"Loving Life, Living Jesus"
In order to share the charism of the Sisters of the Visitation, Georgetown Visitation offers a weekly digital spiritual reflection for members and friends of our Visitation family near and far. "Loving Life, Living Jesus" celebrates the spirit of love so beautifully lived in the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth in the mystery of the Visitation.
This spiritual friendship was later modeled in St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal and continues in the loving community of the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary. We share this gift by offering these meditations written by members of the Visitation community. We hope they are examples of how Salesian Spirituality thrives within the people we know and love, and we pray that these reflections edify your own efforts to Live Jesus.
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Want to contribute a reflection? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Reflection Archive: View previous editions of "Loving Life, Living Jesus."
- Joyful Optimism, Cate Paxton '17
- Humility, Stephanie Lushniak '17
- Simplicity, Megan Munter '17
- Generosity, Abbey Doherty '10
- Joyful Optimism, Religion Teacher Patrick Kelleher
- Gentleness, Emma Eder '17
- Gentleness, History Teacher Muriel Croston
- Sincerity, Elizabeth Amorosi '17
- Sincerity, Margaret Farrell (Cate '17, Marie Clare '19)
- Patience, Chandini Burt (Isabella '18, Charlotte '20)
- Patience, Deidre Hill '80
- Hospitality, Grace Atiyeh '17
- Hospitality, Salesian Center Director Olivia Wills Kane '85
- Hospitality, Religion Teacher Lindsay Kelleher
Mass of the Holy Spirit Reflection, August 2016
“My prayer for all of us... is that we have the strength and the spirit of joyful optimism to approach all of our challenges, if not generously, at least cheerfully."
“We must learn what God wants of us, and having learned it, we must try to carry it out, if not generously, at least cheerfully.” –St. Francis de Sales
Like many of you, I have a summer job—I'm a lifeguard at my neighborhood pool. My duties include watching little kids to make sure that they stay afloat, blowing a whistle at people rough-housing and running, and checking visitors into the pool. Another very important component of my work as a lifeguard is cleaning—washing the bath house, wiping down tables, and taking out the trash.
All of these tasks are part of my job—I am expected to complete these duties in order to earn my paycheck. A lot of the time, though, these tasks can be discouraging. Throwing out the trash, in particular, I find difficult to stomach. It seems like people always save their grossest garbage to throw out at the pool.
One afternoon in particular sticks out. I walked over to the far end of the pool to check the trash can that no one ever uses, hoping that it was empty. Instead, when I opened the lid, I was greeted by a nauseating blast of hot air and the odor of ham, peas, Mac n cheese, Fanta, and a half-melted Sponge Bob ice pop, all soaked in rainwater from the storm the night before. I groaned, but I knew that I had to clean it up. I got some gloves and carefully tipped the can over into a new bag, but I tipped it too far and the can slipped out of my hands, spilling its contents all over the sidewalk. I felt like screaming and just leaving the mess there, but I couldn't. It was my job to clean it up. So I scooped wet noodles and chunks of ham covered in orange soda back into the bag and then took a long shower.
Why am I telling you this story in the middle of Mass? I'll read the Salesian quote of the month again.
“We must learn what God wants of us, and having learned it, we must try to carry it out, if not generously, at least cheerfully.” –St. Francis de Sales
In the story that I told, it may not have been God’s explicit will that I clean up the trash, but it was definitely the will of the pool board and my manager. I had to try and carry out that will to the best of my abilities and in the best of spirits. My action of cleaning wasn't necessarily generous, because I didn't want to do it, but I had to be a good sport for the benefit of the pool and the people at the pool. Sometimes, though, God’s will can be as gross and humiliating as taking out the garbage. We've all heard the story of Jonah and the whale—he was called by God to do something very difficult—save the people of Ninevah from their sin. He was so intimidated by this task that he ran away. God sent a whale to save him (gross) and when he was finally spit out on shore, he went to Ninevah and was able to lead them to repentance. He didn't go to Ninevah generously, but once he got there, he did God’s will with determination and faith.
Even Jesus had moments of doubt about doing the will of God. In the Agony in the Garden, he asked if the cup of suffering could not be taken away from him. But when he understood that it was the Father’s will that he should die on the cross, he accepted.
Throughout this school year, there will be many moments when it will be easy to just give up, to spare ourselves from pain, embarrassment, and difficult work. My prayer for all of us, though, is that we have the strength and the spirit of joyful optimism to approach all of our challenges, if not generously, at least cheerfully.
