Author Archives: Melissa

Inspired by the Local Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I watched, I admired, and now I pray for the Holy Spirit, who makes diversity a way, come and let us follow.” – S. Katherine

As we mark this holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,  we celebrate the way his legacy is being born out in our local community, giving rise to a new generation of leaders. Here’s a link to an inspired article and companion video piece from the Star Tribune featuring six of these voices of leadership.

“May our existence be filled with windows — for all the world to see/ the beauty that lies inside of us, even when we are under heat…” Brittany Lynch, poet

 

O, Emmanuel: A child is born…

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion 

For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.Isaiah 9:5

We’ve been waiting. We have been practicing patience. Our friend Mary is 40 weeks along and ready to give birth. It’s game-on mode. There’s been this business of the census and all the crazy travel in the past weeks –Joseph trying to secure accommodations. And here we are: Christmas.

In my prayer this past 24 hours, I am fixated on the details of birth. I keep imagining Mary going into labor. Her belly squeezing; the uterine muscles contracting, and someone rubbing her lower back. I imagine her pacing, perhaps walking the circumference of the room, or making laps outside her birthing space. Maybe it’s still daylight. It’s hot, the roads are dusty, that one little lamb flanks her heels as she paces. He knows.

I keep remembering my own labor and delivery– getting checked into St. Joseph’s Hospital in downtown St. Paul, being wheeled to my room; walking the length of the corridor in hopes of furthering the process of cervical dilation, and the ultimate next step…

Giving birth is an experience that every parent is intimately familiar with.

“..the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.”Luke 2:6-7

Can you enter into the details? I invite you to imagine what is between these two lines in Luke’s gospel: “the time came,” and “she gave birth.”

Mary’s water breaks. She is fully effaced and dilated. Jesus moves down into the birth canal. Mary pushes. And breathes. And pushes. Someone is holding her hand. That sheep is bleating in the back ground. And finally: he is born!

What Luke doesn’t fully describe are some of the richest aspects of this narrative; the imagined details are what hold HOPE for me. God doesn’t avoid the birth canal. He comes to us through this very real, human process by which we all arrive: labor, groaning, a physical expansion, birth.

***

Everywhere I turn these days, the gritty hope of birth is close at hand. Labor, groaning, expansion are bound up in the reality of the mundane, the tragic, the inexplicable, and the awesome. With our “O, Emmanuel” chant, hope accompanies all maneuvering, listening, and digesting of the day’s reality.

The Syrian refugees at the border. O Emmanuel. The Black Lives Matter marchers at the Mall and Airport. O Emmanuel. The presidential candidates sharing their political position on immigration. O Emmanuel. The police officers trying to keep us safe. O Emmanuel. The CEO trying to discern responsible environmental standards. O Emmanuel. The public school teacher seeking stillness in the face of the fall curriculum. O Emmanuel. The frustrated, hungry, angry boy open to the jihadist’s message. O Emmanuel. Earth herself turning on her axis with her changing atmosphere. O Emmanuel.

As we mark this hour of the Incarnation unfolding, I invite you to consider the gritty details of birth before you. Where is God entering in your life? What labor pains are present in your circumstances?  How is physical expansion palpable in your circles? What headlines invoke your song of chant and praise: “O, Emmanuel”?

O, Emmanuel: a child is born to us this day!

 

Open the Door III: Listening with Compassion in the Year of Mercy

Open the Door BannerWe are sharing information on an upcoming retreat open to people who are discerning their vocations.

Experience a variety of prayer forms from the Catholic tradition and beyond, and take time to discern next steps (work, relationships, religious life, vocation, creativity).

When: Friday, January 29, 5:30 – 6:15 p.m., arrival, and soup and bread dinner;
6:30 – 8:30 p.m. welcome and opening session
Saturday, January 30, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Location: Sisters of St. Joseph Provincial House
1880 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105

Cost: $25 for the retreat
$35 additional for overnight (optional)

Contact: Sister Katherine Mullin, katherinefmullin@gmail.com or 612-636-1822

Register online today: Open the DoorIII Retreat 

DOWNLOAD PDF ==>Open the Door III Retreat

Praying Exodus: Reflections on God leading Community

Exodus Prayers: The sea of red and blue light along Interstate 94

Exodus Prayers: The sea of red and blue light along closed Westbound Interstate 94

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion 

“Exodus is a story of a people, not a person – that God leads in community.” – Amy Long, Women of Prayer discernment participant

With the whirring sounds of a helicopter overhead and the flashing lights of emergency vehicles passing outside our windows along Emerson Avenue North in Minneapolis, we convened a community of prayer, story, reflection, and song.  Our community of discerning women gathered at St. Jane House last night for session 4 of the vocation series entitled, “The Prepositions of Call: Reframing Suffering and Vocation.”

