ADVENT: TIME OF VIGILING AND WAITING

starry-nightby Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Our Advent theme at the monastery is Vigiling.

As I began my personal Advent journey this year I realized some of my ways of preparing for this time were marked with the familiar,  such as a place for an Advent wreath in my personal prayer space and gathering a myriad of Scripture guides and seasonal prayer books and photos. Some of these were also different, or new this year. I am using electric candles with my wreath because sometimes in the very early morning hours or late night time I forget to extinguish them before I leave my room and I insist on REAL evergreen boughs because I need the smell to remind me of the season and also of the north woods of the Upper Peninsula where my father was raised. The connection goes deep here because my Dad and his brother and Sister used to cut trees from their property and bring them to Chicago to help the family survive when they were young adults. Since the tradition has continued and my Aunt and her children did the same as I was growing up. As a city cousin, I was overjoyed when they visited us around Thanksgiving to bring their handiwork to my part of the world. Those wreaths funded my cousins’ educations. Memories associated with Advent smells. These are the same and new ones are often added….

It is a time of waiting for the deepest, darkest time of solstice when the light begins to come again. I wait for that time, as many humans have for ages before me.

Many years I have spent the first week of Advent noticing and praising God for the beauty of the early morning and late afternoon skies. What a wonderful contrast of light and dark broken with deep hues of purple, pink, indigo and orange! It is a time of waiting for the deepest, darkest time of solstice when the light begins to come again. I wait for that time, as many humans have for ages before me.

Our Advent theme at the monastery is Vigiling, particularly with our Sister Mary Margaret as she gains strength daily since her September stroke. I wondered on the first day of Advent if Vigiling was just another word for Waiting…

Vigiling is living the present moment with hope and faith.

dromedaries-carawane-sunset_source-nosadeAs I contemplated these two terms I realized that waiting for the Winter Solstice was very different from vigiling with Mary Margaret. Waiting is something that we do with expectation. It is looking/working toward a specific end. Children wait for Christmas. I wait for a doctor’s appointment or the opening of the drive through window at the bank. Vigiling is something more immediate. It is living the present moment with hope and faith. I am with Sister Mary Margaret as she stands at the parallel bars at physical therapy for the first time; I have faith that the speech therapist will help her understand that swallowing takes daily practice. I pray with her and for her and sometimes with her in the present moments of each of our days. Living the present moments, joyful, sad, filled with laughter or tears is the type of Vigil I am doing this year. A vigil of Presence with Hope. Christmas will be a time to celebrate the incarnation. Camels, sheep, shepherds and kings will adorn my Advent wreath. Reindeer and Santa will be packed away with other decorations but the Hope of Vigiling will remain.

Summer Reflections from the Monastery

S. Mary Frances and Ben; CYC

S. Mary Frances and Ben; CYC camp

Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Greeting to our Faithful web site and Facebook readers!

As I compose this overview of our summer on the Northside, we are grieving and praying with families all over who have known the tragedy and horror of violence these past weeks. Our prayers go across the river to Falcon Heights and St. Paul, down to Baton Rouge and over to Dallas, and now across the Atlantic to Nice, France; we lift the world over.

Here at the monastery, I characterize our summer days as “gently alive” — filled with “Hello’s” and “How are you’s?” on our front porch, from neighbors, and as we walk to and from the Girard and Fremont Houses of our Monastery.  Children often need a little help with their bikes, these days, hoping for a treat or drink to go with it when they stop by. Neighbors are tending to their yards and we, to our gardens.  Summer is a perfect time to bond with our families here!

And, yes, there is a spike in violent crime across the Twin Cities; our North Minneapolis community is no exception. While a very small percentage of Northsiders are responsible for the headlines you are reading, many neighbors carry the pain and sorrow of recent killings. On the heels of Jamar Clark’s death last Fall, our community has also experienced the murder of a grandmother shot in crossfire while sitting in a van at a stop sign, and a young man shot to death in the parking lot behind the Cookie Cart. Last week, on the heels of Alton Sterling’s and Philando Castile’s deaths at the hands of police, came the shooting of two toddlers seventeen blocks away. Too often in the coverage of these crimes we read: “No suspects in these cases.”