Mass of St. Margaret Mary Reflection
“Humility is respecting the dignity and worth of ourselves and everyone around us.”
I was truly honored when Fr. Patrick asked me to reflect on the Salesian virtue of month, Humility. Then the fear kicked in when I realized what this talk would entail. How can I write a personal reflection about how I view the world with humility? Isn’t any sentence I write about how I was humble in this situation or that situation going against the moral laws of humbleness? I was stumped, so I did what any high schooler would do. First, I procrastinated, then, when the deadline inched closer, I googled the definition of humility on the internet.
Humility is not exactly the absence of self-centeredness, though that is a quality that comes through humility. Humility is respecting the dignity and worth of ourselves and everyone around us.
When we watch the news or pick up a newspaper, we’re bombarded with stories glorifying scandal, corruption, and tragedy. Take our current presidential race for example—the candidates fall far from being role models of humility. Famous athletes, movie stars, and politicians promote an atmosphere of putting others down so you can be on top, and this dog-eat-dog world is everywhere.
As overachieving Visi girls, we’re encouraged to “be who we are and to be that well.” But this positive statement can be lost in translation as “being that well” changes to “being the best.” We feel like we're expected to be the best student, the best athlete, the best actress, the best writer, the best friend, the best girl, the best, the best, the best. We compare ourselves to our peers and develop this self-deprecating mindset that we can never be better than her or the best at this. I am guilty of doing this all the time. Even when I was writing this reflection I was comparing myself to every other Visi girl whose reflections at Mass remain ingrained in my mind.
But then I realized, isn’t humility accepting the fact that by trying your hardest, you’re being the best that you can be? Why was I comparing and putting myself in self-constructed competition with people I perceive as Great Women, when I am a Great Woman myself. All of us are amazing in our own ways, yet we continue to bring ourselves down in comparison to other people.Don't downplay your achievements to come across as humble. Celebrate them with the humility of recognizing your own worth and the worth of the people who helped you achieve that A on the math test or who helped you prepare for that audition.
By recognizing the strength and accomplishment in the people around us and in ourselves, we become Great Women of faith, vision, humility, and purpose, just like St. Jane de Chantal.
I’d like to offer one example of humility that doesn’t stem from the newspapers or the media or the movies. My grandfather, Mykola Lushniak, was a truly humble and simple man, who possessed the love and compassion of the Sacred Heart. After spending five years in a refugee camp in Germany after World War II, he and my grandmother came to America and worked on a cotton plantation until they earned enough money to move to Chicago to start a new life there. My grandfather worked long days in a factory in order to provide his children with a good education and opportunities he never had. His overwhelming desire to provide for his loved ones and to ensure they lived a successful and happy life shows remarkable humility that I can only dream of possessing.
Though humble actions may not be the stories to make the headlines, they are the everyday occurrences that show respect for human dignity all around us. By being the best you that you can be, by celebrating your strengths and recognizing your limits, you can live a truly humble, gentle, and simple life. I wish I could say that I offered the absolute best reflection on humility that has ever graced the Nolan Center Stage, though. Then again, I don’t think that would be very humble of me. However, I do believe that I offered the best that I could.
Monthly Salesian Community Mass, November 2016
“In order to carry out God’s plan for our lives, we must put all of our trust in Him.”
If you all have seen the Curious Savage already or if you are coming back in a few hours to see the play, you'll know that Mrs. Savage ultimately comes to the conclusion that good friends are much more valuable than any money and materialism. The Salesian virtue of Simplicity requires that we focus on God alone in everything. The Curious Savage shows us one meaning of simplicity: the fact that relationships bring us happiness, not money or objects. In a religious sense, we find true happiness when we cultivate a relationship with God – a deep love that cannot be satisfied by the world around us.
St. Jane de Chantal says, “Perfect simplicity consists in having but a single aim in all our actions: to please God." St. Jane gives a more spiritual definition of simplicity- that everything we do in our daily lives is for God. As a Visitation student in her first semester of senior year, it’s easy to be overtaken by stress in trying to be multiple places at once and trying to juggle as many balls as I possibly can: being a leader in multiple activities and clubs, doing work for 4 AP classes, filling out college applications, the list goes on.
For me, one of the most stressful weeks of the year is tech week for the school shows. It seems like the one week I have to be hard at work on the show for 5 hours a day, every teacher wants to schedule a test or project deadline. Although every week I attend daily morning and afternoon prayer at school, this is the week where I truly find a safe space in prayer. I can clear my thoughts and see the big picture of what life is truly all about. For a moment, I refocus and remember that God is in everything, and that no matter how stressed I feel about everyday activities, He will help me through it and shed light on the situation.
