Monthly Archives: December 2014

Contemplating the creche: What do we cradle into being?

What are you cradling?

What are you cradling?

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

We passed a wooden cradle lined with a soft, quilted comforter from person to person, speaking of our pasts, our passions and what brought us to the room. On this first Sunday of Advent, there were 16 of us gathered alongside the Visitation Sisters at the monastery on Fremont Avenue north in Minneapolis.

The cradle, built for a small doll, moved from one set of hands to another. This child’s play toy, evoking imagination and care, was empty, save the blue and white checkered lining. It rest open, waiting, ready to receive a small babe, a doll, perhaps. Set beneath a thatched roof, wooden structure, it could serve as a creche for the Christ child. In each hand, it was open to receive our words,  our dreams manifesting, even being born in our speaking….

“What small thing are you longing to cradle and bring before the world, in a small, hidden, holy way? Where are you saying, ‘yes’ to Love being born?”

The Sisters extended an invitation to create a Resident Lay Community alongside them in north Minneapolis and, on this particular December night in Advent, convened a room of discerning adults who were hearing a “yes” in their own hearts and minds to this holy opportunity.

Hail Mary, 1950, Frank Kacmarcik

Hail Mary, 1950, Frank Kacmarcik

With each passing of the cradle, a profound stillness and sacred “yes” seemed apparent:

YES, I’m interested.

Yes, I’m open.

Yes, I’m seeking.

Yes, your will be done.

It was as if Mary, Christ’s mother, was in our midst….

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We ask for continued prayers as this community, vision, dream, gestates and makes way to birth. Not unlike the Christ child being born, there is a faithful certainty and hope, expectation and dreams, all connected with this labor, with this journey,  with this longing and promise by God to become.

In this Advent Season, we invite you to consider your own prayerful pondering and meditation on the Christ Child’s crib: Still empty, what do you desire to see in that space of comfort and simultaneous discontent? What small thing are you longing to cradle and bring before the world, in a small, hidden, holy way? Where are you saying, “Yes” to Love being born?

We can all pray for one another, perhaps?

LIVE+JESUS!

 

Snapshots from the Sisters: Advent Edition

Advent and Incarnation Blessings! We are so blessed at this time of the year with the prayerful presence of so many friends, families, and volunteers, as we go about our Merry-Christmas-Peace-making-Prayer, that remind us of the journey to Christ’s birth and God among us.

Advent at the Monastery. Anna and Laura Presents

Photo #2: Anna and Laura Dourgarian dropping off Christmas presents from the staff at TempWorks Software. (Two friends from countless organizations and community networks that generously donate to our community at this time of year.)

Here are a couple photos highlighting our Advent to date. We invite you to write a creative caption for any of these photos below in our comment section.

 

Advent Christmas Cookies with SS

Photo #1: Sr. Suzanne Making Christmas Cookies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Prayer and Santa Party

Photo#3: Sr. Karen leading prayer in the chapel at the Christmas prayer and Santa Party.

 

Christmas Story Vis Seniors

Photo #4: Vis School Seniors read from the Christmas story as Sr. Katherine and children look on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***Visit our Facebook page and Flickr albums for more pics from this season.

BRIGHT DARKNESS OF THE FUTURE

Sisters with Candles Catholic Spirit

Photo by Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

As we planned our recent Visitation Companion Advent morning of prayer and reflection Jody, Linda and I spent some time sharing about our community Advent focus of Promise. A phrase from the 2008 – 2014 Vision Statement of our order somehow spoke to all of us about this time of the liturgical year: “As we move forward in the bright darkness of our present.”

This image, ‘Bright Darkness’ seems like an impossible thing to grasp — a paradox at best. In darkness we don’t see ANYTHING, we don’t see the future. However, internally we hope for the future. This kind of seeing of the future is dependent upon what we bring to the present, including our faith, our attitudes, our belief and our experiences.

“…the Bright Darkness of the future leads us to Christmas…the Incarnation of the One who has always been faithful to the Chosen People.”

Look at this time of year in terms of our ancestors: they saw the days were getting shorter and colder; the natural world was passing into a deep darkness; shorter days and less sunlight; dwindling crops; winter brought death after the ripeness of fall. If they were astute, our early ancestors may have noticed things in the natural world like squirrels hiding away extra nuts/ birds disappearing in flocks/ animals getting fatter and slower/ and with a thicker coat of fur and maybe some wise ones had inklings of the concept of hibernation. Perhaps some looked at this time of no fresh food and figured out how to preserve some foodstuffs —- just in case the end was not immanent and the shorter days might not end in death. People learned how to prepare for this time of year.   Externally they used more hides for warmth; they tended to hunker down indoors — around the fire with others. It became a communal time of waiting with the hope or expectation of longer days….more warmth…spring growth and new life.

