Monthly Archives: March 2016

On the Road to Emmaus

by Betty

Walk to Emmaus” by Betty Shoopman.  Used with permission.

by S. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

“We were, indeed, pilgrims on the same path, engaging each other in contemplative conversation. We were using the same concepts if not the same language and imagery, and saying so many of the same things. And that, after all, is what it’s all about isn’t it? It’s about being on this journey together, feeling our hearts burn within us, recognizing Jesus in nourishing bread and empowering word.” —- Monica Brown, OP, April 1996

These words were written by a friend of mine three years before she died. She was at the time just finishing a time of leadership in her Sinsinawa Dominican community. I had just entered religious life here in Minneapolis, moving here from Ypsilanti, Michigan where she and I were both in a Feminist Spirituality/Support Group for those in a variety of ministries. We became friends over civil discourse and differing opinions on the role of women in the Church. We did agree that we as sisters needed each other to be the best people we could be for those we came in contact with in chaplaincy work.

“While he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” — Luke 24:30-32

I missed Monica when she moved away to be more involved in her order’s leadership. We lost track of each other and I didn’t even tell her in person about my decision to join the Sisterhood. Her final gift to me arrived at the door of our Fremont House one early spring afternoon in the person of Sharon Bartlett, a neighbor who lived about a block from our monastery. She came bearing news of Monica. Monica wanted me to meet Sharon and to know that she herself was in hospice care and did not want visitors. Sharon and I became friends….companions on the journey.

Not many years later I was one of many who companioned Sharon during her struggle with gioblastoma. The in-between years we were sisters in spirit, caring for others here on the north side, feeding others on the nourishing bread and empowering Word that has been passed on to us.

God loves us back to life | Easter Homily by Fr. Michael Newman, OSFS

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The empty tomb. Artist unknown.

Acts 20:34a, 37-43; John 20:1-9

Good morning and Happy Easter! We celebrate today the Resurrection – the empty tomb that is sitting behind here. Jesus alive and present in our life or, as one of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury says:

“Christ is not dead/nor does God sleep/while waking Man/God does striding in the Deep./To birth ourselves anew/And love rebirth/From fear of straying long/ on outworn Earth./One harvest in, we broadcast seed for further reaping./Thus ending Death/and Night/and Time’s demise/And senseless weeping.”1

In other words, “resurrection” as we celebrate it today in Easter is about God doing something new. We see this in our Gospel today when the disciples and Mary Magdalene get to this empty tomb and have no idea what’s going on. We see it in the first reading when St. Peter professes his faith in the resurrected Christ and how Jesus was resurrected by the Father’s love. Because, at it’s heart that’s what resurrection is. It’s about God loving us back to life. And this didn’t just happen once 2000 years ago in Jerusalem. It continues to happen today.

Earlier this week, when trying to write this homily, I took a break and looked at my Facebook newsfeed. I saw this story by a friend of mine who lives with her husband and 5 year-old daughter in St. Paul, MN.

Kiddo had an out-of-the-blue-meltdown/ “tantrum” when I was tucking her in, screaming me out of her room. It was bizarre. I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t take it personally, I just went downstairs to read my book. 15 minutes later she comes down,

“Hey mom, can we talk?”
“Sure.”
Her words:
“What happened there? You didn’t do anything wrong, and I yelled at you, and I’m sorry. Can we try again?”

“Sure.”
Then she recounted each step of our bedtime ritual, (I think she was looking for her trigger…It’s what we’ve been trying to do after our fights, but she’s never LEAD the reflection-conversation.)
Upshot:
When we got back to the bed to tuck in, she said, “next time I get that mad and use any words like, “stupid” please tell me to, “stop” in your serious voice. And tickle my feet.”
“I love you. Please forgive me for tonight.”

This is resurrection: God doing something new – allowing the daughter to take the lead in this mother-daughter relationship, which then lead to a resolution, to a strengthened relationship, and to a deeper bond of love. In this moment, God loved both of them back to life.

