Wisdom’s Elbows…

Sr. Katherine reads from the Wisdom of St. Jane

Sr. Katherine reads from the Wisdom of St. Jane

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“Send Wisdom from heaven to be my companion, to teach me your will.”

These words, chanted during morning prayer, inspired our communities’ intentions this morning. As Sr. Mary Frances underscored their personal resonance, she named a universal condition that invites our care and attention, asking: How do we let the spirit of Wisdom in? In Frances’ reflections, I heard:

Certainly Wisdom companions us daily, but how do we acknowledge her? What prayerful patterns do we practice that invoke Wisdom’s presence and guidance in our lives?

Sitting next to Sr. Mary Frances on the bench in the chapel, eyes closed, I tuned into her spoken reflections and had this flash of Wisdom come into my mind’s eye. She was a fully formed woman with elbows. She appeared as a buxom female — draped in gleaning white fabric, like a choir robe — maneuvering into my heart space. “Let me speak!” she said, “Listen!”

***

At the breakfast table, following morning prayer, I heard Wisdom coming through the words of St. Jane de Chantal.

On this day following Jane’s feast, Sr. Katherine and I were reflecting on our co-foundress’ spiritual life, her grief and dryness in prayer, as well as her qualities as a leader: her compassion, empathy, and encouragement of others.  Over a plate of sliced mango and a cup of coffee, Sr. Katherine read to me from our founders’  Letters of Spiritual Direction.

St. Jane de Chantal

St. Jane de Chantal

In a letter dated July 22, 1619, Jane wrote from Paris to Mother Péronne-Marie de Châtel, the Superior at Grenoble:

“Don’t worry about your way. I see it and I know better than you do that it is a very good one. Trust me in this, I beg you, for God has given me enough light on the matter. Wasn’t His infinite goodness our only aim and rest? What further assurance do we need? Dearest, let us stay right there in complete self-effacement. We ought to be content to go on blindly, without knowing anything; it is enough for us that God is our God, our hope, our desire.” 

As Sr. Katherine gave life to Jane’s words, I saw Wisdom’s elbows make her way to us at the table. “Take note!” The spirit of Love poured forth through this letter from across the centuries.  Over fresh fruit and  a caffeinated beverage, I heard Wisdom’s guidance echoing through these compassionate and affirming words of our Co-foundress. “Be gentle with yourself. Trust. Listen. Don’t worry.”

***

For whatever perplexes you this day, challenges your heart or mind, I invite you to pause, and take note of the spirit of Wisdom companioning you. How do you notice her gentle encouragment showing up?  Anchored by the rhythms of prayer from our monastery to the cloister of your own heart, we invite you to be still and know that that you are companioned by God. That Wisdom, like our co-founder Jane, has elbows making their way into our contemplative hearts. We can trust that the spirit of Love, Hope, and Wisdom surrounds our deepest desires in doing God’s will.

Live+Jesus!

Community Prayer: Welcome to North!

WELCOME TO NORTH / story from Chitwood Media on Vimeo.

Since December of 2014, we have been convening a group of women and men who are discerning their calls to co-found a Resident Visitation Lay Community alongside us in north Minneapolis.

Some of the questions we are wrestling with include:
What is the call of the laity? What does it mean to be community? How do we “live+Jesus”, as our founders said, in north Minneapolis? How are stability and freedom, the Spirit and one-ness part of our calls to be present in this economically and culturally diverse place?

On Sunday, May 31, 2015,  S. Mary Margaret creatively launched our discerning-community-gathering with a prayer using two videos.    These short, award-winning films, playing here, were produced by our friends Morgan and Josh Chitwood. We invite you to watch them and hold us -and our discerning friends- in prayer.

Together, may we rise up to meet the joyful challenges of founding this new community and living responsively to the call of the Spirit and the union of beloved community that Jesus calls us all to in his name.

Will you join us in prayer?

