Holy Week Happenings: Snapshots of Prayer and Service

In Service Together: Easter Basket Making!

Holy Week Blessings!

As part of the Sisters’ ministry of contemplative prayer and non-violent presence, we have a commitment to provide opportunities for pray and service alongside one another. We seek to bridge our neighborhood and suburban family and friends by participating in shared faith experiences.

In the past weeks, leading up to Easter, the Sisters have been blessed by a few such opportunities, bringing together new families and old friends, dear members of God’s family from near and far.

On Sunday, April 2, this bridging faith experience took place at Girard House Monastery, when northside families gathered with members from St. Thomas Beckett church in Eagan, for an annual Easter Basket exchange and prayer service. We invite you to tune into that experience of hearing the Word and breaking Bread together here.

This past Saturday, April 8, another rich opportunity to bridge cultures and community occurred when Sr. Mary Margaret oversaw an Easter Basket and Treat-making service project. The Sisters were joined by new friends Mabinty and Makia, the daughters of Salesian friend and Catholic Elder Care nurse Joseph, along with

Cesar and Sylvia, children of longtime friends Derek and Adi Wood. Gathered round our table in north Minneapolis, in preparation of Holy Week, were children from Liberia;  Peruvian-American babes; and our motley crew of Irish-German-European-Mexican-descendant Sisters. All members of God’s beloved family. All joined together in blessed activity. All leaning into the ways we can give back to God, in the spirit of His son. All “Living Jesus” as we are called.

Can you see the joy on our faces? Can you glean our spirits in service and singing alongside one another?

Blessings on one and all these Holy Days marking our sacred mysteries!

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Visit our Instagram page for more photos!

Tune into our YouTube Channel to see the prayer service in full!

Find all the pictures from our Easter Basket exchange with St. Thomas Beckett at Flickr.

Good Friday Reflection by S. Mary Frances Reis

by S. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Isaiah 52:13-15; 53: 1-12

Suffering Servant, Donald Jackson, Copyright 2005, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Suffering Servant, Donald Jackson, Copyright 2005, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Blessed Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion.

This is the day to gaze on Love—a day, in the words of the Palmist, to “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps.46:11). What other stance can we take before this ancient text attributed to an anonymous poet who prophesied the fate of the Servant of God? Despised, discounted, and erased, the Suffering Servant descends into a terrifying darkness depicted in this illumination by ominous storm clouds. Yet, one cannot be with this text without hope. From the very first verse we hear, “See my Servant shall prosper; he shall be raised high and greatly exalted” (Is. 52:13). We are encouraged to hold the entire Paschal Mystery of suffering and triumph here—yes, even as we behold the Crucified One. This great messianic oracle is fulfilled in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Be still, and gaze on the Love that from all eternity is poured out for us. Hold the Mystery.

Where is the Suffering Servant to be found today? In Flint, Michigan? In African American teens fearing to be shot by the police? In refugees in search of home? 

Living in a world where countless people feel despised, discounted, and erased, we pray for the grace to hold hope for them. From ancient times, God’s revealed word calls us to hold the entirety of this Mystery as one. With words of mercy, Pope Francis calls us to behold the Suffering Servant in our brothers and sisters who are in anguish: “Jesus invites us to behold these wounds. Through these wounds, as in a light- filled opening, we can see the entire Mystery of Christ and of God, filled with compassion for the weak and the suffering” (2015 Divine Sunday Homily).

Gaze on the emaciated figure with his back to the viewer and holding his head. He appears to be confined to a cell of some sort, surrounded by a fiery, terrifying darkness. Yet he is standing and at gazing at the illuminated cross. The Mystery of suffering and glorification is here.

Where is the Suffering Servant to be found today? In Flint, Michigan? In African American teens fearing to be shot by the police? In refugees in search of home? In immigrants living in fear of deportation? In the homeless and the hungry? Am I being called to enter the terrible darkness with them and carry the Illuminated cross to the suffering? Can I hold the entire Mystery for and with them?