“God keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves…”2

Now “new” isn’t always perfect. Like the Easter story, “new” itself is often messy – there’s an open tomb, grave linens thrown on the floor, people not knowing what is going on. It’s not as serene as some stain- glassed windows would like you to think. For us, new looks like the person who is six days sober and still trying to stay on the wagon. “New looks like reconciliation between family members who don’t actually deserve it. New looks like every time we manage to admit we were wrong and every time we manage not to admit that we were right. New looks like every fresh act of forgiveness and of letting go of all those things we didn’t think we could live without and then somehow living without it anyway. New is the thing we never saw coming – never even hoped for – but ends up being what we needed all along. This is Resurrection – newness in our messiness because God keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves”2 – graves right now of sorrow, doubt, fear, anger, and pain. And God keeps loving us back to life over and over until we can say with St. Peter, Mary Magdalene, and my friends in St. Paul, “I have seen the Lord.”

Amen.
May God be praised.

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Fr. Michael Newman OSFS

Fr. Michael Newman OSFS

Rev. Michael E. Newman is an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales and Director of the Oblate Novices. This homily was delivered at St. Mary of the Good Counsel Church in Adrian, MI. The reference to the Facebook conversation is between Vis Companion Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde and her daughter. We reprint this with permission.

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1 Ray Bradbury, “Christus Apollo”
2 Examples adapted from Nadia Boltz-Weber, Pastrix, p. 174.

 

Good Friday Reflection by S. Mary Frances Reis

by S. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Isaiah 52:13-15; 53: 1-12

Suffering Servant, Donald Jackson, Copyright 2005, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Suffering Servant, Donald Jackson, Copyright 2005, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Blessed Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion.

This is the day to gaze on Love—a day, in the words of the Palmist, to “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps.46:11). What other stance can we take before this ancient text attributed to an anonymous poet who prophesied the fate of the Servant of God? Despised, discounted, and erased, the Suffering Servant descends into a terrifying darkness depicted in this illumination by ominous storm clouds. Yet, one cannot be with this text without hope. From the very first verse we hear, “See my Servant shall prosper; he shall be raised high and greatly exalted” (Is. 52:13). We are encouraged to hold the entire Paschal Mystery of suffering and triumph here—yes, even as we behold the Crucified One. This great messianic oracle is fulfilled in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Be still, and gaze on the Love that from all eternity is poured out for us. Hold the Mystery.

Where is the Suffering Servant to be found today? In Flint, Michigan? In African American teens fearing to be shot by the police? In refugees in search of home? 

Living in a world where countless people feel despised, discounted, and erased, we pray for the grace to hold hope for them. From ancient times, God’s revealed word calls us to hold the entirety of this Mystery as one. With words of mercy, Pope Francis calls us to behold the Suffering Servant in our brothers and sisters who are in anguish: “Jesus invites us to behold these wounds. Through these wounds, as in a light- filled opening, we can see the entire Mystery of Christ and of God, filled with compassion for the weak and the suffering” (2015 Divine Sunday Homily).

Gaze on the emaciated figure with his back to the viewer and holding his head. He appears to be confined to a cell of some sort, surrounded by a fiery, terrifying darkness. Yet he is standing and at gazing at the illuminated cross. The Mystery of suffering and glorification is here.

Where is the Suffering Servant to be found today? In Flint, Michigan? In African American teens fearing to be shot by the police? In refugees in search of home? In immigrants living in fear of deportation? In the homeless and the hungry? Am I being called to enter the terrible darkness with them and carry the Illuminated cross to the suffering? Can I hold the entire Mystery for and with them?

Gaze into the wounds of the immigrant, the homeless, men, women and children poisoned by the water they drink,

Gaze, and you will learn the Mystery of dying and rising.

Gaze, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Mary Frances Reis, VHM is a member of the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis. She and her community are engaged in contemplative prayer and non-violent presence in North Minneapolis. She is an alumna of Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary.

This piece is re-printed here with permission. It runs concurrently at the Seeing the Word blog, published by St. John’s School of Theology.

Life in Community| Holy Thursday Reflection by Cody Maynus

Life in Community, Aidan Hart with contributions from Donald Jackson, Copyright 2002, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Life in Community, Aidan Hart with contributions from Donald Jackson, Copyright 2002, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

by Cody Maynus

Ask any monk or nun to name the best and the worst parts of their religious life and you will likely get the same answer: life together in community.

