From our Summer Newsletter

A Contemplative Perspective from the Northside

S. Brenda shares contemplative insights on issues of social justice and advocacy.

by S. Brenda Lisenby

This past year, our community has been engaged in a strategic process. One of the ways in which we have felt led is to increase our awareness of and participation in social justice and advocacy. What does this mean for us as Visitation Sisters in an urban monastic setting? The following is Sister Brenda’s reflections on what contemplative action looks like for a community dedicated to prayer and presence in north Minneapolis.

Our Visitation charism has been described as “prayer and presence” or “prayer and community.” When we are present to one another we receive the gift of community. Community life is a place to grow in love and humility. And just perhaps, the lessons we learn as we live community can help us as a society, so I share with you what it has meant to me to be a part of this Visitation community at this time in our country’s journey…. (click to continue reading.)

The Work of Christmas Begins…

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

It’s a shut down day at the monastery. The guests have gone home. We’ve bustled — been on the move in a monastic fervor this past Advent and ongoing Christmas season. We’ve rung in the New Year.  And now we rest. Or now, according to poet, Civil Rights activist and theologian, Dr. Howard Thurman, the work of Christmas really begins….

This piece has traction in my heart this day. Perhaps it will speak to you, too? I’m posting it as text, and in a special a cappella version arranged by Dan Forrest. 

The Work of Christmas Begins.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

–by Dr. Howard Thurman


By Deacon Dale from Ascension Church in north Minneapolis, and a friend of the Sisters

(Based on the First Sunday of Advent’s Readings)

First Candle of Advent

First Candle of Advent

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when I was young.  One day, a neighbor came to the door with a Christmas gift.  Grandma opened it.  It was a box of chocolates.  The first thing Grandma did was offer her neighbor first choice of them.  Then she offered one to me and then she and Grandpa chose one.  Later, they shared the chocolates at a family gathering.  I don’t think they opened that box without sharing it.  It was a gift.  A gift was meant to be shared – especially with the giver – and then with others.  It was just the right thing to do.

Charlotte Bradford was a elderly neighbor who died two years ago.  She has a son, Mike, did the Charlotte’s outside work.  Mike is retired and has free time.  Since 2007, when he finishes shoveling Charlotte’s sidewalk, he still comes over and cleans ours because he knows I can’t.  One of his elderly neighbors has leukemia.  He takes him to doctor appointments and chemotherapy treatments.  Mike’s time is a gift.  For him, it’s a gift to be shared.  It’s just the right thing to do.

Geb was part of my Men’s Group in Forest Lake.  He and his wife have seven children.  With their large family, they really had to stretch every penny.  One evening, our Men’s Group was discussing tithing.  Someone asked, “Should we give 10% of our net income or should it be 10% of our gross income?”  I remember Geb’s response, “For me, there’s no question.  I just ask myself if I want a net blessing from the Lord or do I want a gross blessing from the Lord?”  No doubt – Geb saw his income as a gift to be shared.  It’s just the right thing to do.

Today, Isaiah reminds us to “rejoice heartily in the Lord” because God has “clothed us in a robe of salvation and wrapped us in a mantle of justice.”  Virtually all of us want to be clothed in that robe of salvation.  But, how many of us want to be wrapped in a mantle of justice?

A mantle is an outer garment, like a robe without sleeves.  Worn as a symbol, it was a sign of who the person was –a prophet, a priest, a leader, a merchant, a craftsman.  God wants us to wear a mantle of justice.  Justice is doing the just thing – just doing the right thing – sharing the gifts God gives us.  It is the mantle God wants us to be known by – a sign that tells the world, “This who I am!” So this Advent, let’s wrap ourselves in a mantle justice.  It’s what God wants.  It’s just the right thing to do!


What are the gifts God gave you, that you share? How do they help you do the right thing? Or whose gifts are you grateful for in your life? How have they provided a path of justice for you or others? Please share in the comments section!