Gaze into the wounds of the immigrant, the homeless, men, women and children poisoned by the water they drink,

Gaze, and you will learn the Mystery of dying and rising.

Gaze, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Mary Frances Reis, VHM is a member of the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis. She and her community are engaged in contemplative prayer and non-violent presence in North Minneapolis. She is an alumna of Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary.

This piece is re-printed here with permission. It runs concurrently at the Seeing the Word blog, published by St. John’s School of Theology.

Passion Sunday| Homily by Fr. Dale Korogi

Fr. Dale Korogi

Fr. Dale Korogi

by Fr. Dale Korogi, Church of the Ascension

“Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” – Luke 23:34  

From the cross, Jesus prays not for himself, but for those with a hand in his execution. To their violence, Jesus says, “Enough.” He counters not with revenge, but mercy. The violence ends in him.

It’s not entirely true that they didn’t know what they were doing.* They knew that the charges against Jesus were questionable. They knew the jealousy that fueled those charges. They must have known that there was something wrong with this monstrous spectacle. What they didn’t know was the depth of their fear, and their deep-seated compulsion to dominate and destroy. They didn’t know any better because they didn’t know how thoroughly God loved them.

They didn’t know any better because they didn’t know how thoroughly God loved them.

Jesus knew better. Even at his most excruciating moment, Jesus knew that he was steeped in God’s love. He had no need to fight back. He won by losing, by surrendering into Love.

Because of Jesus, we know better. Today, this week, we follow his way, saving ourselves by emptying ourselves, surrendering at last to Love.

 

*Hat tip to Karl Rahner, SJ


 

Holy Thursday Foot Washing (or The Absurdity of Love)

Cody Maynus, VIP Volunteer

Cody Maynus, VIP Volunteer

The following post by VIP Volunteer Cody Maynus is reprinted with permission.

Much of what we know about the liturgy of Holy Week comes down to us through history from a 4th century nun named Egeria, who documented in detail her three-year pilgrimage through the Holy Land. It seems fitting then to be celebrating Holy Week–and especially the Triduum, the Three Days–with 21st century nuns.

The Visitation Sisters celebrate the Triduum in a wholly unique way. We began these three sacred days with washing one another’s feet. While many Christians are accustomed to washing one another’s feet, the heart of Jesus’s Mandatum or mandate to love one another, very few, celebrate Jesus’s new command in such an intimate way. Although we’ll join the parish community in their foot-washing tonight, the monastic community gathered in chapel this afternoon to sing, to pray, to read Jesus’s challenge, and to wash, bless, and kiss one another’s feet.

As we washed each other’s feet–the Sisters washing their prayer partner’s feet, Sister Mary Virginia washing Brenda’s, Heidi and I washing each other’s–we were invited to spiritually wash the feet of a disinherited group, provided for us on a slip of paper. The Sisters have been working and praying to curb global indifference this Lent, culminating in these prayers around the basin today. I prayed for those living in war zones. Another prayed for women being trafficked in our neighborhood. Another prayed for at-risk children and youth.

After each foot washing, we sang a modified version of a familiar hymn:

Photo credit: Cody Maynus

Photo credit: Cody Maynus

Jesu, Jesu,
fill us with your love,
teach us how to serve
the sisters we have from you

Our very intimate liturgy ended in a circle, hands clasped together, eyes closed, and praying to the Father in the words that Jesus gave us.

Washing feet is a profoundly uncomfortable experience–in Jesus’s time, as in ours. When Jesus bent down to wash his disciples’ feet, everybody felt uncomfortable. The disciples were unaccustomed to their teacher serving them. I’m sure that Jesus, who knew his place in society and his role in salvation, was really weirded out doing this thing that he had never done before, that he was never expected to ever do. The whole affair  was absolutely bizarre. The same is true today. Heidi and I live together in community, but pouring water over her feet, washing them, drying them, and kissing them in blessing was profoundly uncomfortable, only slightly less uncomfortable than her repeating the process with my feet.