The show always comes together somehow, and I have learned to have faith that everything will fall into place, whether or not it matches the specific plan I envisioned. In order to carry out God’s plan for our lives, we must put all of our trust in Him. St. Jane reminds us that simplicity is forgetting about our own struggles and motives to remember that everything we do is for God, and that He is always there to help us along the way.
Salesian Community Mass, December 2016
“Jesus loves this world through our hearts. Jesus loves this world through our generosity to others, especially those who are hurting.”
Good Morning. My name is Abbey Doherty and I graduated from Visitation alongside the legendary class of 2010. I’m glad to be here this morning to share with you who I am and how God has been generous to me on my faith journey.
Before I share, I’d like to acknowledge and thank Fr. Ed Ogden for his service this morning, and Fr. Patrick Kifolo and Olivia Kane for inviting me to be a part of this gathering.
I also want to acknowledge any past or present Kairos retreatants here today, as well as any teachers or staff who assisted with those retreats.
Kairos was the singular powerful faith experience that brought me deeper into my relationship with God, as a teenager. I fondly look back on my Kairos retreat memories and continue to realize just how important that experience was for me as an adolescent and now as an adult. Kairos gave me the space to reflect on all the catechism I had learned through my childhood years, and realize that God’s unconditional love is one I cannot live without.
Forgive me for sounding like Charles Dickens for the next few minutes, but I’d like to share with you examples of God’s generosity to me in the past, in the present and in the future. St. Francis de Sales says,
“Our possessions are not ours - God has given them to us to cultivate, that we may make them fruitful and profitable in God’s Service, and so doing we shall please God.”
Our possessions are not ours
Two years ago, after graduating from college, I decided to return to Camden, NJ, (having been there for a service trip with Visitation). I would live there for a year on $100 a month, and serve the students at Cristo Rey Philadelphia who were commuting from Camden. I’m originally from McLean, VA and though there are similarities between Camden and McLean, initially the two places could not have seemed more opposite to me. Although it’s humbling to admit, I genuinely entered my year of service thinking that I would be the one giving to and changing others. I would be the one changing the world through the students I served that year. It’s safe to say that now, God had a different plan.
I was in the middle of my volunteer year in Camden, NJ, when I realized what God was giving me, or rather who. Carlos, Vianca, Qua’shaun, Emmanuel, Vladimir, Lennyfer, Simon and Kanece; will forever be the eight young people who changed me.
Every morning and every evening, I drove them to and from school—eight teenagers, hormones, moods, music, snacks and all, every morning at 7 am and every evening at 5:30 pm. This was not easy for me; I was working 12 hour days on little sleep. Without necessarily wanting to, I soon knew every rap song and lyric from 1999 to 2015. Vianca taught me to dance the bachata while telling me her boy drama each week. Lennyfer’s mother made me fresh atole (Mexican drink with hot milk and rice) every cold morning in December. Emmanuel made fun of me every day for the songs I requested to play on the radio, Qua’shaun asked me what college was like, Vianca innocently asked me one morning “Ms. D, what kind of white are you?”
The list of memories goes on. In the midst of the hardest and most challenging year of my personal life, I came to the van each morning with what seemed like nothing to give them. My energy was depleted, at an all-time low. And yet, every morning one of them managed to bring me out of myself and make me smile.
For a long time, I felt close to God in ministry and only in service to others. I felt close to God as an obligation to God. I believed that the unconditional love Jesus offered me had to be earned. I had to earn it. I believed that the more service I did, the more Jesus would approve of me. This belief brought me to exhaustion. We cannot earn God’s love. Love is our free gift.
One day later in the spring, while Emmanuel, Lennyfer, Vlad and I were walking to the van, Emmanuel looked at our group and said “the van is fam, isn’t it?” Every day, these eight students loved me with all of my flaws, and I loved them back.
Friends, this is the generous love God offers to us every day. Generosity is often understood as the virtue of giving. But these eight young people taught me that giving from emptiness does not work for very long. Especially in our dark, tired and more personally challenging seasons, God’s message is simple: receive. Receive me.
Thousands of years ago, two young people gave themselves to love and raise the son of God. [Mary and Joseph, by the way]
We do not need to do anything to earn or achieve the love of Jesus. Even with our flaws, Jesus loves us for our whole person. We need only look for who he loves us through.
