Monthly Archives: December 2017

Advent in Hindsight: How the Sisters Prepared for Christmas

One of my favorite parts of the monastery lifestyle on Fremont and Girard is the Sisters’ prayerful attention to detail. Every flower, every candle, every table centerpiece is chosen with care. This spirit is especially evident during Advent, when the Christmas hustle and bustle must somehow be balanced by a special focus on the birth of Christ. How did the Sisters choose to spend their Advent of 2017?

 

Visitation Companion Retreat

One of the main tenets of the Visitation mission is supporting spirituality among laypeople, so the Sisters nurture a community of lay neighbors called the Visitation Companions. This Advent, Sister Suzanne guided the Vis Companions in a prayerful exploration of the personal darkness that precedes the light of Christ. She asked, “As a beloved child of God, what gifts has God given me to make Christ alive in the darkness?”

 

Sponsor a Family

Scripture from the first Saturday of Advent implored, “Freely you have received; freely you are to give.” The Sisters love to encourage this circle of generosity. This Advent, the Sisters helped bridge the generosity and needs of neighbors by participating in the Sponsor a Family initiative, where friends with surplus could support friends who were lacking. The Sisters arranged partnerships between friends.

For instance, Bill drove Linda to pick up gifts for Linda’s family.

 

Cosmic Advent Wreath

Inspired by Pope Francis’ Laudato Si, the Sisters centered their devotion on God’s creation. “Let us sing as we go,” Pope Francis wrote. “May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.” The Sisters’ mantra was “From Cave to Cosmos” as they reflected on their personal relationship with the universe. Each Sister built a small cave for her prayer table to focus her meditation, and each took a “hermit” day to separate herself from the household activity and pray.

 

Christmas Tree

The Sisters ended Advent and welcomed the season of Christmas by setting up their Christmas tree. They befriended the man who helped them pick it out, and friends helped them set it up. Every ornament is a gift from a friend, as is the firewood that burns in the fireplace beside it. Thus the festive Fremont living room embodies the Salesian virtues of simplicity, hospitality, and joy.

 

Children’s Prayer Service

In the old Windsock tradition, the Sisters hosted a prayer service for neighborhood children where they sang, played, and prayed together. Students from Visitation School in Mendota Heights contributed a personally-decorated stocking full of gifts for each child. It was a gentle, strong reminder that Christmas is a special opportunity for us to celebrate God.

Advent Week IV: My Birth

This Advent was especially short, and we only had one day to celebrate its fourth week; however, the shortness of the week did not diminish the importance of the fourth theme: Birth of Self into the Cosmos. This theme reminds us as individuals to stop and enjoy creation in our everyday lives, as we each play a part in the continuation of the grand Universe.

As inspiration to treasure the Universe, we pray:

4 Cosmic Candles, Girard House

COME Ever-Present, Ever-Coming Christ

Today as we light the candle of My Birth into the Whole Cosmic Body of the Universe, we are aware You accepted me in my most naked being of beginning. Now, joined to all being and in conscious loving trust, we pray to move forward on the great journey of life-into-death-into-new life. We believe all life came from You and is forever on a journey back to You.

COME waken us to Wonder

 

This blog post concludes the Advent series as the Sisters journeyed from Cave to Cosmos. The Cosmic Advent wreath featured candles colored for a series of births throughout our blessed history: blue for the universe, green for the solar system, red for Jesus Christ, and amber for ourselves. We thank you for journeying with us, and we wish you a holy and merry Christmas.

Advent Week III: Birth of Jesus Christ

With our Cosmic Advent Wreath, we pondered first the Birth of the Universe and then the Birth of the Solar System; now, this week, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus. It is a reminder that God cared enough for us, His creation, to send His son to help us grow. It is our honor to pass that care and devotion on to the rest of creation around us.

This week, we pray in the words of John Kavanaugh, SJ:

Cosmic Advent Wreath, Fremont House

 

COME Risen Christ Incarnate Love

Today as we light the candle of the Birth of Jesus the Christ, we pray to “fall in love once again with the Great Mystery of God’s care for us — Divine Incarnation so deep and long —  as to take on our bodied lives as God’s very own, even our most humble beginnings and endings, and finally, see each day as opportunity to bear Christ ever newly.”

