Relax in Prayer: “Don’t try too Hard”

SFDS quoteby Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

I hyper-extended my knee during prayer this past week. The experience has left me wanting, wondering, and takes me to the center of my reflections on what it means to pray well.

I was off to a rocky start Tuesday morning. Was I running late? Was I anxious about the flow of the morning? Concerned about my responsibilities in attending to – or providing for- some festive, post-prayer-party atmosphere? Who knows. I just know I was a bit off in my rhythms.

We were celebrating five years of Centering Prayer at St. Jane House on Tuesday, along with Director Brian Mogren’s recent Human Services Award. It was a party — a joyous occasion.

I wore a short skirt, and taking my place in the circle of 17 or so other festive-centering-prayer warriors, I all of a sudden got self-conscious.

“What if I flashed someone across the circle?” Ugh. The thought of it took me outside myself, and then inspired a conscious physical correction. “I”ll just cross my legs and all shall be well.”

More easily thought and said than done.

When we pray at Centering Prayer, there’s a universal invitation to position yourself in an open stance. You take a seat. You relax. You soften your gaze. You open your palms and plant your feet firmly on the ground. You take a deep breathe. You let Love pour through you in each inhale and exhale. You take up your sacred word and let this guide you in clearing your mind completely, and letting God have all your thoughts. If you are in a really blissed-out place, or lucky, you have more than 3 seconds of an awareness that Love permeates all things and is the author of all that is good and true and is in charge in this world. You are forgiven and held and know compassion and calm.

But if you cross your legs, and hyper-extend your knee during centering prayer, this bliss is not easily yours.

Sometimes, I think this sort of hyper-extension is true for all of us. We are simply working too hard at prayer;  we are getting too self-conscious of what may be exposed; we are afraid to be truly vulnerable with God. And so we protect ourselves. We cross our legs, so to speak, and avoid all openness with our Creator.

Or not. Maybe some of us are more perfected in the art of prayer — more relaxed in age, experience, development, or practice. I think the sisters are pretty good at prayer, actually. They are my role models. But I know that they would resent this sort of praise or idolizing to a point. They would attest, “Ah, Melissa, we are all human. We all have times of darkness or difficulty in prayer.”

My point is: How do you pray? What is your prayer life like these days? Where do you find yourself in the art of relaxing, giving yourself over to the divine, offering up words of thanks or request or praise? Or simply showing up, presenting your heart to God? 

I’ll close with these sage words from our co-founder, St. Francis de Sales:

“When you come before the Lord, talk to Him if you can. If you can’t, just stay there, let yourself be seen. Don’t try too hard to do anything else.” 

Honoring Our Brother Brian Mogren, aka. “Mr. St. Jane House.”

2013 Virginia McKnight Binger Human Services Award recipient Brian Mogren surrounded by family, collaborators and northside friends.

He’s making the news, this time being seen for his role in supporting our northside brothers and sisters. We couldn’t be prouder of our dear friend, lay companion and brother, Brian Mogren, who was honored this week with the Virginia McKnight Binger Human Service Award.

“I accepted the award on behalf of everyone I conspire for good with on the north side. It truly takes a village and I’m surrounded by a whole bunch of extraordinary people doing important and good work.” – Brian Mogren, Visitation Companion, St. Jane House Director

As director of St. Jane House, Brian exudes the charism of our Visitation order in and through his hospitality, service and quiet leadership. We can only imagine our co-founders St. Jane de Chantal and St. Francis de Sales smiling broadly down on our brother Brian this day — as he goes about building relationships and “Living+Jesus” in North Minneapolis — and beyond!

We invite you to get to know our dear friend and Visitation Companion who resides just two blocks away from our monastery in the St. Jane House. Come and pray with him on Tuesday morning at Centering Prayer. Or treat yourself to an afternoon of reflection or overnight stay under the hospitable care of brother Brian — and learn first hand what his heart and mind are up to as he seeks to “be who he is, and be that well”.

Read more about Brian and the Virginia McKnight Binger Human Service Award:

 

Zumba with Jane

by Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

Zumba, anyone?

Zumba, anyone?

St. Jane House always amazes me.

Last Wednesday evening, our own Jody Johnson, Visitation Companion Coordinator, full of the gentle wise spirit of St. Jane herself, exploded in a burst of energy and strength (also St. Jane’s charateristics) in an hour of Zumba.

She acted as if we could all keep up with her, just as Jane always expected others to keep up with her, motivating our “bruised bones to dance (psalms)!” The up-beat Latin music and the glorious weather acompanied Jody’s expert and graceful movements.