THE LAST PRAYER / story from Chitwood Media on Vimeo.

SisterStory: S. Katherine Mullin reflects on Discernment

Sister Katherine Mullin VHM has been featured on SisterStory, an ongoing story of National Catholic Sisters Week, aimed at broadening awareness of Catholic sisters across the nation.

This SisterStory snapshot features S. Katherine reflecting on her call to come to north Minneapolis, after entering at Visitation Mendota. This is the second in a series of these videos recorded by Gina Giambruno at St. Catherine University.

On Discernment and Ministry

 

You can also view all of the videos of Sr. Katherine here:

https://www.sisterstory.org/gina-giambruno/sister-katherine-mullin-vhm-fall-2014-snapshot-collection

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….

***

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!

 

Trust in the Slow Work of God

Where does this path lead?

Where does this path lead?
photo by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

In these long, sometimes cool, other times hot, shifting-climate days of summer, I have found myself reaching for this poem. I offer it to you, for however it might speak to your soul, provide comfort or levity in your journey and this present time.

Trust in the Slow Work of God

by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ*

 

Above all, trust in the slow work of God

We are quite naturally impatient in everything

to reach the end without delay

We should like to skip the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being on the way to something

unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress

that it is made by passing through

some stages of instability-

and that it may take a very long time.  And so I think it is with you.

your ideas mature gradually – let them grow,

let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on,

as though you could be today what time

(that is to say, grace and circumstances

acting on your own good will)

will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit

gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing

that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself

in suspense and incomplete.

*(1881-1955) Jesuit, Paleontologist, Biologist, Philosopher, and Visionary

“How can we hear and respond to God’s call for our lives?”

Laura Kelly Fanucci

Laura Kelly Fanucci

by Laura Kelly Fanucci, Project Researcher, Collegeville Institute

From the time we are children and teenagers, people ask us questions like, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and “What are you going to do with your life?” Sometimes such questions seem exciting and full of possibility. Other times they feel oppressive and overwhelming. Yet at every stage of life’s journey-at mid-career or at retirement, for example-we are full of questions about what to do, where to go, who to be.

How can we learn to see where God is leading us through our journey? How can we become aware of how God speaks to us, often in “tiny whispering sounds”? How do we understand what God wants for and from our lives? These are questions of vocation that call for careful discernment.

Where do we notice God at work- in our relationships, in our work, or in our everyday activities?

The process of discernment is a centuries-old Christian practice of personal prayer and reflection with others that examines our lives in light of what we know about God’s hopes, dreams, and love for us. Discernment involves paying attention to our experiences in order to recognize God’s presence. Where do we notice God at work- in our relationships, in our work, or in our everyday activities? What other voices around us are competing with God’s voice or leading us towards selfish, even evil, inclinations instead of the good God wants for us? What patterns do we notice about how we make decisions: are we careful planners or do we simply fall into situations without much thought? How do we choose? Through discernment we consider our inner thoughts as well as our outward actions; we listen to ourselves, to others, to our community and our context.

Your discernment practices are the ways you reflect on your life and make decisions based on what God reveals to you through your life.

The Christian tradition offers many formal practices of discernment. Ignatian spirituality uses a review of where God’s presence is felt throughout the day (called the examen). Quakers gather “clearness committees” where a group helps an individual to discern God’s voice within them and find clarity about a question or dilemma. The practice of lectio divina that you are learning from the Rule of Saint Benedict is another discernment process with a long history of helping Christians sort out God’s voice from the many other voices that call to us.

But many people already have informal habits of discernment. Perhaps you have a trusted friend that you talk to about big decisions. Maybe you journal or pray or take long walks when you are wrestling with important questions. Your discernment practices are the ways you reflect on your life and make decisions based on what God reveals to you through your life:

“Vocation…comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about-quite apart from what I would like it to be about-or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.

…Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity, not the standards by which I must live-but the standards by which I cannot help but live if I am living my own life.