Against this backdrop of protest sounds and justice-seeking circumstances surrounding the shooting of Jamar Clark by a local police officer, we began our evening ringing the singing bowl and moving into silence.

“What path is God leading us on? How do we know the wilderness in our journeys? Where are our pillars of cloud and fire? How is this journey, that we are all on, a communal experience toward freedom?”

As facilitators for the series, S. Katherine Mullin, Karen Wight Hoogheem and I gave voice to our distraction, marking the reality outside our doors. In honor of Jamar Clark’s life, we had a candle burning for him and his family — and by extension, our human family the world over – from North Minneapolis to other communities knowing upheaval from violence –including Paris, Beirut, Russia, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, Yemen.

We entered into prayer.

As part of every session, a member of our series facilitation team leads the participants in a form of prayer — meant to inspire and support women in their “listening and leading from within.”  Last night’s experience of Lectio Divina was led by Karen, who took us through Exodus 13:17-22. In this Old Testament passage, we heard the story of Moses and the Israelites being lead out of Egypt. God takes them on a circuitous route through the desert, into the wilderness, revealing himself in a pillar of cloud by day – and fire by night.

Pillars of Fire, photo from protester camp on Plymouth

Pillars of Fire, photo from protester camp on Plymouth

As Karen lead, she invited us to see ourselves in the flight of the Israelites and immerse ourselves in the literal and imagined details of the scripture. She invited us to listen for resonant lines in the text and for God’s invitation to each of us in our present circumstances. She asked us to consider the ways we know suffering, and the way God is faithful to us in leading us along the road to freedom.

As the scripture was repeated, the darkness of the Israelites path at night came alive in my mind. And too, was this flicker of light from fire, the smell of smoke in close proximity, the palpable feeling of anxiety that comes with uncertainty and next steps, and this potent question, “Will you follow me into this wilderness, into freedom, Melissa?”

The whole time, the whirring of the very real helicopters overhead buzzed in my ears; the faces of men, women, and children, who were marching along Plymouth Avenue when I made my way in traffic an hour earlier, came into my mind’s eye.

Together, in prayer, we asked, “What path is God leading us on? How do we know wilderness in our journeys? Where are our pillars of cloud and fire? Where is liberation? How is this journey, that we are all on, a communal experience toward freedom?”

***

This Saturday, Visitation Sisters all around the world will renew their vows. As they make their way toward this feast day, they remind me, and all of us, of our commitments before God. And too, of God’s faithfulness to us.

Join me, the Women of Prayer, the Visitation Sisters, Jamar’s family, and people grieving life lost to violence all over the world, in the prayer of Exodus. Together, let us recall that our journey toward liberation is bound up in God’s love and promises for all of us.

In Solidarity with the Sisters: Silent prayer

S. Katherine on Retreat at ARC

S. Katherine on Retreat at ARC

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion 

“There is a healthy silence that heals and bonds us all.” — S. Mary Margaret McKenzie

The Burkinabe freedom seeker with his fist in the air. The Syrian mother lowering her babe into a boat. Pope Francis lifting the Eucharist at mass in Cuba. The police officer turning on his siren and lights just a few blocks away. The principal at my daughter’s school reaching for my kindergartner’s hand to walk her inside.  A quiet woman standing before a slow moving stream. These are images that come to mind in my prayer this day.

Sitting on the front porch of my Selby Avenue home in St. Paul, I hold a prayerful space alongside and for the Visitation Sisters who are on retreat this week. I’m in silent solidarity with all. No matter the distance, or circumstance, we are all bound up in this mystical body of Christ – in our common humanity, with our beating hearts, breathing bodies, seeking spirits. And it is a loving silence which unites and heals us all.