Pope FrancisAs I ponder the suffering of the survivors, I find some consolation in the words of Pope Francis:

 “I don’t know what to say to you, but the Lord does know what to say to you…All I can do is keep silence and walk with you all with my silent heart.” – Pope Francis

We trust that our prayerful presence and unconditional welcome helps to ease the pain while families and friends tell their Sacred Stories and seek justice for their loved ones.

We speak the victim’s names. We lift survivor’s stories. We open our hearts to all who grieve and hope. We pray.

Sr. Karen and her mom

Sr. Karen and her mom

Here are a few musings on our summer days, that extend our prayer and hope for the world:

  • Visitation High School Seniors helped us kick off the summer through their Immersion experience of two weeks. (See photo albums: Welcome Visitation School: Service Project at NAZ )

  • Sister Karen’s Golden Jubilee of Vows brought family and friends from near and far! What an opportunity to ‘showcase’ our beloved community here. (FB Photo Album.)

  • Our dear friend and mentor Sister Jean (of Cookie Cart fame and lots more) went Home to God in early June. People loved by her ‘came out of the woodwork’ to sing her praises and express their gratitude for her outpoured life, spanning over 35 years of tireless ministry. (Read more: “Madonna of the Streets”.)

  • YTM friends and Emily

    YTM friends and Emily

    We rejoiced in the opportunity to sponsor and send off young people to a variety of camps: Catholic Youth Camp in McGreggor, MN; Salesian Leadership Camp in Michigan; and Youth in Theology and Ministry Camp at St.John’s University in Collegeville, MN. The youth, vitality and energy of ‘our kids’ keeps us young! Thanks to the many benefactors that made these camps possible. (See pictures of: CYC Send Off; YTM presenters;; and #SLC2016 on Twitter.)

  • Bryce Johnson, husband of Jody , (Vis Companion team), retired after a rich and fruitful ministry in the Methodist tradition. Congrats, Bryce, and thanks for inviting us to celebrate in such a memorable way with you, your family and friends.

  • We hosted the celebration of a very special Quinceanera. Jennifer Meraz’ family and the Sisters planned a beautiful Mass and Fiesta to give her that extra ‘boost’ into womanhood. We love you, Jennifer! (FB pix.)

  • We had our very own version of Summer Olympics for our families! Vicki Bailey outdid herself once again with fun, games, prizes in the form of household goods and summer toys, complete with an Olympic medal for each participant and a door prize for each family! Kudos, Vicki !!! You are the best! Thanks for helping our kids to be kids! (FB pix.)

  • Juste and neighborhood children

    Juste and neighborhood children

    Juste Siauciunaite, our summer guest from Lithuania, brings joy to our community and to our Somalian children as she teaches them English 3 times each week. She and Sister Karen even took them to their first ever 4th of July Fireworks display! (FB Pix.)

  • Sisters Mary Margaret and Brenda attended the Monastic Institute at St. John’s University focusing on Monastic Profession. Sister Silvie from our Georgetown Visitation joined them.

  • In all of this summertime activity, we continue to make pilgrimage with Heidi Schleif, our resident lay community co-founder, and her friend Monica, as they make the Via de Compestela (FB pix.)

  • Of course summer will not be complete without a family outing to Como park and our annual Back to School party!

  • Within the next few weeks, Sr. Karen will be traveling to Annecy, France for a special conference on the Treatise on the Love of God by St.Francis de Sales. Bon Voyage, Karen!

We’ll cap off our summer with an intensive community day to reflect on the quality of our Visitation way of life in this urban setting. (Read more about this in our latest newsletter.)

May Jesus Live in each of your hearts and those of our families and loved ones!