And that’s how it should be.

The Triduum should make us feel profoundly uncomfortable–and in many different ways. It’s a very emotional and spiritually draining few days (not to mention exhausting physically if you’re at all involved in parish liturgy.) We wash feet, process with the Sacrament, crucify, genuflect, reverence, sit in vigil, wait, light fires, baptize, sing, rejoice, scream, jump for joy, shout every last Alle—- we can muster…

…and all in the span of three short days.

The exhaustion and the emotions are all a part of the experience. We do not come to the Triduum as disembodied spirits. We come as real, living, flesh-and-blood persons with plenty of personal, communal, and institutional baggage.

Just like the disciples did.

And just like Jesus does.

Amen.

 

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*Read more of Cody’s reflections at his blog: Come, O Thou Traveller Unknown

 

Maundy Thursday: Washing Feet, Loving, Praying, Forgiving

Pastor Karen Wight Hoogheem

The following post by friend, and Following the Spirit vocation discernment series collaborator, Pastor Karen Wight Hoogheem is reprinted with permission.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

John 13:1-7, 31b-35

If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do tonight? That’s the question Jesus got to answer. Jesus knew the time had come for him to depart from this world. He knew he was going to die. And with the last remaining hours of his life, he chose to love and care for his disciples.

The Bible tells us that Jesus knew he had come from God and that he was going to God. So he stood up from the supper table, wrapped a towel around his waist, and washed his disciples feet. I imagine he knelt down, held each foot tenderly, poured water on it, and wiped it clean. I imagine him doing this slowly, quietly and gently. And I imagine Jesus looking into the eyes of his followers. I bet he said some words to each one. They had the chance to really and truly be with one another. What a way to say goodbye.

Jesus told them, “You also ought to wash one another’s feet…I give you a new commandment. that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

The world will know they are Jesus’ disciples when they love one another. Isn’t that interesting? The world will know they are Jesus’ disciples when they love one another. Jesus doesn’t say the world will know we are his disciples by the size of our congregations, the strength of our youth programs, the sound of our choirs or even the end to social injustice. Jesus says the world will know we are his disciples when we love one another.

That, my friends, is all about forgiveness. And forgiveness is so hard. Because hurt feelings hurt. Betrayal stings. Disappointment really disappoints. And unmet expectations are so hard to deal with. But Jesus gives us a new commandment. We are to love one another. And this is how the world will know that we are Jesus’ followers.

Tonight we have the chance to serve one another by washing each other’s feet. But only some of us will get to do that. There’s another way to work toward forgiveness. And that is in prayer.

Last week, I lost patience with my daughter because she wasn’t practicing piano the way I wanted her to. I shared my frustration with my spiritual director. He suggested I take it to prayer. He said that Holy Spirit will work in that prayer to change me. So that can become more loving toward her. {I wondered if that was really the solution we needed ;-)}

Someone shared a meditation with me that is helping me become more forgiving and patient. I think we can learn something from this, because it is congruent with Jesus and his ministry among us. Let’s practice a prayer of forgiveness.

Practicing a Prayer of Forgiveness

Breathe deeply, and feel your body relax into the chair or pew. Breathe and sit with yourself. Imagine that you are no longer your ordinary self, but that you can see things from a larger perspective, from the center of your being. From this perspective you feel warmth and tenderness for yourself. Feel your heart as a center of kindness and imagine it contains a purifying fire.

If you are agitated, lonely, scared, misunderstood, angry, anxious, accept this suffering part of yourself. Breathe the dark cloud of your suffering into your heart. Imagine your suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy. Rest in this space.

Next, bring to mind someone close to you, whom you know is suffering, Hold them in your heart. Connect with them and their difficulties. Breathe in the sorrows of the person you have visualized. Imagine their suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy. Breathe out healing and love towards them.

Now think of someone you love, but with whom your relationship is more challenging or complicated. You may feel jealous of them, or find communicating difficult at times. Hold them in your heart. Connect with them and their difficulties. Breathe in the sorrows of the person you have visualized. Imagine their suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy.