BRAVO JODY!
BRAVO ZUMBA!

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For more information on “Zumba with Jane”, see our Events page, or visit the St. Jane House facebook page.  Our next class is Wednesday, August 14th, from 7pm-8pm. Will you join us?

The Gift of Neighboring: Our Salesian Spirituality Center

By S. Mary Margaret McKenzie in collaboration with Brian Mogren

st Jane House

You are invited to the FIFTH Anniversary Celebration of the St. Jane House Sunday, June 9, 2013 1403 Emerson Ave North Open House: 1-4 pm Program with special guests: 2 pm RSVP by June 1 to vmonastery@aol.com or to 612-521-9282 (St. Jane House phone number)

Five years ago in our long range planning we envisioned a third house. This was inspired by our need to respond to many persons who were drawn to enter into our neighborhood ministry more than into our monastic lifestyle. This would be their house more than ours and could accommodate both men and women for overnight retreats or hospitality. It would be called the St. Jane House.

Where would it be, and how could we maintain and direct it? Clearly this would have to be God’s “make-over.”
When Brian Mogren heard what we were mulling and that we were looking to rent rather than buy, he offered his newly built, beautiful home on Emerson—his commitment to the neighborhood. He had given up his job as graphic designer for Target to give his time and talent full time to the Northside. Plus, his instincts had already directed him to and steeped him in Salesian spirituality.

Under Brian’s direction and gift of making dynamic connections we find ourselves sponsoring and at times participating in outreach ministry that embraces:

•    The practice of centering prayer
•    Support in living discerning lives
•    Bringing together for dialogue those who need a neutral space
•    Healing for those suffering because of violence and killing
•    Openness to forgiveness and reconciliation
•    Offering retreats to a variety of groups and individuals
•    The home-base for Vis Companions
•    Discussion groups around inspiring books and films
•    Encouraging and developing lay leadership
•    A safe place for teens to be developed as leaders
•    Urban immersion for college and high school groups
•    A safe place for people to connect across differences to discover our common humanity

All of this is fertile ground for the growth of Salesian spirtuality and holy ground for contemplative presence and hospitality.

As we ready ourselves to celebrate the 5th anniversary of St. Jane House, we are anticipating a new portrait of St. Jane by our dear brother and friend Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS. We also see more clearly what God has created out of our visioning—a very specifically focused Salesian Spirituality Center. The primary sources and resources offered are persons relating and inter-relating—our gift to neighboring that has even gone global with the heartfelt use of social media to Live Jesus.

Next “Books with Jane:” “The Little Monk” by Harry Farra, 4/25/13

An Invitation from Kathryn Kaatz, Coordinator of “Books with Jane” Series:

Kathryn Kaatz, Series Coordinator for "Books with Jane"We are excited to announce our next selection for the ‘“Books with Jane” series at our Urban Spirituality Center  in north Minneapolis.  Join us Thursday, April 25, 2013, from 6-8pm at the St. Jane House for a discussion of The Little Monk by Harry Farra. (Doors open at 6pm for refreshments and book discussion starts at 6:30pm.)

More on “The Little Monk” by Harry Farra

“Can we read something more…relaxed — but has a deep meaning that can touch the core of our soul?” asked Books-with-Jane-participant TuAhn Holm. Following this query, Ms. Holm provided us with the following information on The Little Monk, that inspires our selection of the text for the next book in this series:

The Little Monk by Harry Farra offers:
-Gentle lessons for life
-Wisdom for everyday decisions
-Stories for spiritual reflection

“The Bishop came to town one day and called the entire village to worship. The Bishop had many gifts, but non so compelling as his wisdom in the work of prayer. ‘It is time again to speak to the world,’ the Bishop announced with an ancient voice in the great cathedral.  But he abruptly stopped in midspeech as though held by an invisible power.  After a pause that seemed to last forever, he suddenly stood up from his two-hundred-year-old chair in the cathedral and pointed a patriarchal finger at a short, squat, barefooted monk who was all but invisible in the large congregation. ‘You shall be the monk of prayer,’ he declared with all the decisiveness his office and position would bear.”

And so, a humble and self-effacing little monk becomes the hero of this gentle tale, the tale of a man after God’s own heart that will put us in touch with the holy monk that lives in all of us.

Harry Farra holds a Ph.D in Rhetoric from Pennsylvania State University.  He has taught in the communications Department of Geneva College for thirty years and currently heads the Speech/Visual Communications Department.  Dr. Farra is author of “The Sermon Doctor” (Baker Book House, 1989)

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Click to order a copy of The Little Monk.