Community can be difficult, regardless of the form it takes. Living together, studying together, working together, praying together takes an immense amount of work. In an age such as ours, which prides itself on individualism and uniqueness, it is often—always, even!—a real challenge to share space with another.

On the other hand, there is something absolutely holy and formative about community. When we live intentionally with other people, we privilege the needs and desires of others before our own. Not because our needs and desires are wrong or harmful or selfish, but rather because the experience of the whole is more important than the experience of the individual. Living in community allows us to step back, to take check of our lives and the lives others, and to respond with spiritual detachment. We become detached from our own agendas in order for collective wisdom—always inspired by the Spirit—to emerge. Our weaknesses are met by others’ strengths. Our gifts build up others’ weaknesses. Individually, we are small players in an awfully large and daunting game. In community, we have substance, we have gravitas, we have a body.

And Jesus had a body. In fact, Jesus’ body has been, is, and continues to be of absolute importance for Christians. Our God is the God who took on our human flesh, who was born of a woman, who was raised in a family, who engaged with others, who lived a human life, who died, and who rose again. Ours is a God who looks like us, who is re-membered, re-fleshed in every human being.

And that is the real gift of community: when we live together, study together, work together, pray together, we do so surrounded by God incarnated in the other members of our community. God makes Godself known—physically, literally—in those with whom we share our life.

This is the gift the Church gives us today: a vision for an incarnated community—a community who prays together, serves together, holds life in common together, breaks bread together. We gather tonight in our churches, monasteries, and cathedrals to begin practicing the good, hard work of living together in community. We will break bread together, pray for the world together, give to the needs of the poor together, and wash each other’s feet.

And, as a community who shares life together, we will move into the darkness of Holy Week. We will clear the altar tonight, removing the candles and cloths and contending with a naked and broken table stripped of everything comfortable, everything sacred. We will take the Eucharist from its usual place of reservation and move it—together, in procession—to a temporary place of holding, a place removed from the heart of our liturgical life.

The only way we can contend with Holy Week—the awful crucifixion, the terrible rejection, the silent abandonment—is to come together around the altar of our God who, in a few short days will smell like fiery hell and musty tomb, but who tonight smells like soap and oil and bread.

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Cody Maynus, VIP Volunteer

Cody Maynus

Cody Maynus is studying monastic spirituality and history at Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary. He is presently discerning monastic life in the Episcopal Church. He is a former Visitation Volunteer Intern.

This piece is re-printed here with permission. It runs concurrently at the Seeing the Word blog, published by St. John’s School of Theology.

Passion Sunday| Homily by Fr. Dale Korogi

Fr. Dale Korogi

Fr. Dale Korogi

by Fr. Dale Korogi, Church of the Ascension

“Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” – Luke 23:34  

From the cross, Jesus prays not for himself, but for those with a hand in his execution. To their violence, Jesus says, “Enough.” He counters not with revenge, but mercy. The violence ends in him.

It’s not entirely true that they didn’t know what they were doing.* They knew that the charges against Jesus were questionable. They knew the jealousy that fueled those charges. They must have known that there was something wrong with this monstrous spectacle. What they didn’t know was the depth of their fear, and their deep-seated compulsion to dominate and destroy. They didn’t know any better because they didn’t know how thoroughly God loved them.

They didn’t know any better because they didn’t know how thoroughly God loved them.

Jesus knew better. Even at his most excruciating moment, Jesus knew that he was steeped in God’s love. He had no need to fight back. He won by losing, by surrendering into Love.

Because of Jesus, we know better. Today, this week, we follow his way, saving ourselves by emptying ourselves, surrendering at last to Love.

 

*Hat tip to Karl Rahner, SJ


 

Jane in Rome

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A view from the plane: Sunrise over the Alps

by S. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

TRAVEL DOESN’T CHANGE MY DAILY PRAYER LIFE as much as one might think. I begin each day with prayer. As St. Jane de Chantal suggests:

“Upon awakening in the morning, turn your thoughts to God present everywhere. Place your heart and your entire being in God’s hands.” St. Jane

The very first morning of my trip to represent our Federation at the official closing gathering for the Year of Consecrated Life I awoke and opened the window shade on the airplane and was greeted with bright sun. A great way to begin morning prayer! However, I didn’t understand what I was seeing outside — it wasn’t the usual white fluffy clouds one expects….I was looking down at something white, not through a cloud. A passing flight attendant said “Oh, there are the Alps!” I was absolutely shocked….I never expected in my life time to see the Alps from above. What a great start to my prayer. God certainly is present everywhere and I reflected on how God sees all of us at all times from his/her own unique vantage point. “God above us; God around us; God under our feet…” to quote a familiar hymn.