Now think of someone you find difficult to love. Someone you find irritating, someone you feel resentful toward, someone who has hurt you. Hold them in your heart. Connect with them and their difficulties. Breathe in the sorrows of the person you have visualized. Imagine their suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy.

Now, imagine all of these people together – the person you love easily, your friend with whom your relationship is more complicated, the person you find very difficult to love, and you. Hold them in your heart. connect with them and their difficulties. Breathe in the sorrows of the person you have visualized. Imagine their suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy. Sit quietly and allow your heart and your breath to rest.

This kind of prayer may feel uncomfortable. But I believe it is the work of forgiveness. We need to work on forgiveness. Jesus says the world will know we are his followers when we love one another. And the only way we can love one another is in and through forgiveness. It’s true in our families, in our friendships, at work and in this community of faith.

***

The night before he died, Jesus could have done anything. He was the Son of God. And he chose to wash his imperfect, difficult, slow-minded disciples’ feet. He transformed the Passover Meal into the Lord’s Supper when he gave them the bread and wine, saying this is my body and blood given for you. Do this for the the forgiveness of sin.

Jesus knew he had come from God and that he was going to God. In the security of this relationship and in God’s love, Jesus was free to love, forgive and care for his disciples. And so are we. There are a lot of things we think we should do as a church, but Jesus tells us we are his followers when we love one another. Amen.

 

The Garden of Gethsemane: Hospice and Hope

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

The Agony of Christ in Gethesemane (from BostonMonks.com)

He’s on his knees. His hands are open —palms extended to the night sky. His bowed head and bent back round out his prayerful stance.

This is the way I picture Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane awaiting his impending death. It’s only a matter of time before he will be handed over to Roman soldiers, scourged, made to march to Calvary bearing a wooden cross on his back, and then nailed to the cross and left to die.

But in those moments before — he waits. He prays. He wonders. He beseeches His father; and he opens his heart, mind, and being to what will follow. His posture reflects his human reluctance and divine acceptance of what is to come.

My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” —Matthew 26:42

My walk alongside Christ this Holy Week takes me into the heart of such moments of agony and awe, historical, biblical reflection, and present-moment contemplations.

Last night, a good friend’s grandfather entered hospice. The news caught me off guard, as I had been praying for him and expected — alongside my friend– grandpa’s return home; more days of life and family to be lived.

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Photo by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

But the news of hospice care arrived, right alongside the dawn of this Holy Thursday, and so informs my prayer and contemplations this day. I hold Jesus’ journey to death and new life right alongside Grandpa Sheehan’s.

“How do we hold the mystery of resurrection inside the reality of an angst-ridden-end?”

I lit a candle next to the east-facing window in my house this morning and sat with scripture and these thoughts.

What is it to open ourselves wholly to death and welcome it, as we simultaneously mark the flow of oxygen in and out of our lungs? How do we hold the mystery of resurrection inside the reality of an angst-ridden-end? What does it mean to mark the dignity of our living selves as the circumstances of darkness press in? The Garden of Gethsemane, hospice, and Holy week bring these questions to the fore.

In my time contemplating Christ’s agony in the garden and Grandpa’s failing lungs, I found myself back in my own journey carrying a growing baby boy in my body, who I knew simultaneously would not survive many moments beyond his birth. It was an impending death – one that connects each of us in these agonizing circumstances.

“I know my call in this day, in these moments, is to not shirk away from the reality of death, but rather: be still and repeat with Christ: ‘Thy will be done. ‘”

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God’s Son: Xavi
(photo taken by Salina Caldes from NILMDTS)

Eighteen months after the experience of bearing a son and burying him a week later, I’m in a new place of understanding the gift of hospice care and Christ’s stance in that garden. I feel an intimate connection with Jesus, and all who hover at death’s door, waiting. I know my call in this day, in these moments, is to not shirk away from the reality of death, but rather: be still and repeat with Christ: Thy will be done. 

