A SISTER’S PRAYER

Sisters Mary Frances and Brenda at morning prayer.

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

O Lord, open my lips

and my mouth shall proclaim Your praise.

               From the Liturgy of the Hours — Morning Prayer

As a sister I am often asked about prayer. “How do you pray? Do you really pray 4 times a day? What forms of prayer do you like best? What is the easiest prayer to remember? How can I teach my children to pray?” These and many other questions arise when we consider prayer.

“Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night.”

“Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night.” This great quote is taped to the night stand next to my bed as a reminder. It has been a part of my personal prayer for a little over a year ago when I first discovered it on retreat with the Carmelite Sisters. There are some days when I forget to open the day with prayer and the joys and riches of that day seem out of reach for me until I become conscious of the need to unlock those delights with prayer.

Similarly, if I forget to lock my day with prayer before bed I toss and turn with anxious thoughts and cares running through my mind. If I can remember to lock up the day….even if it’s 3 am …my sleep becomes restful and I am graced to wake up refreshed!

With one voice: Generations joining in prayer

Protect us Lord, as we stay awake;

watch over us as we sleep….

That awake we may keep watch with Christ;

and asleep, rest in His peace.

            From the Liturgy of the Hours — Night Prayer

O! the luxury of being able to pray in a personal way as I begin a new day…by reading, journaling or just staring at the sunrise or the pine tree outside my window. Prayer is a gift for me to unlock — the gift of God’s love and care!

What we see: Prayer in a time of violence

Peace of Christ

Peace: Wednesday Noon Prayer Intention

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

I imagine him standing at his kitchen sink. Maybe he’s stirring up a glass of orange juice to go with a late morning lunch –something to satiate his thirst before he has to go to work. From the kitchen window of his garden level apartment he sees a police officer shoot a young man running the other direction. It’s noon on Saturday, August 9, 2014,  and the community of Ferguson, Missouri, is about to change. This citizen, who goes by the name “Bruh” @TheePharoah on Twitter, has a literal grass-roots-level view of his neighborhood –just beyond the barred windows of his home. In a moment of social connectivity, he documents this experience from his perspective.

I try to imagine the night Toua Xiong was killed delivering pizzas in north Minneapolis. What it would have been like had I been standing at my kitchen window looking out and seen the teenage boy shot.  Or the moment Chris Dozier’s life came to an end in an alley off 14th and Plymouth. Or the late afternoon Marcus White was got caught in crossfire near West Broadway and Dupont. Or the evening Quincy DeShawn Smith’s life came to an abrupt halt in spite of police intervention. As former students in my 10th grade English class at North High, these young men’s deaths come to the fore and evoke my prayerful attention whenever headline news and social media report on gun violence in our world.

What does a witness to gun violence experience on a visceral level? On an intellectual, emotional, or spiritual level? What does he or she internalize in the aftermath of such a violent encounter? How does our prayer take shape in the wake of violence? How do we pray for survivors of such traumatic events — and the victims and perpetrators themselves?

Ferguson: A grass-roots level perspective

Each Wednesday, the Sisters devote their noon prayer to peace in the world. They pause at the lunch hour to remember God’s grace and goodness and love pouring out for all of us. As they chant the psalms, they hold the root causes of violence in their hearts, and give voice to personal intentions of people suffering and struggling to find peace. They seek to transform the world through prayer.

This past week, our noon liturgy in the Fremont House chapel was blessed by a few new guests that rounded out our prayerful pause. The Sisters sat in their usual chairs, as Roselaine* — a friend of S. Mary Frances’ who works for the Minneapolis police – sidled in beside me on the bench, followed by Jermaine* and Denzell* – two twelve year old boys we know from our neighborhood gardening evenings.

My heart was near to bursting at the outset. The configuration of pink and brown-skinned people convened in the chapel choir stalls enacting a centuries-old ritual of chant and silence moved me — especially in light of recent headlines reporting racial injustice and dehumanizing circumstances in our world.

I prayed for Gawolo, a former northside Teen Group participant I knew who had posted on Facebook that he was down in Ferguson, Missouri. I prayed for all those marching for human dignity and justice. I prayed for Roselaine, and her counterparts in our local police force as they go about their work of keeping safe the community. I prayed for “Bruh” in Missouri and his Twitter followers; I prayed for the officer who shot an unarmed Mike Brown. I prayed for my former students whose lives had all come to an end because of a fired bullet in the hand of an an angry person. I prayed for all who witness, wonder and grieve.

