Author Archives: Melissa

Praying with Art: An Invitation to Encounter Love

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

Inspiration by Anne Goetze

“Inspiration” by Anne Goetze

I’ve never been to Annecy, France.  But I can imagine it. Cobblestone streets. Turquoise winding river. Stone arches bridging water. That pristine lake.  The Alps. The 14th, 15th, 16th century architecture: stucco and brick exterior walls, some vine-covered in my mind’s eye.  A red door here. Tiled roof tops.  All buildings close-pressed to one another. If I squeeze my eyes closed tightly, I imagine hearing the buzz of cafe chatter; I feel the Lake Annecy breeze on my face and note the click of heels on narrow paved walks. Perhaps an echo of chapel bells rings off of the mountains. There is a calling to this city, to this landscape, that I know in my own prayerful meditation.

Artist Anne Goetze knows this calling. She has made it part of her life’s work to bring the beauty of not only this place, but of a particular community of people, to all of us.

In her mixed media art form, combining photography, ash and oil paint, Ms. Goetze brings alive this landscape of our founders, St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal. In addition, she has captured the community of Visitation Sisters living there cloistered in our Order’s first monastery.

Praying with Art:  ‘Confering’ /’S’entretenir’ by Anne Goetze

"Confering" by Anne Goetze Annecy Nun Series (with permission)

“Confering” by Anne Goetze Annecy Nun Series (with permission)

When I look on this particular photographic art piece, ‘Confering’ /’S’entretenir,’ by Anne Goetze, I’m struck by the two central figures, clad in all black. Their back sides to me, they are shrouded by veils and near-floor-length skirts. They seem to be leaning in, and as the title suggests: conferring.  I notice my own impulse to lean in. I want to hear them.

On either side of this path, I note the grey and brown hues that frame them, flecks of blue and green pepper the wall and walkway. A stone building with high windows is ahead. The burnt orange of fall foliage appears, too, dusty, cloud-like in the background. My eyes return to the central figures.

Two Visitation Sisters conferring.

For a split second, I think about my mom, in Nebraska, standing at her sink, perhaps contemplating the fullness of the day. My mind darts back to north Minneapolis, to S. Mary Margaret McKenzie and the last time I saw her at Girard House monastery. A fleeting smile on her lips, her downward gaze as she chimed the bell announcing the start of Salesian Monday night. I see S. Mary Frances, then, in the Fremont chapel, it’s Saturday morning prayer and we share raised-eyebrow-smirks, and suppress giggles –some line catching each of us during the chanting and reflection on psalms.

Images of each of these north side Visitation Sisters rush into my mind. S. Katherine, in her swivel chair in the basement office, ever intent and sweet-spirited, as we review engagement efforts and our social media work. S. Karen, post-prayer, coming into close proximity to whisper or share her own fervent noticing of Love at work. Sister Suzanne on a shut-down Thursday, breaking bread with me at the north Minneapolis cafe that goes by this same name, and detailing a moment from her winter journey to Rome. I can see S. Mary Virginia in my mind’s eye, smiling as she comes in to kiss my cheek and offer her ever ready embrace of me, my daughter, husband, following mass at Ascension. And there’s my new friend, Brenda, walking me to the door after a visit to the community, to hug me out, and bid me a warm good bye until we meet again.

Ms. Goetze’s image depicts our religious counterparts an ocean and continent away, but the Sisters’ activity connects here, in the intimacy of my own heart and lived experience – locally. I know this encounter of conferring,  of being companioned and companioning. Despite their faceless presentations, these Sisters come to me fully imaged, featured, in my own holy encounters with northside nuns — with members of my family and local community.

As I pray with this image this day, I invite you into this kind of contemplative stance. I encourage your own close encounter, conferring with the art, taking note of what it stirs in you. How does this Visitation depiction speak to you? What does it say to your longing, to your own lived experience encountering Love?

****

See this work at the Basilica of St. Mary.

Pray to Love: The Annecy France Nun Series

Photographic Paintings by Anne Goetze
Exhibit:  April 9—May 22, 2016
Reception: Sunday May 22, 4:30pm with talk at 5:30pm
For more information: Basilica of St. Mary event listing

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