COME, waken us to Love.

 

 

A final word: It might come as a surprise that the Birth of Jesus is Week III and not Week IV. Why not celebrate this theme closer to Christmas (it is His birthday, after all!)? There is a reason. Stay tuned for next Sunday’s theme — it is a beautiful culmination of this Advent prayer journey.

Advent Week II: Birth of the Solar System

Last week, Sister Mary Frances explained how the Sisters are using the time of Advent to explore the grandness of the universe in a personal way. In particular, they are focusing on Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si on caring for our environment.

Laudato Si is the source of the words in their prayer for the second week of Advent. The theme is Birth of the Solar System, which reminds us of the beauty of our earthly home. They are praying,

Cosmic Advent Wreath, Girard House

 

COME Wondrous Community of Infinite Love

Today as we light the candle of the Birth of the Solar System, we pray, “Triune God, wondrous community of infinite love, teach us to contemplate You in the beauty of the universe, for all things speak of You. Awaken our praise and thankfulness for every being that you have made. Give us the grace to feel profoundly connected to everything that is.”

COME, waken us to PRAISE

 

 

 

Praying a Good-Bye, Praying a Hello

by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Theologian and retreat leader Sister Joyce Rupp reminds us that before we can say hello to new beginnings, we need to pray our good-byes.  This wisdom applies to many of our life’s journeys as we move from dying  to rising.

For the past seven years, Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde has served as our amazingly gifted social media specialist,  keeping our website and various platforms current and creatively relevant.  We cannot count the times people have commented on our “five star” presence in the world of social media.

It is with a twinge of sadness that we pray our good-bye to Melissa in her capacity of Visitation’s social media specialist, but it is also with a prayer of hope and anticipation for her new beginnings: as a spiritual director, and as she and Francois embark on a brand new endeavor with their new bakery!

Anna Dourgarian and Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

We could never have enough words of heartfelt gratitude for Melissa’s wonderful work in spreading our beloved Salesian spirituality!

An amazingly graced moment happened the very week we received her letter of resignation!  Anna Dourgarian (Visitation High School graduate, former Visitation Immersion Program volunteer, and Visitation Companion) appeared on the scene and will take over where Melissa left off.  She brings a variety of technological gifts and a love for our spirituality to her new position as our social media specialist.  It is with grateful hearts that we pray our hello to our dear Anna!

These two women will always be our Visitation Sisters!  Thank you, Holy Spirit!

Advent 2017: From Cave to Cosmos

by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

 

A Blessed Advent to Everyone!   We have only 22 days from the first Sunday of Advent to Christmas.  Each year we select a particular focus for this sacred season.

In our monastic community, we are directing our thought, prayer, and planning to that time of stillness in the cave/womb that prepares us to reach out to the cosmos and “all nations” at Epiphany. Spiritually, a cave symbolizes spiritual protection, rebirth, and the invitation to something new. The cosmos beckons us to share our reborn selves with the world. For instance, especially at this time, we are called to change ourselves and support the world through Pope Francis’ encyclical letter on the environment.

The Cosmic Advent Wreath

To complement our focus, we have prepared a Cosmic Advent Wreath, an adaptation of the traditional Advent wreath.  Each week emphasizes a different dimension of the cosmos.  Week 1 focuses on the Birth of the Universe. Our centering prayer says:

 

COME Sacred Source of All Life

Today as we light the candle of the Birth of the Universe unfolding in God who fills it, we pray for an awareness of the oneness of the universe, vast and vibrating with the sound of its beginning. Like the First Flaring Forth, this small flame reminds us of our presence in the Christ in whom we live and move and have our being in this ever-expanding universe.

 

 

May this sacred time of preparation for Christmas find us in that place of stillness (cave/womb) that will lead us to Live Jesus in outpoured love: “From the Cave to the Cosmos!”