“Books with Jane:” Sparknotes on “The Screwtape Letters”

Anna Dourgarian, 2012 -2013 VIP

Anna Dourgarian, 2012 -2013 VIP

by Guest Blogger, Anna Dourgarian, Visitation Intern Volunteer

Next Thursday, January 31, at 7pm, we host another session of “Books with Jane” featuring C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters at St. Jane House. This event is open to the public. Doors open at 6:30pm!

For those of you who will not have time to read The Screwtape Letters before then, I’ve written up an abridged version with a chapter-by-chapter summary. I hope that reading it will encourage you to come and possibly to even read the book!

Briefly, The Screwtape Letters is a devil’s advice to his nephew on how to tempt to a human. It is C. S. Lewis’s satirical advice on how not to get to Heaven. You may recognize C. S. Lewis from his brilliant work on Chronicles of Narnia. Find a pdf file below to download for more information!

Thank you, and I hope to see you at 7 PM on Thursday, January 31, at St. Jane House!

Screwtape Letter Notes by Anna Dourgarian

St. Jane House
1403 Emerson Avenue north


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What is our baptismal call? Reflections and Invitations

Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ

Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Priest! Prophet! King!

Can you hear these sacred words spoken by the priest as he anoints a babe in baptism? The child writhes as water is poured, oil is placed, and a candle is lit. We are all witness to this ritual as we proclaim: “You are a child of God. We call you by name. You are beloved.”

But holy hannah! What does it mean to be a “priest, prophet and king”? I giggle to myself thinking of the response to this question for a three month old. Every infant is a “ruler” of sorts in his or her new home, right?  But I gasp a bit contemplating what these words of anointing mean when say, you turn 18 or 25 or 40. Priest? Prophet? King? *gulp*

How do we want to honor our baptismal calls? What do they even sound like as we grow, and perhaps feel even further removed from our small, wriggling, wet, baptized-baby selves? Who are we in this church? How are we really called to live? What name has God given us this day? What do our prophetic, kingly, priestly actions look like in this present context?

I can hear Fr. O’Connell’s translation of these three words: “Priest, or model of love for the people. Prophet, or a speaker of truth and justice. King, or humble, servant leader. ” Okay. But what does it mean to live into these words, or up to their fulfillment? This is the rub for me as a Christian and Catholic.

This Sunday, as we celebrate Christ’s baptism, we are reminded of our own baptisms and invited to reflect on our calls to live and love and be on this earth. How do we want to honor our baptismal calls? What do they even sound like as we grow, and perhaps feel even further removed from our small, wriggling, wet, baptized-baby selves? Who are we in this church? How are we really called to live? What name has God given us this day? What do our prophetic, kingly, priestly actions look like in this present context?

HELP!

On Monday, January 28, 2013, Sr. Katherine Mullin, Vis alumna Meagan McLaughlin and I start our spring semester offering of the “Following the Spirit: Leading a Discerning Life” series at St. Jane House. In this discernment course, we create the opportunity for women and men of all ages and walks of life to reflect on how they are called by God — and we offer space to unpack our baptismal blessings within the context of a small group of fellow discerners.

Does this discernment opportunity speak to you this weekend of baptismal celebration and reflection? Perhaps you have a friend really struggling with their next best step? We invite you to join us – literally, by signing up — and more figuratively,  by holding our cohort in prayer as we journey together  over the next five months.

Will you join us in this process?

Baptismal Blessings! Live + Jesus!

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For more information on the Following the Spirit discernment series, click here.

Christ: The Social Innovator – A Meditation for this Advent Season

Nativity Scene by G Cuffia

Nativity Scene by G Cuffia

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“..and she gave birth to her firstborn son. 3 She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”  Luke 2:7

And Advent is upon us! As I make my way into this first week of the holy season, these images return to me: a teenage Mary who is pregnant; a radiant angel with big news; a baffled bachelor named Joseph;  doors closing at the hands of (perhaps unapologetic) innkeepers; a bright star overhead; and a blanketed olive-skinned babe laying atop a bed of straw. And I marvel on the historic narrative informing this Advent season. This is a tale of woe and wonder. It’s a tale of adversity and mystery. It’s a tale of ache and awesomeness. It’s a tale that at its core, lays bare a God who chooses to come to us in this frail human form: as a child born into poverty, squalor and strife. I think, “This Incarnation is something to behold.”