Honoring life: memorial site of a young person who died from gun violence in north Minneapolis.

Honoring life: memorial site for a young person who died from gun violence in north Minneapolis.

***

It was after prayer, sitting on the front porch enjoying jelly toast, chicken salad and lunchtime conversation, that Jermaine spoke up –and my intentions for peace continued.

“I’ve seen someone get killed,” he said.  The 12 year old boy, just days shy of starting sixth grade, sat squarely in the white whicker chair and shared his first hand experience witnessing gun violence.

He told us: It was broad day light. Near a corner store. Bullets passed him as he walked along the sidewalk. He described a man grabbing him and pulling him down – out of the way of the gunfire.

My eyes went to Jermaine’s. His direct, unabashed, unwavering, piercing brown-eyed gaze. I took note of his friend Denzell’s floor-directed stare. I wondered about what all these young boys’ eyes would see in their lifetime.

These stories of death, of witnessing violence, of being privy to gunshots and brutality – as part of everyday life, I want them to stop.

My prayer continues.

*names have been changes to protect the privacy of the persons. 

Hunger for Community

Fremont House Chapel: Liturgy of the Hours

Fremont House Chapel: Liturgy of the Hours

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

Let’s say it was a Thursday, noon, during my lunch hour in the fall of 2002 that I first came to the monastery to pray the liturgy of the hours. Or perhaps it was a Monday after school that I poked my head into the Fremont House chapel and joined the Visitation Sisters for evening prayer at 4:45pm.

I know I was weary. I brought all of my day’s experiences into the chapel, closed my eyes and extended my palms up and out.

“I give you my life. I give you my suffering. I give you the stories and circumstances of my students’ lives that I cannot fix.” 

Six years into my teaching profession; four classroom moves; 720 students later; countless hours of curriculum writing and paper-correcting under my belt; and one-too-many mandated reports completed for social services, I was a wobbly 32 year old woman in need of sanctuary and stability. I was hungry for a safe, spiritual home and community  — and the Visitation Sisters were God’s answer to my prayers.

As a young woman, I had a profound calling to teach — to be present to young people wrestling with life’s biggest questions and seeking ways to respond intellectually, artistically, and from their greatest knowing. But on this particular day, I was tired. I needed to be held upright — or simply find rest within a community that “got” my deepest longings to love and serve God.

The Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis was that community for me.

Maybe it was Shaina that drove me there. I read too many of her journal entries connecting Maya Angelou’s autobiographical account of abuse with my student’s lived experience.  Maybe Anthony put me over the edge that day — the senior in my 12th grade English class who hadn’t passed a writing or reading test since middle school, but was on my roster and wanting to graduate. Or maybe it was the young Laotian boy – sent by the seasoned guidance counselor — who showed up in my basic standards test prep class not speaking any English. “Can you just take him, Melissa? We have no other place for him to go.”

It was one of those days; I didn’t feel up to any of the challenges. I had no answers, no solutions, but a deep desire to help, and a professional charge to enter in and provide some strategic and data-driven response.

For those who have known professional burnout, the circumstances I describe are nothing new. For others, this tale may register as unfortunate. For all of us, however,  there is a universal human experience that connects my story with yours and inspires the following kinds of spiritual questions:

“Where do we go when we are hungry?  Where do we find sanctuary? Where is our beloved community?”

As I chanted the psalms that day flanked by two choirs of catholic, inner-city sisters convening in a chapel at the intersection of 16th and Fremont Avenue North, I joined a community of contemplative, religious people who have been singing together for centuries. I joined David, the beseeching and praising Jewish author of this liturgical prayer – who lived a thousand years before Christ,  singing now a stone’s throw from my Minneapolis Public School classroom in the year 2002.  I entered into a monastic rhythm that offered a kind of peace, quiet, and balm for my entire being. While my hunger for community persists, I have a profound comfort in knowing where I belong and how to re-fill and fuel my soul.

How do you hunger for community? Where does your soul find rest?

 

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.

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

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.