–From Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

We often think of God’s call as a voice that is heard. The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word vocare which means “to call,” and “calling” has traditionally been another term for “vocation.” And people often talk about discernment as “listening for God’s call” or “hearing God’s voice,” as in the stories in Scripture when God speaks from a burning bush (Exodus 3:1-4:17) or wakes someone with a voice in the night (1 Samuel 3:1-18). Yet it seems that most of us do not experience God’s call through a booming voice from heaven that tells us where to go or what to do. Instead, we are called by God through the people and places, the events and the encounters, the challenges and the changes of our everyday lives. God communicates with us through conversations and questions, through friends and family, through our own hopes and thoughts. Maybe we feel “pulled” or “drawn” towards one decision instead of another. Perhaps we see signs or feel led down a certain path. These can all be ways that God reveals our vocation to us.

And vocation is not just God’s call to us; it is also our response to God. We call on God in turn as we struggle to figure out where and how to live out our vocations. Discernment practices are valuable for questions of vocation because they help us develop habits for exploring our relationship with God. While it takes effort and patience to learn how to look and listen for God, such habits of discernment can help us during times of doubt, fear or anxiety about our vocations. Making time and space for discernment can open our ears and our hearts to find God in the “tiny whispering sounds” of our lives.

************************************************************************************************************************

Excerpted from “Called to Life: Reflecting on Vocation” a curriculum we are using as part of the Following the Spirit discernment series. We are happy to be able to share this as a resource from the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research. –Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion; Co-Facilitator, “Following the Spirit” Discernment Series

Practices of Discernment: Learning to Listen – Elijah’s Experience

Image from The Foundation Stone; blog by by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg.

The following prayer and questions are ones we will draw on in Session Two of our Discernment Series. Session Two is entitled, “Learning to Listen: Practices of Discernment.” We are grateful to our partners at the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research for this curriculum and the resources they offer us.

Then the Lord said,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.”
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord— but the Lord was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire—but the Lord was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.
A voice said to him, “Elijah, why are you here?”

1 Kings 19:11-13

  • Elijah expected to find God in a powerful force of nature. Instead, God was revealed to him in a “tiny whispering sound.” Have you ever experienced God’s presence in an unexpected way? What did this experience feel like? What did it teach you about God?
  • How do you think God communicates with us? Through other people, nature, music, events, prayer or worship, Scripture or other reading, the needs of the world, or our own thoughts or ideas? Name one or two ways you have experienced God communicating with you in your life. What message did God communicate to you?

Lent Begins! Papal Discernments and Vocation Journeys

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“Did you know the Pope resigned?”
It was six o’clock on Monday, February 11, 2013. I was sitting outside the Girard House when my “Following the Spirit” co-facilitator Meagan McLaughlin rang with this headlines question.
“Did you know?” she asked. “I’m sitting here with the TV on in the background and just heard this on the nightly news!”

Her surprise was not unlike my own experience in the earlier hours of the day when I first learned of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation – while standing in my bathroom.

Stammering surprise. Overwhelming wonder. Inherent disbelief. Human intrigue. How many ways are there to categorize my initial response? I was disconcerted. I was sad. I was hopeful. I was ultimately curious. “Why did he resign?”

***

I help facilitate people’s discernment processes. Because I work alongside Catholic sisters inviting individuals to prayerfully reflect on their vocations and share their stories of how they hear God calling them,  the story of the Pope’s resignation came to me as a discernment story. I read his words to the religious convened around him Monday morning, and was struck by the following lines:

“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God..
I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.

[L]et us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ…” – Pope Benedict XVI  Vatican, January 10, 2013

His words were bold. Courageous. Inspiring to me.

Writing on this first day of Lent, Pope Benedict’s resignation informs my prayer for the next forty days and nights. As the elected leader of our Catholic church has discerned this historic move, honoring his capacity and calling by God, I wonder how I am called to listen and act on my own discerned capacities, gifts, and abilities? I think of Christ’s journey over the next few weeks, his time in the desert, his relationship with our first Pope, Peter, and I invite this story of forgiveness and mercy and sacrifice and leadership to inspire my own.

