (always same time)
  • MONDAY, JANUARY 13th, 2014
  • MONDAY, FEBRUARY 10th, 2014
  • MONDAY, MARCH 10th, 2014
  • MONDAY, APRIL 14th, 2014

There will be no meeting in December.  Dinner will be provided at our first gathering.  A sheet will be passed around to sign up for bringing food and/or facilitating an evening  This is very ‘low stress’ and simply involves preparing a brief presentation and leading discussion.  Salesian materials will be readily available, and people can pair up with one of the Sisters as co-leaders.

Prior to each Salesian Monday night, there will be a brief informational meeting at the Girard House at 5:30 for those interested in learning more about the Visitation Companions.

We look forward to a rich and fruitful time of study and fellowship in the Lord.

 

Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, 612-501-5096 or suzannempls@aol.com

Linda Goynes, 612-730-6273 or goynesl@yahoo.com

Jody Johnson, 651-426-7524 or jodyreis@yahoo.com