As Christians we experience externals but have more hope — scientific knowledge and our faith tell us that the sun, s-u-n, will return but that the Son, s-o-n, will return and bring new life into our old world.

We can understand that phrase Bright Darkness of the Future. We need to look at where we have been, what has happened to humankind and assess the present moment.

The Old Testament stories of the Chosen People are full of lack of appreciation for creation, jealousy between siblings, lack of respect for others, crimes of passion, wars between people everywhere. God leading people to a PROMISED land and people grumbling on the way. People separating themselves from God or each other — going alone. Once in a while there would be a knowledgeable voice calling for PREPARATION for what is to come. The greatest of these voices according to scripture was a bright and shining light on a stand….calling out in the dark wilderness….a flicker of hope.

There IS more to come….another…whose sandals John was not even worthy to untie. The One who was the Son. The One who promised the new heavens and a new earth. One who promised to be faithful. One who promised eternal life. One who brought light into the darkness. It is this One who gives US hope, Wisdom and the ability to believe in the bright darkness of the future. This is the One who is the fulfillment of Promise. The One who is to be Wonder, Counselor, Prince of Peace. Almighty God. We can see where this is going…the Bright Darkness of the future leads us to Christmas…the Incarnation of the One who has always been faithful to the Chosen People.

God has Chosen all of us to step into the Light.

 

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Click here to see photos from the Advent Retreat. 

Seeing Love: Incarnation Contemplations

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

The following post appears at “Adding to the Beauty” — as part of the “Tireless Hope” Series for Advent: inviting voices of Midwest writers to join the conversation around beauty as it is documented and posted in the Middle East by travelers Becca and Andrew Ulasich.

Adding to Beauty. Winter Tree“Advent [that is to say, the Incarnation] makes us look for God in all those places we have, until now, ignored.” – Joan Chittister

Fr. Dale Korogi opened a recent homily at the Visitation Sisters’ monastery with a paraphrase of Sr. Joan Chittister’s words:

“It’s safe to say that the Visitation Sisters are an Advent community, inviting us to find God in places we have often ignored; places like Fremont and Girard Avenue in North Minneapolis.”

I’d say the same is true regarding Becca and Andrew Ulasich — Northside community members traveling and volunteering around the world. They are an Advent couple on a mission: inviting us to find God in places we have, until now, perhaps ignored; places like Sari Bari in Kolkata; a Himalayan Mountain boarding-school in Northern India, and Poor Servants of Jesus the Master in Nepal. This Advent, they journey through the Holy Land, tuning into stories of Israelis and Palestinians; holding open their hearts, seeking beauty at every turn.

As I sit to write this post, I consider it a gift to be invited to Add to the Beauty in this Advent Series: Middle East meets Midwest.

Inherent in this invitation to compose a blog, is a similar invitation inherent in the season of Advent — and echoed by Joan Chittister’s words. I ask: How is the incarnation manifesting in places I’ve ignored? What are the dark spaces I sidestep or scurry by in my world? In my own psyche or spirit? What headlines do I prefer to scan over — or news posts do I elect to tune out in my Twitter or Facebook feeds in a conscious or unconscious manner? How can Advent help transform my perspective — my heart, my mind, and way of living and loving?”

The incarnation, God taking on human form, means that I am inextricably woven into the story of Love.

I began writing this blog on Thanksgiving morning. Tucked into a cozy room of my parent’s lakeside home nestled in the wooded landscape along the Lewis and Clark Reservoir along the Missouri Riverbanks that form the border between Nebraska and South Dakota. I recognized my geographical location in an area called Hideaway Acres” as keenly appropriate; and I wondered, “What is hidden in my own heart that God is asking me to shine a light on?”

The past four weeks leading up to the start of Advent have been chock full of large events that give way for my pause and incarnation contemplations:

–My baby sister got married;

–My husband donated a kidney to his older sister;

–We had an opportunity to embrace new family members from Burkina Faso, West Africa;

–We were embraced by family members who reside in a care facility devoted to their mental health in Northeast Nebraska;

–Two of our best friends were married in a ceremony uniting their Puerto Rican and Polish-American families, after my husband and I introduced them.

The incarnation, God taking on human form, means that I am inextricably woven into the story of Love. At every turn, I have an opportunity to marvel at the mystery of my connection to every other creature on this planet, and to see beauty, goodness, hope. I am given the opportunity to bow down in awe at the workings of our marvelous Creator. The Creator of my and my husband’s siblings and all of our blessed organs. I can stand in awe at the recent immigration narratives of my nieces from Burkina Faso as I marvel the healing journeys of two uncles who battle addiction and mark life as formerly homeless. I am prostrate to Love as it is born out in the marriage of two who never entertained this kind of happy union for themselves.

As we journey together this Advent, what unites us in our contemplations of the incarnation? What ignored spaces of life does God invite each of us to see?

Blessings!