by Sister Mary Frances on July 31, 2020
Sr. Mary Frances Reis
shares her grief at the Prayer Tent
For the past 30+ years, we Visitation Sisters have been blessed to make our home in north Minneapolis “to Live Jesus by being part of this multicultural community—to share prayer, hope and God’s blessings” (from our Mission Statement).
Our Northside community, along with our national and global communities, is experiencing many losses related to COVID-19 and the killing of George Floyd. Literally every dimension of life as we have known it has either been lost or changed dramatically.
As we Sisters have been observing Safe Shelter and the protocols that accompany it, we have had to cancel most, if not all, of our “hands on” activities, such as our annual Women’s Retreat, summer camp for 100 kids, neighbors and friends joining us for community prayer and Mass, National Night Out, and on and on. However, our door ministry is alive and well, and—thanks to our countless benefactors—we are grateful to be able to help many families and individuals with their immediate needs.
We have a profound desire to be in solidarity with those who are suffering and struggling with an unknown future. What gratitude we felt when we heard about Don and Sondra Samuels’ initiative: Healing our City—30 Days of Silent Prayer, July 1-30, 2020. They set up a prayer tent on Broadway and Bryant that was open to everyone to come and spend 8 minutes and 46 seconds in silent prayer to grieve the loss of George Floyd’s life and to listen for direction for the future of our City. The prayer tent was open daily from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus invites us who are burdened with cares to “come and rest” with Him. I, as well as the other Sisters who could, went to rest at the Tent many times over these past four weeks. As Father Dale Korogi put it in a recent homily, “The rest Jesus offers is not an escape from suffering, but repose that equips us for discipleship, for the work of justice, sustenance as we stand with those in the line of fire…. We are being given an opportunity to create a new community and neighborhood.” Even though the 30 Days of Silent Prayer is over, we invite you to repose with Jesus and participate with us in creating a new community.
by Caitlin Parsley on July 25, 2020
As these special and undoubtedly strange months as a VIP intern come to a close, I am cherishing the “little nosegay of devotion,” as Frances de Sales would say, that I’ve gathered up.
It is such a beautiful bouquet reminding me that the little things make the biggest difference; silence is sacred and healing; being who you are and being that well glorifies God; childlike spirits are possible at any age; wisdom listens first, loves next, and speaks only if necessary; fellowship happens where the food is; living Jesus looks like open doors and open hearts; and prayer is not passive but powerful.
|The little things make the biggest difference
||Silence is sacred and healing
who you are and being that well glorifies God
|Childlike spirits are possible at any age
|Wisdom listens first, loves next, and speaks only if necessary
||Fellowship happens where the food is
||Living Jesus looks like open doors and open hearts
||Prayer is not passive but powerful
The list could go on and on. That being said, the simplest lesson that has stuck with me is this:
Share your fruit.
No one ever said this directly, but every single Sister showed me this in the way they live.
One day, after our usual book discussion, Sister Karen said that she had something to give me. She quickly went into the kitchen and returned with a huge smile and a little peach. While it was just a small piece of fruit, it was given with great love and care.
It might not always be fruit, but we all have opportunities to share the small things God has given us. Francis de Sales said it quite succinctly when he wrote, “Great occasions for serving God come seldom, but little ones surround us daily.”
What little occasions for serving God are before you today?
Sister Karen and Caitlin Parsley at the beginning of Caitlin’s internship (VIP)
While enjoying that sweet peach, I began to ponder the spiritual fruit God grows in our lives (Gal 5:22-23). Out of gratitude for all God has given us, we have the opportunity to generously share our fruits, both peaches and love, with the world around us.
It is no coincidence that back in February, for my VIP mission statement, I wrote about sharing fruit. I believe it was the Spirit speaking over these months and guiding my mission. I wrote, “My goal is not self improvement but spiritual fruits such as love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. These fruits are to be shared and multiplied as I practically live out my love for God and His people.”
In a world consumed by selfishness, overwhelmed with scarcity, and wounded by sin, the simple and small act of sharing fruit has the potential to love, heal, and change our world.
It is already happening, one peach at a time.
by Anna Dourgarian on June 14, 2020
Be careful in turbulent times. Anxiety is an opportunity for the evil one to distract and, little by little, ensnare you.
In the Gospel today, “the Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’” (John 6:52). Likewise, we argue: how will we stay safe from the pandemic? How will we feed all the hungry? How will we uncover unconscious bias and overthrow unjust systems?
How indeed? Remember that the Lord our God “brought forth water for you from the flinty rock and fed you in the desert with manna, a food unknown to your fathers” (Deuteronomy 8:16). God provides.
You know what you need to know: that the Lord our God loves and cares for you. Pray as He taught you, serve as He showed you, love as He loved you, and He will give you the answers you seek.
Sister Mary Virginia Schmidt would tell you to follow the example of Don Quixote. (Don Quixote is her favorite book; if you mention it to her, you will see her face light up.) She loves Don Quixote because, though he tilts at windmills, he is devoted to virtue and clings blindly to chivalry. He pursues love at the expense of all else. He might be laughably addled, but he knows his priorities.
For every thought and every action that you make with trust firmly rooted in the Lord, you let yourself be a tool by which He will change our world. Maybe you represented at a protest. Maybe you prayed passionately for peace. Maybe you fought hard to understand someone else’s point of view. Give your work to the Lord, and take quiet confidence that you are making a difference.
Do not worry that what you are doing is not enough. Do not worry that society is lost to sin. Despair is a victory for evil. Bring your grief to the altar as your sacrifice. Be gentle with yourself. Take each step as you are prepared to take it.
Walk by faith. Christ, the living bread, is a miracle worker beyond our comprehension.
by Anna Dourgarian on April 11, 2020
Here the Beaver’s voice sank into silence and it gave one or two very mysterious nods. Then signaling to the children to stand as close around it as they possibly could, so that their faces were actually tickled by its whiskers, it added in a low whisper —
“They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps has already landed.”
— C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Today is a sad Easter Eve. With the pandemic, Lent has been especially somber. While we should hope and pray for an extra Easter miracle, we cannot depend on it. God may ask us to continue our Lenten fasting and sacrifice throughout the Easter season.
This year, the Sisters planned to climb mountains with our Lenten Sunday readings, from Jesus’ temptation on a mountain to His crucifixion on the Mount of Golgotha. They planned to climb with intentional prayers, minimal decorations, and gifts to their neighbors of meat foregone from their own table.
But God had something else planned. He shut down the state. He doubled the size of the mountain. When COVID-19 hit, Lent became a time of strict discipline and constraint. The Sisters canceled visits with friends and mourned the world’s suffering from sickness, lost finances, and isolation.
In the confusion and the sorrow, I am reminded of Narnia in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, where it was “always winter and never Christmas” (20). It seems like it is always Lent and never Easter.
But Lent had another, hidden side. Beyond the mountains, Sunday readings also foretold the Lord’s promises, in the cure of the blind man and the raising of Lazarus. For the Sisters, they found inspiration and aid from the glory of the Saints. They also got to companion the children and adults scheduled to receive Rites of Initiation tonight at Easter Vigil Mass, and they continue to pray even as the Rites are postponed.
While they miss the people coming in and out of their home, the Sisters find beauty in the quiet. Time for paying attention to the birds in the garden and the green grass is a balm to their sadness. Out of the tragedy, they see goodness and God’s guiding hand. As Sister Mary Paula pointed out, “This is my ninetieth Lent, and originally it was hard to see something new in it. But this year has been different.”
Friends, despite the hard times, stay alert, and stay joyful. Jesus is on the move.