Smoke Signals, the Holy Spirit and Next Steps…

Smoke Signals: Cardinals are Voting to Elect a New Pope

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

What does the future hold? What does the life of a religious look like moving into this next year, decade, century? What roles do the laity play in fashioning or supporting the presence of a monastic community in the inner city? In the larger world? How is the Holy Spirit leading us all in this season of change and growth?

These are some of my questions as I sit down to pray and reflect this day.

In Rome, the cardinals are discerning the start of their next conclave to elect a new pope for the Catholic church. These religious men are meeting and talking and praying. They are listening to their hearts, tuning into the needs of the church, and leaning into the Holy Spirit, as She calls them to whatever is next. They are prayerfully discerning what and who will be part of their — OUR — future as Catholics.

And I wonder how this is similar to us, here, in Minneapolis, as we prepare for our next prayerful meeting on Wednesday evening reflecting on our future. While we are not electing a new leader to the Visitation Sisters of north Minneapolis — the convening of our sisters, vocation partners, and companions with questions of our next steps –feels connected to the discerning papal energy in Italy, and the palpable energy that must be the Spirit among us.

“What’s next?”

Last week, in Pope Benedict XVI’s final speech to the College of Cardinals, he offered the following words that inspired me. Quoting Romano Guardini, the Pope said:

Guardini says: “The Church is not an institution devised and built at table, but a living reality. She lives along the course of time by transforming Herself, like any living being, yet Her nature remains the same. At Her heart is Christ.”

Pope Benedict goes on to apply this to his peers:

This was our experience yesterday, I think, in the square. We could see that the Church is a living body, animated by the Holy Spirit, and truly lives by the power of God, She is in the world but not of the world. She is of God, of Christ, of the Spirit, as we saw yesterday. This is why another eloquent expression of Guardini’s is also true: “The Church is awakening in souls.” The Church lives, grows and awakens in those souls which like the Virgin Mary accept and conceive the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. They offer to God their flesh and in their own poverty and humility become capable of giving birth to Christ in the world today. Through the Church the mystery of the Incarnation remains present forever. Christ continues to walk through all times in all places.

These words from the Holy Father take me to some recently written by the head of the Visitation Community –Sr. Mary Frances Reis, vhm.  In a recent email about our Visitation newsletters, Sr. Mary Frances expressed this aliveness of our community and its change and growth since our founding on the northside 20+ years ago. She wrote: “We have been publishing our monastic newsletter for 23 years now.  As [our Jesuit friend] Jim Radde has commented and continues to comment, ‘Go back and read the letters from the beginning, and you will discover how the Spirit’s work among us has evolved.’” She continues, “I personally believe that this has been a wonderful way to keep folks that do not ‘come and see’ to be apprised of the Spirit’s work here.  If you go back to look at about the last 5 newsletters (published on the website) you will see many articles by the laity to inform our many constituents, friends and benefactors  of our ‘ever expanding community.'”

And so it goes. And so it shall be. The Holy Spirit will guide us and animate our beings as we respond to the call of our founders, St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal, “living Jesus!” as holy men and women in our present circumstances envisioning our diverse monastic community in north Minneapolis. Please keep us in prayer as we convene and discern!

Structure and the Holy Spirit: Praying the Divine Office

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

holy_spirit_closeupThe thing is, I really like structure. I crave it. I am certain I’ve confessed this thought here before. As someone who left the structure and confines present in a 9-5 job years ago, I have long been grieving the gifts of a set schedule; I miss those routines laid out by someone else that I can simply step into. Teaching in the public high school two blocks from the monastery, I had the hourly bells to keep me grounded — to mark my day. As a creative, contemplative sort, whose ministerial work takes me into days without any set agenda, I can get anxious.

Where do I go? What do I do next? How do I prioritize my tasks? What is the next best loving thing I can do to serve my community? How do I honor my gifts and those of my peers? What responsibilities do I have and how do I keep focus?

Do any of these questions resonate with you?

Enter: the Divine Office.

Praying the Divine Office with the sisters — or the Liturgy of the Hours as it’s also called — on any given day, brings me back to center. The gifts afforded to me in this routine manner of convening with a community and chanting the psalms are beyond measure.

Morning Prayer to the Holy SpiritWe gather in the chapel. We sit. We face the cross. We face one another. We sing. We pause. We reflect on how the Word is speaking to us. We listen to our hearts. We listen to one another. We bring forward prayerful intentions. We give voice to the way that we have found Christ alive and in our midst, in our neighborhood and world. We hold critical and compassionate questions and thoughts for all who pray. We do this four times a day.

Stepping into the structure of this day, if even for an hour, reminds me of what’s possible when we pause and make room, tuning into the Holy Spirit and the Divine at work in our lives. As a Companion to the Visitation Sisters, this kind of prayer life is deeply life-giving to me;  I can hear more clearly my own heart beating when I come to the monastery and align myself with the larger world of faith, hope, and love. In turn, I can hear more clearly the world itself and all that desires healing, attention, action.

But this kind of prayer life, this monastic practice, takes discipline. And who among us has the capacity to live daily like this? Who among us is called to hold these prayerful routine practices for others to join? Is it you?

I invite you to pray.

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To join the sisters for prayer:
Daily Prayer Schedule:
7 am: Morning Prayer at Fremont
Noon: Prayer (call 612-521-6113)
4:45 pm: Prayer (call 612-521-6113)
8:15 pm: Night Prayer at Girard

Thursdays are the Sisters’ shut-down day. No open prayer time.