“Silence makes us whole if we let it.  Silence helps draw together the scattered and dissipated energies of a fragmented existence.”
– Fr. Thomas Merton Love and Living.

In a prayerful meditation on silence last spring, S. Mary Margaret described a quiet that unifies and bonds us; a silence where wholeness is revealed, compassion and reconciliation germinate.  I was in the living room at Fremont House with a group of other lay men and women discerning community life alongside the Visitation Sisters in North Minneapolis. S. Mary Margaret’s meditations struck a deep chord in me. I scribbled her words onto a slip of paper: “There is a healthy silence that heals and bonds us all.” 

The Visitation Sisters’ community is immersed in quiet this week: on the second floor of Girard, on the back porch at Fremont; up at the ARC retreat center; over in Collegeville; lakeside at a friend’s cabin; down in Fairbault. Each sister is entering into the fullness of silence — in that echoic room of her heart where God’s voice booms, Love pierces and connects all things — and softens all stances into a compassionate embrace.

In my own attempted practice of daily silence or stillness on my front porch, I have these fleeting glimpses of unity. I can travel around the world, into the darkest corners of my own neighborhood, contemplate the warring factions of humanity riddled by poverty and hunger, a desire for power, or freedom. I can see these across the river in Minneapolis, in my husband’s home country of Burkina Faso, in the headlines reporting on the Middle East, and inside my own beating heart.

The silence doesn’t scare me. It’s a silence that invites me. It’s a silence that contains all the ills and joys of the world, and melds them into a wholeness, a reconciled beauty that I have few words for, save Love.

I invite you into this meditation today, into solidarity with our Sisters on retreat. Can you carve five minutes of quiet in your day?  Find a spot in your home, in your car, on your block; in your church, temple, mosque, in a park, in a space you might claim as sanctuary? Go inside your heart. Find the beating, pulsing reality of your interior being. Ask for God to show you Love’s peace, Love’s will, Love’s desire for you this day.

Will you join me and the Sisters in prayer?

Day of Prayer: Sunday, September 13, 1-4:30pm

JOIN US!

Br. Mickey McGrath OSFS

Br. Mickey McGrath OSFS

This Sunday, September 13, 2015, from 1-4:30pm, our good friend and Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, Brother Mickey McGrath will be leading a Day of Prayer as part of the celebration of 2015 Year of Consecrated Life.

You know Brother Mickey McGrath as the artist who painted the Windsock Visitation which hangs at our monastery and anchors our webpages. He is as an award-winning artist and author who speaks on the connections between art and faith.

This Sunday’s Day of Prayer event is sponsored by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and local religious. Please join us! All are welcome!

WHAT: Day of Prayer with Members of Consecrated Life

WHEN: 1 to 4:30 p.m; Sunday, September 13, 2015.

WHERE: St. Mary’s University Center, 2540 Park Ave., Minneapolis, MN

RSVP: Registration is not required, only requested for help with planning. RSVP online. This event is FREE.

This event will include a panel response, small group sharing and prayer.

More information: Find more resources on the 2015 Year of Consecrated Life

Nativity of Mary

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion 

“Let us celebrate with joy the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for from her arose the sun of justice, Christ our God.” — Entrance Antiphon for mass, September 8, 2015

Today, we mark Mary’s nativity, the birth of the mother of Jesus. Pausing to consider her life, her arrival to Anna and Joachim, her own humble journey and response to God’s call, I think about all of our mothers — all whose arrivals have precipitated our own and made our lives possible. I wonder: What does the path toward parenting look like? What is the journey that informs a mother’s “yes” to life? What, in Mary’s life, cultivated her capacity to respond to God’s invitation to bear Jesus? What, in our own lives, nurtures love and allows us to be present to the call to bear life in our unique ways?

It’s like Mother’s day, this feast day,  this invitation to meditate on Mary’s birth. I think about my own mom, and the mother that I am coming to be. I think about my child and her role in shaping my call and response to God, daily, in saying “yes” to love. To Nurture. To be here.

***

Rising late and dressing for school this morning, my five year old kindergartner stopped to sit cross-legged on her bed.