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On Tuesday, December 4, 2012, Sr. Katherine and I attended a leadership event at Macalester College sponsored by InCommons – Supporting the Courage to Lead. The “Social Innovation Lab” as this event was referred to, was on “Vulnerability as a Resource for Innovation.” Visitation Companion, director of St. Jane house and northside community leader Brian Mogren invited us to attend this event organized by a former Visitation Neighbor, Michael Bischoff.  It was a perfect sort of Advent experience.

As the room of 120 or so participants convened, we were invited to reflect on a time when we had led from a place of vulnerability.

Q: What do we mean by vulnerability?
A: Uncertainty, risk, transparency, and openness to diverse perspectives.

A goal for our gathering was to help shift the dominant view of “judging vulnerability as weakness to valuing vulnerability as a positive resource that takes strength and courage.”

Okay.

My thoughts went immediately to Christ. To Mary. To Joseph. To the cast of characters that make up the gospel story of Jesus’ birth. I thought, “How many of Jesus’ encounters depicted in scripture are about a person who leads from vulnerability?” I took a breathe and then considered, “What is God inviting us to do today and everyday?”

Discerning a step into uncertainty, taking a risk, being transparent in our motivations and situation, and opening ourselves to diverse perspectives is a radical step — one demonstrated to us continually by God’s human son.

There are some very important disclaimers to make about vulnerability. First of all, it’s something we must choose if we are seeking to lead from this place. Discerning a step into uncertainty, taking a risk, being transparent in our motivations and situation, and opening ourselves to diverse perspectives is a radical step — one demonstrated to us continually by God’s human son.  It’s a space of incredible privilege, however, to elect to see vulnerability as a gift and to act on it.  This is my second disclaimer: To have power wielded over us that renders us vulnerable, or to be in deep crisis,  instability or mentally unwell and be invited to lead, is not what the conference leaders meant by their invitation; and I would assert is not what Christ meant through his humble example as servant leader and as the son of God.

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What is your story of vulnerability? How do you seek to align yourself with the swaddled babe or the teenage mom or the baffled boyfriend-turned-father who are all homeless? How are you choosing uncertainty, risk, transparency and openness this Advent Season?

Blessings as you meditate and respond.

Join us for “Miss Representation” – Tuesday, November 13, 6pm at St. Jane House

Kelly Schumacher Fuller

Kelly Schumacher Fuller

From Kelly Schumacher Fuller, “Movies with Jane” Series Coordinator

You’re invited to St. Jane House on Tuesday, November 13th for a screening of “Miss Representation,” a documentary which explores how the media and advertising grossly distorts who girls and women are, their sense of themselves, mens’ perceptions of who they are, and ultimately contributes to the under-representation of women in leadership roles in our country and world.

This is the next in our series, “Movies with Jane” featuring thought provoking films that inspire and/or challenge us to become better people!

MOVIES WITH JANE
6:00pm – Doors open to St. Jane House, 1403 Emerson Ave N

6:30pm – Film begins, followed by discussion

Limited to 20 people.
RSVP at the St. Jane House Facebook page, or to kelly.schumacher@gmail.com
When we hit capacity we will start a waiting list.

Newest Miss Representation Trailer (2011 Sundance Film Festival Official Selection) from Miss Representation on Vimeo.

About the film:

Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, Miss Representation uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.

In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.

Stories from teenage girls and provocative interviews with politicians, journalists, entertainers, activists and academics, like Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Margaret Cho, Rosario Dawson and Gloria Steinem build momentum as Miss Representation accumulates startling facts and statistics that will leave the audience shaken and armed with a new perspective.

“Many Callings: One Life” — A list by Amanda Steepleton

Amanda Steepleton, Discerner

Amanda Steepleton, Discerner

Monday, October 29, 2012, marked our third session, entitled “Many Callings/ One Life,” of our “Following the Spirit” Discernment Series at St. Jane House. Discerning participant Amanda Steepleton was our featured story-teller, reflecting on her life and journey to date. She began her narrative with the following abbreviated list of vocations/ roles/ identities that she has known in her 28 year journey. We post it here as fodder for your own reflections. How are you called? What titles, roles, responsibilities would you record as part of your own vocations list?

Vocations/Roles/Identities:

Daughter

Student

Craigslist housemate

Spanish learner

Border/immigration educator

Advocate

Fundraiser

Adult

Friend

Volunteer

Writer

Dreamer

Meaning maker

Depth seeker

Truth speaker

Reader

Advisor

Dog lover

Biker

Servant

Employee/team member

Aspiring veterinarian

Child of God

Listener

Witness/accompanier

Traveler

Explorer

Campus Minister

Singer

Waiter (one who waits)