Praying Exodus: Reflections on God leading Community

Exodus Prayers: The sea of red and blue light along Interstate 94

Exodus Prayers: The sea of red and blue light along closed Westbound Interstate 94

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion 

“Exodus is a story of a people, not a person – that God leads in community.” – Amy Long, Women of Prayer discernment participant

With the whirring sounds of a helicopter overhead and the flashing lights of emergency vehicles passing outside our windows along Emerson Avenue North in Minneapolis, we convened a community of prayer, story, reflection, and song.  Our community of discerning women gathered at St. Jane House last night for session 4 of the vocation series entitled, “The Prepositions of Call: Reframing Suffering and Vocation.”

Against this backdrop of protest sounds and justice-seeking circumstances surrounding the shooting of Jamar Clark by a local police officer, we began our evening ringing the singing bowl and moving into silence.

“What path is God leading us on? How do we know the wilderness in our journeys? Where are our pillars of cloud and fire? How is this journey, that we are all on, a communal experience toward freedom?”

As facilitators for the series, S. Katherine Mullin, Karen Wight Hoogheem and I gave voice to our distraction, marking the reality outside our doors. In honor of Jamar Clark’s life, we had a candle burning for him and his family — and by extension, our human family the world over – from North Minneapolis to other communities knowing upheaval from violence –including Paris, Beirut, Russia, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, Yemen.

We entered into prayer.

As part of every session, a member of our series facilitation team leads the participants in a form of prayer — meant to inspire and support women in their “listening and leading from within.”  Last night’s experience of Lectio Divina was led by Karen, who took us through Exodus 13:17-22. In this Old Testament passage, we heard the story of Moses and the Israelites being lead out of Egypt. God takes them on a circuitous route through the desert, into the wilderness, revealing himself in a pillar of cloud by day – and fire by night.

Pillars of Fire, photo from protester camp on Plymouth

Pillars of Fire, photo from protester camp on Plymouth

As Karen lead, she invited us to see ourselves in the flight of the Israelites and immerse ourselves in the literal and imagined details of the scripture. She invited us to listen for resonant lines in the text and for God’s invitation to each of us in our present circumstances. She asked us to consider the ways we know suffering, and the way God is faithful to us in leading us along the road to freedom.

As the scripture was repeated, the darkness of the Israelites path at night came alive in my mind. And too, was this flicker of light from fire, the smell of smoke in close proximity, the palpable feeling of anxiety that comes with uncertainty and next steps, and this potent question, “Will you follow me into this wilderness, into freedom, Melissa?”

The whole time, the whirring of the very real helicopters overhead buzzed in my ears; the faces of men, women, and children, who were marching along Plymouth Avenue when I made my way in traffic an hour earlier, came into my mind’s eye.

Together, in prayer, we asked, “What path is God leading us on? How do we know wilderness in our journeys? Where are our pillars of cloud and fire? Where is liberation? How is this journey, that we are all on, a communal experience toward freedom?”

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This Saturday, Visitation Sisters all around the world will renew their vows. As they make their way toward this feast day, they remind me, and all of us, of our commitments before God. And too, of God’s faithfulness to us.

Join me, the Women of Prayer, the Visitation Sisters, Jamar’s family, and people grieving life lost to violence all over the world, in the prayer of Exodus. Together, let us recall that our journey toward liberation is bound up in God’s love and promises for all of us.

THE VOWED LIFE — A Commitment to Live; to Share and to Act!

Sr. Suzanne

S. Suzanne signing the Book of Vows November, 2014

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

“Thank you, for your commitment!” was one of the final comments I heard on my profession day. They were spoken by one of my BOF (Best Oblate Friends) as he was leaving our monastery for the wintry drive back to Michigan after the festivities. Those words meant a lot to me that night and they still do — in fact, they mean more to me each day as I live this Visitation life and each time I renew my vows on the first day of the month — or each time I sign the community vow book on November 21st, when all other Visitandines and Oblates of St. Francis de Sales have their yearly renewal of vows.

“Signing the vow book is more than putting ink to paper…perhaps it is like writing ‘Live Jesus!’ on my heart.” – S. Suzanne Homeyer

This year our Renewal of Vows retreat gave me the time to reflect on how my commitment so many years ago was really a response to God’s promise that we find in the book of Proverbs:

“Happy the one who listens to me, attending daily at my gates, keeping watch at my doorposts; for whoever finds me finds life, and wins favor with the Lord.”

My understanding of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience has changed over the years.

S. Suzanne signing the Vow Book of the Monastery of Annecy, France in June, 2009 during the 400th Anniversary Pilgrimage.

S. Suzanne signing the Vow Book of the Monastery of Annecy, France in June, 2009 during the 400th Anniversary Pilgrimage.

On Poverty …

The first time I signed the Book of the Vows I knew I was promising to live as our neighbors here on the north side of Minneapolis. I knew, too, that I would probably not be spending my nights sleeping under bridges or in homeless shelters during the coldest Minnesota nights.  And our monastery was not cold and drafty — a concern my mother often voiced. During my years here I have struggled with whether to purchase something new, find the item at a thrift store or just do without. There is a difference between wants and needs. I may want a calf-length down coat but a warm wool jacket may be enough for doing errands or getting to church on a cold day. Could I attend a conference or workshop out of town and still be living my vow of poverty. A wise friend settled that in my mind by suggesting that if I attend the conference I might learn something to help me better meet the needs of those who come to our door! Isn’t that good stewardship?

On Chastity…

Being loyal and true to those I am in relationship is part of how I live my life chastely. I have to be authentically my self in how I interact with others. I often ask myself if I am being sincere, loving and as open with all others as I would like them to be with me. This type of transparency allows relationships to be nurturing for me and generative for others.

Sr. Suzanne reciting first vows in 1999 at Church of St. Philip parish in north Minneapolis

Sr. Suzanne reciting first vows in 1999 at Church of St. Philip parish in north Minneapolis

On Obedience…

From my first study of the vows as a novice I learned that obedience comes from the same root word as listening. I listen to God in His word, in the words of others and in my own heart. I pay attention to what I am hearing. I let it motivate me. If I do this prayerfully I find myself called to action.   I am not merely reacting to situations but acting as I am called to act by this God to whom I am committed. No matter what, I am committed. And God moves me forward in this commitment each day, each month and each year. Signing the vow book is more than putting ink to paper…perhaps it is like writing ‘’Live Jesus!” on my heart.

 

 

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