“Mom, can you do this?” she asked, bringing her hands to her heart center.

I told her, “Yes!” and sat opposite on another bed. Then she started “omm-ing.”

The principal at our daughter’s school told us our job as parents was to bring our kids to school calmly. So, even though we were running late, I joined Marguerite in her “omms.” I copied her posture, brought my hands to the center of my chest, closed my eyes, and I breathed deeply.

Then, my five year old said, “Now imagine you are flying in the sky.”

It was a moment we both shared –where she lead. She walked me through this way of being still, if only for a few seconds, but that helped ground us, her, our day. 

***

I return to Mary’s birth. I imagine Anna and Joachim’s great joy at her arrival and the outpouring of love for their daughter. I try to imagine Mary as a kindergartner, leading her own parents through rituals of calm and postures of meditation. I think of God delighting, too, in this child, this girl as she grows and becomes a woman.

As this day unfolds, and this feast of Mary’s birth makes its way into our own rhythms of life, I invite us to note the way Mary arrives, stirs, interrupts, and inspires our paths. How do we know her birth? How do honor our own becoming? What ways can we mark, now, and in days to come, this feast of her nativity and the ultimate birth of Christ among us?

Farm-to-Table Prayers

imageby Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

“We cannot always offer God great things, but at each instant, we can offer him little things with great love.” –St. Jane de Chantal 

We are growing tomatoes. Zucchini. Onions. Kale. Swiss chard. Lettuce. Mint. Beets. Carrots. Beans. Peas. Melons. Eggplant. Basil. Tarragon. Strawberries. Cabbage. Cauliflower. The community cooperative garden has been a place of labor, rest, renewal, and joy this summer, as we come together as neighbors — sinking our hands into the soil, wielding scissors in the midst of leafy greens and harvesting vegetables and fruits from week to week.

This same sense of satisfaction that comes from my weekly time slot in the garden, comes, too, in the solitary hours I have at my kitchen island. I process the produce and I pray. My presence to the harvested vegetables and fruit has become one of my favorite experiences of God’s goodness this summer.

I’ve always liked to cook, but over the course of the last two years with locally grown food, the joy and satisfaction I’ve gotten from making meals has been transformed through this meditative process. It’s a ‘farm-to-table” prayer experience.

imageThis day, I’m slow roasting tomatoes. In recent weeks I have become much more adept at the process of breaking down the red ripe fruit: skinning, slicing, coring, pulping, seeding, chopping, laying out on the sheet pans. With each step, I bring a kind of awareness. My fingers wielding a serrated knife, my thumb pressing the fruit against the blade, halving the tomato section, and then repeating. I shake the container of salt over the sheet of chopped plum, beefsteak and early girls; I pour over olive oil and grind pepper from the mill. My fingers slide down the stems of fresh thyme and release the herb’s tiny leaves into the oil, creating an aroma that satisfies my greatest olfactory desires.

***

When I went to visit S. Mary Margaret in the hospital after her heart surgery a couple years ago, I asked if she wanted to pray. It was around the noon hour, and I knew the community would be convening back at the monastery for the liturgy of the hours. Her response, squeezing a pillow into her mid-section, releasing a labored exhale, still groggy from the whole experience, went something like, “Well, we are screwed if it’s not all prayer.”

I think the same is true for processing tomatoes. It’s all prayer. The gardening. The planting. The weeding. The waiting. The watering. The picking. The washing, cutting, roasting. Eating. All prayer.

The awareness of God in each step, of the connection between the earth, the sun, the soil, human labor, the toil, is akin to awareness of my own beating heart, and the breathing of all around me. Bound up in this gardening process is the life cycle of creation; the death and resurrection of the earth and seasons. This awareness shifts my understanding of our communal and solitary labor; transforming a mundane task (like picking a tomato) to a delightful way of engaging and being in the world (making pasta sauce to feed my family!). It’s an awareness, an attitude, that I can bring to other facets of life, then, too, which is generative, nurturing, even healing.

“We cannot always offer God great things, but at each instant, we can offer him little things with great love,” Jane de Chantal says. Chop a tomato. Savor a cucumber. Roast a squash. Mince a garlic clove. Brush your teeth. Kiss another’s hand. Breathe. Hug. Savor. Love.