What,  in the stillness of my prayer, do I hear God asking of me?
How is my heart inspired by the boldness of Christ’s life and ministry?
What happens if I entrust my life to the Supreme Pastor, as Pope Benedict suggests we do of our beloved Holy Church?

Will you join me in these prayerful questions and vocation journey this Lenten Season?

LIVE + JESUS!


“Discernment is Hard,” Sister Katherine shares a discernment story.

Today we commence the Fall Following the Spirit Discernment Series. What are you discerning? How does joy play a part in your discernment story? Sister Katherine reflects on joy in her own story by taking time to pray, reflect, and observe where she has basked in joy recently in her vowed life. Joy put another way can be an acronym J.O.Y. (just observe yourself). After reading Sister Katherine’s story, we invite you to note when you are deeply happy and engaged in something or someone…and share it with us in the comments section. Sister Katherine’s story grew out of the Writing Our Stories workshop held at St. Jane’s House in July, we will be sharing more stories from other discerners who gathered for the workshop throughout the fall. May we each learn from one another and our stories!

Written by Sister Katherine Mullin, VHM

Discernment is hard…but oh! the benefits if we stick with it!  One of my latest bout with it has to do with my 50th  anniversary of vows as a Vis nun.

Visitation May Day Joy! with the Sisters and community, north Minneapolis, MN

Sister Katherine Living her JOY on the north side! Visitation May Day Joy! with the Sisters and community, north Minneapolis, MN

I did not want to celebrate it in any way- except with just my family and community which could have been as small as 20 people.  But something inside me told me to broaden my invitation list and have a fitting celebration  of fifty years worth of loving my vocation. But inside me, I had this feeling of not wanting to be the center. (Believe me, I like being the center of attention but just not in this way!). I then ‘took it to prayer’  praying with the idea of CELBRATING IT BIG.  As I did that, over time, the feeling of wanting to limit it changed for me and  I realized that inviting many more was the authentic way for me to go.  My earlier thought of hardly having anybody come  was coming out of my ‘small self’, one that often puts limits on things, one that comes more out of self consciousness and fear. As my plans continued to grow and having all of the sisters, my family and others jump in to help me (my younger cousins offered to clean up/ rake the park area  that I had selected to have the mass ), everything was becoming  possible. There were other hurdles too that brought back those old feelings, but as I went step by step, and moved from one new idea to another in prayer, what was happening was I actually “saw” God’s hand working and I began to trust that understanding and my intuition and the ideas of others as I made decisions about details. Step by step I had a deep knowing of trust, trusting that God was transforming me in this process.

“…but as I went step by step, and moved from one new idea to another in prayer, what was happening was I actually “saw” God’s hand working and I began to trust that understanding and my intuition and the ideas of others….Step by step I had a deep knowing of trust, trusting that God was transforming me in this process.”

Now it has been exactly a year since that event, my Golden Jubilee. It is so clear to me that the satisfaction that I knew that day with what seemed like the gathering of hundreds of “my closest friends,” was a deep joy  in God’s providence. Today, as I observe it, that joy has taken the form of energy , energy to love in the ordinary things of my monastic life. I am not being ‘Pollyanna, I feel I am focused (graced?), to just carry out the day -to-day mission of Living Jesus on the north side as the door bell rings, as I empty the dishwasher, as I talk with a neighbor who has just been beaten by her significant other, as I clean the living room , as I am present in the alley with the young boys who found an injured squirrel. It doesn’t matter. And …it does matter a lot.

“…gathering of hundreds of “my closest friends,” was a deep joy  in God’s providence. Today, as I observe it, that joy has taken the form of energy , energy to love in the ordinary things of my monastic life.”