Our possessions are not ours…God has given them to us to cultivate
I am now in my third year of living in Camden. I work with middle school students in the remaining five catholic schools in the city. My students face obstacles each day that I could not have faced at their age. They are braver, stronger and more resilient than I am. When I hear about what they are going through, I sometimes become very sad. There are days that make me question; where God is hiding today? Where is the light in this situation?
There is a stray patch of sunflowers outside of my apartment that I pass each day on my way to work. They are 10 feet tall, bright yellow buds standing on sturdy green stems with large green leaves. They have been growing there since July and even this past week in the cold temperatures, two of them still open to the sun each morning. Some mornings, I remember them, stop, and look at them. I take a deep breath. I enjoy them with God. Some mornings, I rush past them and only see them on my way in the door after a long day. It’s December 18 and they were still there this morning.
Our God dwells in the present moment. We are not far from God, right now. In this moment, all of God can be with us. By stopping and taking a deep breath, I realize that God did not leave; I only forgot to look for God.
I challenge you, for this last week of Advent, take a moment each day. Connect to the present moment. Cultivate the present moment. I promise you, God is there, waiting for you.
…That we may make them fruitful and profitable in God’s service
I’ve realized that Saints are idealists. The last part of St. Francis de Sales’ quote speaks of an ideal that we as Christians hope for, but do not know will happen. We hope that our lives will be of use to others, that our talents may bring others joy, and that ultimately God will be glorified through what we give to the world. Truthfully, when we give of ourselves in service, in charity, in generosity, we do not always see the fruit of that gift we give. Of course, God’s relationship with us is not contingent on the amount we give. God freely gives love to us.
I’ve learned, however, that even though we do not always see results or receive a reward, the giving is still crucially important for our human family. There will always be a need for love, wholeness and justice in our world. After a year when words of division were particularly poignant, we are reminded of this need more than ever. Right now, as we sit here, there are families being torn apart by war in Syria. There are children who are not safe and will not receive a warm Christmas meal or gift. There are men and women who are homeless. There are women who are trapped in slavery. There are human beings vulnerable and desperate for God to love them. Though we may not know if our gifts are good or pleasing, we must still give them. I offer you an unconventional interpretation of Christmas with the help of Thomas Merton, he says,
"Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ comes uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it, his place is with those others for whom there is no room. His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst."
Jesus loves this world through our hearts. Jesus loves this world through our generosity to others, especially those who are hurting.
This Christmas, I urge you to make room for our uninvited Jesus. I urge you, with your family, to hold the most vulnerable of our human family in your heart. Look for how God generously loves you. Ask yourself how you can give this love back to our world. Someone, right now, is waiting for your gift.
SGA Cub of the Month Reflection, September 2016
“I find it impossible to set foot on our campus without being excited about teaching because the students are so enthusiastic about learning.”
When I shared with my brother, Bryan, that I had received this award, he said, “Do you think they meant to give it to Mrs. Kelleher instead?” Of course, I was just as surprised, but I told him that it was not, in fact, an error and that she had been named Cub of the Month for this same virtue last September. Of course I cannot even dream of living up to Mrs. Kelleher’s example, let alone that of Francis de Sales or Jane de Chantal, but as Father Bischoff, a Jesuit priest at Xavier, used to remind me, “We are all saints—sinners who keep trying.”
One year ago, as many of you may remember, I stood before you to deliver a speech on behalf of Mrs. Kelleher, who had just begun her maternity leave to be with our then newborn son, Jack. Watching Jack grow, learn, experience new things, and meet new people reminds me of a passage from the Gospel of Matthew: “At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” Like all babies, Jack has his tired and cranky moments, but he is incapable of pessimism and cynicism; he approaches each new person and new discovery, almost always, with unbridled joy and enthusiasm. While you young ladies are not necessarily children anymore, I find it impossible to set foot on our campus without being excited about teaching because the students are so enthusiastic about learning.
Two remarkable Jesuit priests came to mind when I began reflecting on the Little Virtue of Joyful Optimism. The first, my friend Father Tim Meier, is a professor of Neuroscience and U.S. Army Chaplain who I met over ten years ago at Xavier University. He always answers his cell phone with the same greeting, “A very gracious good morning/evening, how may I be of service?” No matter what mental, physical, and spiritual challenges a day serving hundreds of soldiers may bring, Fr. Tim maintains a spirit of joy that is contagious. I hang up the phone with him feeling encouraged and inspired to make others feel the same way.
