Weaving together Humility and Gentleness: An Invitation to Consider the Warp and Woof of Love

SMF warp woof

Weaving as Metaphor: S. Mary Frances shares a tapestry made by Mary Johnson at the SAORI Weaving Studio.

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

Through the slanted wood shades of the Girard House living room windows, morning light fell on the red, black, and white cotton and silk fibers woven together by our friend Mary Johnson.

As Visitation Minneapolis’ community leader Sr. Mary Frances Reis presented the tapestry to me, she spoke the following words:

“We are called to the practice of love, rather than austerity. Two virtues in particular form the warp through which the woof of love is woven. These are humility and gentleness.”

Quoting from the Companion to the Rule of Life of the Visitation Order, Sister traced her fingers along the color lines and weaving pattern, illustrating her metaphorical point.

According to wikipedia, woof and weft derive from the Old English word “wefan”  which means “to weave.” Warp is the lengthwise or longitudinal thread in a roll, while woof is the transverse thread. The warp and the woof ultimately form a fabric.  Figuratively, then these Salesian virtues of humility and gentleness, woven together become the fabric of love for our lives.

Can you imagine how humility and gentleness are threaded through love? Can you see the sisters in their urban monastery, “living Jesus” as consciously as possible: stitching together experiences at the door with neighbors in need or want of prayer – a meal, a bus token, warmth – all drawing on Christ’s love? Can you count the ways you practice living in such a manner — checking your ego, releasing anger or hostility in any given moment, and letting these virtuous acts knit you more closely with Love and Creator?

It’s not often that I get to meet one-on-one with Sr. Mary Frances. Convened to discuss themes emerging in our vocations and engagement work, our conversation took us to these Salesian elements that envelop the sisters’ ministry in Minneapolis, and inspire me in my own intentional, contemplative life.

Listening to “SMF” I am moved. I am reminded of how our co-founders Sts. Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal believed we were all called to holiness. The Sisters. Our priests. Our bishops. You. Me. The neighbor. We can all live and practice these virtues that are part of the Rule of Religious life.

In my next breath, I imagine this metaphoric cloth of virtue being the cloth in front of me: all red, and black and white perfection and blemish in its unique beauty. I can jump then and fathom the ordinary gray pants and purple sweater I wear as equally made, as intentionally stitched, as that which I don with a full heart and desire to live with integrity. I imagine myself gentle, humble and eeking love as I encounter each member of creation.

And this conversation, this fabric, becomes my prayer for the day.

I invite you to hold this meditation and consider what the warp and woof of your heart is this day. May Love bless and guide us all.

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RESOURCES

For more on Salesian Virtues and Rule of Life:

Click here to learn about the Pop Up SAORI Weaving Studio at St. Jane House.

Loving our Failure: Salesian Insight on the virtue of Humility and Abjection

Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

by Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

“[H]ow do we deal with failure that is so much a part of our lives?” – S. Mary Virginia

We are, most of us in the US, infected with the virus of perfectionism – in all areas: business, science, religion… It is the heart of advertising, is it not? So how do we deal with failure that is so much a part of our lives?

St. Francis de Sales, in his lists of little virtues, has one that he calls “love of our own abjection.” It is not one of his more popular virtues, probably because we do not know what it means, especially in a society that values success so much. Basically it means to love our failure and humiliations — our wretchedness. If we pay attention to these, they always teach us something.

St. Francis de Sales, Co-Founder of the Visitation Sisters

St. Francis de Sales, Co-Founder of the Visitation Sisters

“That Humility makes us love our own Abjection”
– Title of Chapter VI of St. Francis de Sales’ “The Devout Life.” 

The Gospel teaches us how to pay attention and be still in order to learn. So to love a failure is a form of humility which acknowledges our littleness and imperfections: our share in the suffering of Christ. We learn our need for mercy.

Actually it is one of my favorite virtues, one that I make frequent use of. It is one that will not make me proud and one that teaches me that I am never removed from God’s mercy.

Amen.

On the Virtue of Patience: From Vis Companion and Doula, Heidi Govednik

Heidi Govednik

Squeezing her niece, Vis Companion Heidi Govednik

The following is an excerpt from Vis Companion Heidi Govenik’s recent blog post, “On Being A Doula”. We share this with her permission as part of our exploration of Salesian Virtues in our Second Monday Salesian Spirituality Series. Heidi spoke about patience in light of her work as a doula, or birth coach, at our Monday, October 14, 2013 evening at the monastery. We are grateful to highlight her inspiring thoughts and experience here.

Doula: The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period. (Definition taken from the DONA International website.)

“[As a doula, I’m learning] to submit to something larger than myself. I like to say I do this in my relationship with God on a regular basis, but the truth is I have a certain measure of control over my life that I daily choose to submit to God or cling to. ( I usually am doing the latter.) In birth, there is nothing you can do but be present to what is happening in labor and wait. I just wait. I watch. I am there, fully there…with no control but to choose to succumb to the steady, often slow, rhythm of labor. It is truly the only area of my life that I submit fully to patience and have no measure of control. What unfolds is incredible…every birth follows the same pattern somewhat like a song. Each is different, but follows the musical pattern of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge….chorus…maybe a doxology in a hymn. Each birth is different, yet I usually can expect a the steady pattern of early labor, the intensity of contractions as active labor takes over, the peak of emotions and physical motion in the transition stage, and the overwhelming anticipation as the urge to push takes over. And then I know, without a doubt, that after all those hours of patience and the steady beat of a woman in labor, a baby will in fact come out. Just like that.

During a birth this winter I was sitting on a chair in the corner of a dark room, well into the night, watching the monitor steadily go up and down with each contraction as the mother slept deeply with her epidural. The labor had been long and I was coming into the awareness of the lack of control I have in being a doula, and how much patience I was learning in turning off the rest of my life for a time to be present during a birth. I was thinking how I fail so much at doing this in my faith: resting in God’s presence and His timing. I know He is unfailing in His love, and He is faithful to His children…so why can’t I trust that if I am submitting myself to Him that I can rest in His truth? I always try to make my own way, make my own plans and ask God to come along. In the process of birth, there is something so beautiful and so sacred when the baby comes out….whether it was 35 hours of labor or only 2, I know the labor needed to happen for the gift of life to come. I always am full of joy as I leave the hospital, knowing that the long hours were worth being able to witness the miracle of a little boy or a little girl emerge from a woman. I want to learn that same patience in my life submitted to Christ. His Kingdom is worth it. My prayer is that I can have the strength to surrender to labor in life, to dwell in the moments, and the grace to wait for the joys to come.”

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To read Heidi’s entire post, click here: “On being a Doula”