A year and a half after our son Xavi’s arrival, and brief time with us on this earth, I know a profound grace and joy in the experience of being his mother –of carrying him in my body and recognizing his direct connection to the God that made him possible.

On this day, in this time of marking our walk with Christ to the open tomb, I invite us all to inhabit fully each moment of agony and angst, trusting profoundly that a purpose for this time will reveal itself just as surely as the resurrected Christ will on Easter morning.

LIVE + JESUS!

Holy Week Begins: Text Message Prayers and Intentions

Contemplating technology and prayer: How do we use our smart phones to pray?

Contemplating technology and prayer: How do we use our smart phones to pray?

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

I send and receive a lot of text messages. I am starting to think this is a pretty powerful manifestation of my own vocational calling and prayer ministry. 

“How can your electronic appendage be a gift of spiritual life and holy communication?”

I hold a person in my thoughts, take their circumstances with me in the car — to the grocery store, as I sort laundry, chop vegetables, drop off my daughter for pre-school or pick her up — and I imagine others – their own hearts and minds in activity.

As I sit to light a candle on my front porch, read scripture and enter into silence, these intentions follow. So when I pick up my smart iPhone these days, all that has been percolating in my moving-Melissa prayers, comes forward in these text messages.

My fingers type out thoughts that reflect my brain and heart at work. It is my prayer that these instant-different-from-email-phone-message-notes reflect a synchronicity of Faith, Hope and Love converging with the present moment – and the exchange with a fellow faith friend.

Yesterday, I was in such a space — actually going to nap — when a sister text me and asked, “How are you preparing for Holy Week?”

Almost instantly, I responded:

TEXT MESSAGE:

My plans and prep heading into Easter…?
I’m finding my feet next to Jesus’…

His walk these next days…
Feet astride a donkey and a palm- hailed entrance to Jerusalem…
His hands washing his disciples’ feet…
Stepping into the garden of Gethsemene…
Laboring up the hill to Galgatha, carrying a cross on his back side…
Spikes nailed thru the muscles and tendons of his exposed bare feet to that cross…
Wrapped in a burial cloth and resting in a tomb…

And then stepping as a risen body to speak to Mary…

I’m following his feet…

The invitation to meditate, responding via my cell phone‘s technology, naming my own conscious entrance into Holy Week, was a gift.

I am grateful for this kind of plugged in-ness. In an age when we are moving so fast, and perhaps desire more-often-than-not a way to be still and dis-connected from technology and social media, I find this kind of immersion, deeply life-giving. I find the pause of composing present-moment-ponderings, coupled with the intimacy of such text-message-media exchanges, to be a gift of my prayer and faith life.

As you enter into this most sacred and holy of liturgical weeks, I invite you to consider not only what you are meditating on, but how. What do you bring of yourself to Christ this week? How will you accompany Him to Calvary? How might your electronic appendage be a gift of spiritual life and holy communication?

Send me a note, and I promise to send a prayer your way.

Peace and blessings.

Entering Holy Week through Imaginative Prayer

Wayne Forte, Anointing His Feet #2 (acrylic on canvas, 2008)

Wayne Forte, Anointing His Feet #2 (acrylic on canvas, 2008)

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

I keep seeing his feet. The calloused edges of Jesus’ heels, the dark brown of his skin exposed through his sandals. I imagine the way the perfumed oil must soften the leathered texture of his soles, and my own heart cracks open in the process.  It is Mary, sister to Martha and the raised Lazarus, who provides me with this glimpse of Christ as a weary-walking human being in my imaginative prayer pouring over Chapter 12 of John’s gospel, versus 1-12. I begin my Holy Week entering scripture through this Ignatian-inspired prayer practice, and it ignites my imagination and fuels my passion for the upcoming days of our Triduum.

