The New Season of Grace has Begun

The Alleluia banner before the Ash Wednesday service.

By S. Karen Mohan, VHM

“Each new season renews an aspect of the great mystery of Christ living and present in the Church. Each recurring season shows us some new way in which we live in Christ and in which Christ acts in the world….”- Thomas Merton

As I lit the fire to burn last year’s palm, preparing the ashes to mark our foreheads for the Ash Wednesday “signing”, I noticed how quickly those palm flowers dissolved. What had been was now becoming the symbol for our Lenten “springtime” renewal.   At Vespers on Ash Wednesday eve, we sang the Alleluia for the last time until the Easter Vigil, and then rolled up our Alleluia banner, “burying“ it in a box until it is unfurled once more at the Great Sabbath. We were ready for Lent to begin.

The 35 people ages 9-95, who gathered in our living room for our Ash Wednesday Mass today were ready, too.   What a privilege for our community to host such a gathering! Some were “regulars”; some were there for the first time ; all were affirming by their presence in the sacredness of this “Christian community retreat”.

Thomas Merton once wrote, “Each new season renews an aspect of the great mystery of Christ living and present in the Church. Each recurring season shows us some new way in which we live in Christ and in which Christ acts in the world….”

The new season of grace has begun.   We enter it together, with faith, hope and love.

In Solidarity with the Sisters: Silent prayer

S. Katherine on Retreat at ARC

S. Katherine on Retreat at ARC

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion 

“There is a healthy silence that heals and bonds us all.” — S. Mary Margaret McKenzie

The Burkinabe freedom seeker with his fist in the air. The Syrian mother lowering her babe into a boat. Pope Francis lifting the Eucharist at mass in Cuba. The police officer turning on his siren and lights just a few blocks away. The principal at my daughter’s school reaching for my kindergartner’s hand to walk her inside.  A quiet woman standing before a slow moving stream. These are images that come to mind in my prayer this day.

Sitting on the front porch of my Selby Avenue home in St. Paul, I hold a prayerful space alongside and for the Visitation Sisters who are on retreat this week. I’m in silent solidarity with all. No matter the distance, or circumstance, we are all bound up in this mystical body of Christ – in our common humanity, with our beating hearts, breathing bodies, seeking spirits. And it is a loving silence which unites and heals us all.

“Silence makes us whole if we let it.  Silence helps draw together the scattered and dissipated energies of a fragmented existence.”
– Fr. Thomas Merton Love and Living.

In a prayerful meditation on silence last spring, S. Mary Margaret described a quiet that unifies and bonds us; a silence where wholeness is revealed, compassion and reconciliation germinate.  I was in the living room at Fremont House with a group of other lay men and women discerning community life alongside the Visitation Sisters in North Minneapolis. S. Mary Margaret’s meditations struck a deep chord in me. I scribbled her words onto a slip of paper: “There is a healthy silence that heals and bonds us all.” 

The Visitation Sisters’ community is immersed in quiet this week: on the second floor of Girard, on the back porch at Fremont; up at the ARC retreat center; over in Collegeville; lakeside at a friend’s cabin; down in Fairbault. Each sister is entering into the fullness of silence — in that echoic room of her heart where God’s voice booms, Love pierces and connects all things — and softens all stances into a compassionate embrace.

In my own attempted practice of daily silence or stillness on my front porch, I have these fleeting glimpses of unity. I can travel around the world, into the darkest corners of my own neighborhood, contemplate the warring factions of humanity riddled by poverty and hunger, a desire for power, or freedom. I can see these across the river in Minneapolis, in my husband’s home country of Burkina Faso, in the headlines reporting on the Middle East, and inside my own beating heart.

The silence doesn’t scare me. It’s a silence that invites me. It’s a silence that contains all the ills and joys of the world, and melds them into a wholeness, a reconciled beauty that I have few words for, save Love.

I invite you into this meditation today, into solidarity with our Sisters on retreat. Can you carve five minutes of quiet in your day?  Find a spot in your home, in your car, on your block; in your church, temple, mosque, in a park, in a space you might claim as sanctuary? Go inside your heart. Find the beating, pulsing reality of your interior being. Ask for God to show you Love’s peace, Love’s will, Love’s desire for you this day.

Will you join me and the Sisters in prayer?

For All Discerners: the Prayer of Thomas Merton

Posted by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

On the heels of our first Following the Spirit Discernment eve,  small group participant Anna Andahazy sent the following prayer.  It speaks to me and my own journey tuning into God, and trying, as I may, to Love and lean into the Lord at every juncture. I wonder what lines stand out to you? Feel free to comment below!

Thomas Merton

Fr. Thomas Merton, OCSO

PRAYER OF THOMAS MERTON
My Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself,
And the fact that I think I am following
your will does not mean
that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope that I have that desire
in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything
apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this, you will lead me
by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death,
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me
to face my perils alone.