I began each day of my time in Rome reflecting on where I was; what I expected to be doing or seeing that day; what was happening at home; who did I want to remember in prayer that particular day. I must admit that first morning in the plane set a pretty high bar for my morning reflections. Each day God was present in the world of nature. One morning it was a peacock I met on a walk outside and another God showed up as a ripe orange in the garden. (Not a sight I’ve ever seen in Minnesota!)

Sunrise on my last day in Rome

A hint of that glory: Final sunrise in Rome

There are three reasons I like the above quote from Jane: First, it is a wonderful reminder that each morning I am not alone on the journey of life. God begins the day with me and continues. Secondly, there are many parts of me, especially the heart, and St. Jane reminds me to place ALL of me in that sacred presence. There was a time when I found it hard to ask God’s help with things of life but now I count on it each day and have learned how to humbly ask for it. The third reason I like the quote is that it reminds me that I am precious to God. God holds me in the palm of His hand and enables me to see a shadow of the Kingdom in my own life. The spectacular sunrise of my final day in Rome is just a hint of that glory!

 

S. Karen Reflects: An Irish Nun in this Month of March

S Karen Mohan, VHM

S Karen Mohan, VHM

by Sr. Karen Mohan, VHM

March, once primarily known to this Irish “lass” as the “month of St. Patrick,” now includes an awareness of “Women’s History Month“, “National Catholic Sisters’ Week” (March 8-14), and even “Nutrition Month.” These themes: being Irish, being a woman, and a religious Sister who values the “balance” of healthy eating and living, come together in a unique way for me as I reflect on being a Visitation Sister for 50 years.

On my bookcase, I keep a hand-crafted card with a quote attributed to St. Patrick, which reads,

“I am certain in my heart that all that I am I have received from God.“ I love that message. It reminds me that each of us is born with a heritage, a history, and choices to make which will contribute –or not – to the building up of our global community in the reign of God.

imageWomen in my family and beyond my family helped me to understand how God’s love and the Gospel can be lived in a variety of ways. One of those “beyond”, my teacher, and eventually community member and friend, Sister Marie Therese Ruthmann from the Visitation Monastery of St. Louis, is one of those influential women in my life. I’m writing this on March 4, the 64th anniversary of her religious vows. Sr. M.Therese was the first person I told that I was considering religious life. At that time I was not really considering the Sisters of the Visitation. They were always there for me, and I was seeking a vocational call that was further from my immediate view.  What was “certain in my heart” was that the invitation to dedicate my life entirely to God was there, and that before I went on to college I needed and wanted to give that invitation some attention.

S. Marie Therese

Joyful Sisters: S. Karen next to S. Marie Therese

Sr. M. Therese listened. She prayed with me. She let me be, never saying, “What about the Visitation?” She was wise enough even then at her young age in the community, that if the Holy Spirit was at work, that was good enough!   Gradually I became aware that the Visitation Sisters, real people who could identify with the needs and concerns of others, had the components of the balanced life I could see myself espousing: they had a genuine prayer life; they had a strong community; they had a meaningful ministry; they were happy women. In those days there was little talk about “Salesian spirituality” as such, but those around the Sisters imbibed it just by being with them.

During this “Irish” month of women, Sisters, and nutrition, in our Church’s “Jubilee Year of Mercy”, take time to consider the spirituality that nourishes you, the women and Sisters who support your faith journey, and what adjustments you might be called to make so that prayer, community and service may lead you to a joyful “ balance” as the Holy Spirit leads.

Once I came to the realization that the Visitation Sisters’ way of life was one that I might be called to try, I started down that path, enriched by many women who became my “Sisters” and mentors and co-workers, and friends. And in the spirit of this “Women’s month”, the rest is history!