Discernment: Tuning into God’s Voice (when others are speaking?)

How do we tune in joyfully to God's voice?

How do we tune in to God's voice?

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“How do we tune in and hear God’s voice when others are simultaneously having conversations that are within ear shot?”

This question came up in a recent exchange with a young woman discerning her life’s calling. I found it resonant then, and now — especially as our community turns toward the start of our Fall discernment series, entitled, “Following the Spirit.”

The question makes me giggle. (Read: I imagine trying to hear God speaking over the dull roar of a cocktail party;  or,  being at a family reunion and trying to share an ear of corn-on-the-cob with Jesus, only to have the butter and salt passers and burger consumers shove in on our space — and I miss Christ’s message.)

I return to the heart to of the question, and consider a litany of supporting queries for discerners: How do we hear? How do we tune in? What do we tune out? How do we know what is genuinely from God? How do we receive messages that perhaps aren’t all so life-giving or divinely-inspired and gently put them aside? Ah, the blessed process that listening is, eh!?

“I imagine trying to hear God speaking over the dull roar of a cocktail party;  or,  being at a family reunion and trying to share an ear of corn-on-the-cob with Jesus, only to have the butter and salt passers and burger consumers shove in on our space — and I miss Christ’s message.”

****

I am remembering sitting in English class at Norfolk Catholic my senior year of high school. It was early Fall and Ms. Burkink, our guidance counselor, was making rounds to quiz us about our next steps academically-speaking. We were often pulled from this Senior Writing class for such interviews. Anne Dostal sat next to me, nudging me with questions, on the heels of Ms. Burkink’s loud-speaker pages bidding the next student to come to her office (at least those she thought were college bound).

Tuning in...

Tuning in...

“Where will you go to college?” Anne whispered. “I’m getting all of this information from St. Kate’s in St. Paul, MN; if I could go out of a state, to a private school, it would be there.”

Of course, when my own parents asked a similar question at the dinner table later that week, I said, “I’d like to check out St. Kate’s in St. Paul, MN.”

Yes, I was getting the same information that Anne Dostal was in the mail (we were targeted based on our grades and ACT/SAT scores, right?) But her clarity in looking elsewhere — beyond the borders of our state, or our full-ride offers from the U, gave me permission to do so as well. It was like a gift from God, her voice — an affirmation that my own college-seeking self so truly needed.

(Background: I’m the firstborn in our family of six children, and while my father got a 4-year degree — he ran away from home to do so;  my mom left Mount Marty College after three semesters to marry her high school sweetheart. Translation: college discernment processes were not uber-familiar ones for my mom and dad, and so my search was rather hap-hazard at first.)

I think back on that process of early academic and life discernment, and think of Anne’s voice as a gift to me in my own process of tuning in to the Spirit and next steps. “What is next? How will I know what’s right? Is what is right for her, also okay for me?”

****

In today’s world, we have so many opportunities, resources, information, “voices,” if you will, at our fingertips — or drowning out our ears (not unlike the dull roar of voices at a cocktail party, or people nudging in on your sacred time tuning into Christ’s message for you). Just opening up your lap top, or turning on your phone or glancing toward the TV can bombard you with info that you need to process — pay attention to, or tune out. There are a billion messages for any one person looking for an indication on where to turn next in life….

So: how do we genuinely hear God’s call? What voices do we turn the volume up or down on? Who do we trust to process our deepest questions with? How do we hear God?

I close out this post today with nothing but a sincere prayer for each and every discerning individual out there. May you be anchored by the joy and love of God in your soul, may you have quiet space to tune in to Love’s voice; may you be shepherded by a wise, or kindred presence who will affirm and nurture you on your path. This is my prayer for you this day.

PEACE and BLESSINGS!

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For those craving more on the process of Listening, Silence, and Prayer in the discernment process, I highly recommend Fr. Richard Rohr’s current meditations under the title of “Silence” found at the Center for Action and Contemplation.