How many ways are there to enter into this most holy and sacred time of our liturgical year? What rituals and rites do we carry out annually that open our minds and hearts and align us with this soon-to-be crucified-and-risen Christ? How do we embrace the moments of Jesus among us – his disciples – as new, as emotion-filled, as invigorating and central to our own faith journeys on this earth? How do we experience these days and find ourselves renewed, rather than simply moving through rote ceremonies and rituals?

I ask all these questions of myself, my faith community, my family and friends — as I simultaneously tune into lamb and ham recipes, consider egg-dying alternatives, and what special bright-colored ensemble I might dawn for Easter Sunday. No lie. I am a woman who loves Jesus, and also deeply appreciates a good pedicure to show off on the day we celebrate that “HE IS RISEN!” (Note: my focus on toes shifts considerably during these contemplative days.)

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Each month, as part of our “Following the Spirit” discernment series, we spend time learning about a kind of prayer to inform or guide our discernment processes.  We have an experience in that prayer form then, with the goal of drawing us closer to God and knowing his will for our lives and abiding love for each of us. Lectio Divina, Centering Prayer, the Examen, Praying with Nature, and the Divine Office are all prayer forms about which we have provided instruction.  At this last Monday night’s discernment session, I had the opportunity to lead an experience of Ignatian Prayer and Imagination.

In an excerpt from “What is Ignatian Spirituality?” Fr. David L. Fleming, SJ writes: “Following Jesus is the business of our lives. To follow him we must know him, and we get to know him through our imagination. Imaginative Ignatian prayer teaches us things about Jesus that we would not learn through scripture study or theological reflection. It allows the person of Christ to penetrate into places that the intellect does not touch. It brings Jesus into our hearts. It engages our feelings. It enflames us with ideals of generous service.”

Following some basic steps for this prayer*, our room of 23 discerners imagined themselves inside the scriptural setting of John’s gospel. We were Mary, we were Lazurus, we were Martha, we were Judas. We watched, listened, engaged, felt — we tuned into Jesus as he entered the room, and we found ourselves interacting with him as our hearts and spirits would have it. We came to know him. We came to believe, not in a theologically sound and historically accurate way, but through our God-given imaginations.

It is this Ignatius Loyola-inspired prayer experience that takes me to Christ’s feet — that thrusts me smack dab into the center of the human drama and blessed journey that is this Holy Week, and provides me a more intimate glimpse of Christ’s suffering and resurrection. I want to be Mary and tend to his limbs, anointing his feet with sacred oil,  before he turns to wash his disciple’s soles. I want to walk alongside him and know first hand those moments in the garden, what it’s like to be on my knees. I want to slow down and hear his breathing as he labors and relinquishes his life in those last moments on the cross. And certainly, I want to be outside his tomb — there when he first appears beyond human form.

***

What does your own imagination desire in prayer this Holy Week? Will you join me in this heart-and-spirit-led activity?

Triduum Blessings!
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*For more on Imaginative Prayer, see “Ignatian Prayer and the Imagination” from Ignatian Spirituality.com
And: “How do we Pray with our Imagination?” from Creighton Online Ministries

Our New Pope: Washing the Feet of Young Inmates on Holy Thursday

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

We have a new pope. His name is Francisco, or Francis. The Argentinian Jesuit took his name after St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Francis Xavier, one of his founding Jesuit predecessors.  (And might I stretch his Francis’ inspirations to include – *ahem* – our co-founder, St. Francis de Sales?) I think of these saints as a “trifecta of Francises,” if you will, who all exemplify and inspire a kind of humility and gentleness in the world.

I’ve been moved almost daily since the announcement of Pope Francis’ papacy by information characterizing his way of being as a priestly leader. “He rides the bus; he cooks for himself; he wears old shoes; he elected to forgo his cardinal apartment for a more modest dwelling;” and “the day of his introduction to the world, he elected not to stand on a box above his peers, as he wanted to convey that he is one of us.” These tidbits have all rolled around in my heart and mind, providing a delightful electrical charge to my prayer — my hopes for our church and its new leadership.

Today, I learned that one week from today, on Holy Thursday, Pope Francis will be washing the feet of young inmates in a juvenile detention center on the outskirts of Rome. And this information gives me one more jolt of inspiration. In lieu of a mass at the Basilica of St. Peter, where he would wash the feet of his peers, our new pope has taken a page out of the St. Francis of Assisi playbook — or perhaps the Jesuit or Salesian life texts — and is tending to the feet of those behind bars. Not unlike Christ’s invitation, he is taking his bread to the poor, his service to those on the margins — as he literally goes to feed those in prison.

It moves me, this break in tradition. Holy Week. The re-enactment of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. The last supper. The pope. These young men of Casal del Marmo prison for minors.  Amen.

Where are you spending your Holy Thursday? What rituals are you participating in? Whose feet will you wash? Who will touch your soles? What bread will you consume? What will you offer to those around you? How might any one of our dear saint Francises inspire your living of the gospel in this day and age?

Blessings as we mark this holy season of the liturgical year!

Washing Feet: A Holy Contemplation

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

It’s Holy Week, and I’m trying to enter into this most sacred time with an empty heart, mind, spirit. But I tell you, it’s hectic. It’s hard to slow down and put away desire, to-do’s, and tune out the news. Yet, here I am. Trying.

Can you even try to fathom the feet of Peter or James or John or Judas? These weren’t nike-wearing brothers, were they?

In my coffee shop meditation, I slide away my cell phone, recognize my ice tea glass is empty, and savor the smell of fresh, hot garlic french fries – for just a minute more – as I try to make way for Holy Thursday’s scripture. As I tune my spirit to focus, I can see: I am like this glass in this moment: empty, cold, waiting to be filled. Yes!  I know the flavor of and satisfaction possible through meditation, if I just tune in; I can savor these biblical readings…..

From the USCCB’s website, where I go for online readings, I find “Holy Thursday: Evening Mass for the Lord’s Supper.”

I scan Exodus, I hum the psalm, (and hear my choir mate, Ann Shallbetter singing, “Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.” ) I linger over St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, recognizing the heart of the mass present in Christ’s instructive prayer. I pause and hold on the central image in John’s gospel:

He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.

And now I am still.

A towel.

A basin of water.

Feet.

Christ washing His disciples’ feet.

I want to be Christ’s hands. I want to wash those feet. I want to be a disciple. I want to know what it’s like to have Jesus pour water over me.

I think of this act literally. Fingers, hands, immersed in water, maybe soap, and then touching another’s skin. Ankles, toes, soles of feet. Are there callouses? Can you even try to fathom the feet of Peter or James or John or Judas? These weren’t nike-wearing brothers, were they? I don’t think so. Sandal-clad gents with exposed toes, me thinks. Dusty. A little salt and sand and dirt under the toe nails. Is it necessary that I go this far in my meditation? It’s where my brain takes me. I don’t push these images out, but let them carry me to this place, this room where He is.

I want to be Christ’s hands. I want to wash those feet. I want to be a disciple. I want to know what it’s like to have Jesus pour water over me.

It’s humbling, this exercise of prayer and imagination. For a minute I’m in Jerusalem, it’s warm, and I’m a robe-and-sandal-sporting fellow present in Christ’s company (far removed from this Grand Avenue, St. Paul coffee shop.) I am seated. I am in awe at what I’m witnessing. My heart is on fire with a desire to do just this: serve. I marvel at this man, my friend, Jesus, who has gotten down to clean our feet.

Who does such a thing? A mother? A nurse? Someone whose ego allows such a bowed, bent stance?

I will carry this feeling of awe, humility and desire with me this day. I will pray that the proximity afforded me in my imaginings of Christ will keep me near Him in his journey to the garden, to Golgotha, the cross and to the tomb. I will pray that my Easter journey be aligned beyond this week’s holy re-enactments and continue to inspire my work as a Lover, Follower, Teacher, Visitation Companion.

Will you join me in this prayer?

Happy Holy Thursday!

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