The second Jesuit priest, our Holy Father Pope Francis, has written extensively on joy. He offered the following simple but brilliant exhortation in his book, The Joy of Discipleship: “Dear friends, be glad! Do not be afraid of being joyful!” I’m sure we can all call to mind an image of Pope Francis, just about one year ago, touring Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York City with tremendous joy, ordering his Fiat to a halt in order to lift babies, to embrace those with physically disabilities, and to cheerfully greet a school boy or girl who offered him flowers or a drawing.
Both priests dedicate their thoughts, words, and actions to the Greater Glory of God. When I am able, in some small way, to do the same, I find that Joyful Optimism necessarily follows.
Thank you to the SGA for this recognition.
Feast of St. Francis de Sales Mass, January 2017
“When we treat each other with gentleness—with respect, empathy, and love—the bonds we form unite us, strengthen us, and build us up to reach our fullest potential as children of God.”
Everybody suffers. In this room right now, someone struggles to cope with doubts of self-worth, anxiety, depression, the death of a loved one, financial difficulty, a diagnosis, or some other physical or emotional pain. And I guarantee you, there is more than one person in this room struggling with these afflictions or numerous others. Stop to think about that. People sitting next to you, people you pass in the hallway, people who, on the outside, seem to have the perfect lives or to be the perfect people--they all carry their own crosses. How can we support each other? How can we find and give strength to others when our own suffering weighs us down?
St. Francis de Sales tells us, “There is nothing so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” It takes strength to see past your own personal struggles and feelings, to control frustration or anger or exhaustion and instead embrace respect and kindness and optimism. It takes strength to listen to people who have opposing views instead of immediately shutting them down. It takes strength to understand other people, to empathize with them and to treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve as fellow human beings.
And yet when we do, we help others find the strength they need to endure their own suffering. The Lamb of God, a symbol of gentleness, teaches us to treat others with compassion, which actually means “to suffer with.” We find our suffering Christ in our suffering neighbors. How would we treat people we encountered every day if we remembered their suffering and sought to alleviate it?
So be gentle with others, and be gentle with yourself. We are not perfect--and that’s okay. There is beauty in imperfection because it points us to God. We wouldn’t need to go to school if we already knew everything, and we wouldn’t need to be on this earth if we were already perfect. We have a great opportunity to learn and grow from each other. When we treat each other with gentleness--with respect, empathy, and love--the bonds we form unite us, strengthen us, and build us up to reach our fullest potential as children of God.
Cub of the Month Reflection, January 2017
“To me, gentleness is not meekness, just being quiet, or doing what we’re told. Rather, gentleness is about seeing what is right, looking for the best in others, and standing up for it.”
While I am incredibly honored to be your Cub of the Month for gentleness, I have a confession to make: I don’t always feel gentle. For example, sometimes when I’m stuck in traffic on my way to an appointment, my horn just dares me to push it. Many days I feel less than gentle when reading the news. There are wrongs in the world that good people need to right.
To me, gentleness is not meekness, just being quiet, or doing what we’re told. Rather, gentleness is about seeing what is right, looking for the best in others, and standing up for it.
This is part of what it means to “Live Jesus.” Sometimes, this happens in our day-to-day lives when we hold the door open for someone on crutches trying to escape St. Joe’s during a class change. It also comes from not pre-judging others. As someone who lives each day in chronic pain, I never wonder why someone takes the elevator up one flight because they “look healthy.”
It’s not just our friends, but the broader world that needs our gentleness – good gentleness. Sometimes our world seems to be trying to create distance between us. This can be seen in technology that allows cruel words to be written that never should be spoken. It also can be seen, at times, in our political discourse. But, gentleness is a recognition of our shared humanity. It sees that we all have burdens to carry. Gentleness looks in the eyes of a refugee mother fleeing violence in her homeland and sees Mary, the mother of our Lord fleeing to safety with her child. This brings to mind a quote attributed to Teresa of Avila, “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world…”
While we’re undoubtedly far from perfectly gentle in all that we do, we must keep trying. We must look for the best in each other and strive to be the hands and feet of Christ on this earth. This doesn’t just mean being nice – it means standing up for what is right and for those unable to defend themselves.
I will offer you a quote from Pope Francis: “God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs, or anything else – God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”
This quote reminds me of a time a few years ago, when I chaperoned the Sophomore Service Day. I escorted a group of girls to a day shelter for homeless adults, most of whom were men. As we passed out our sandwiches and aimed to bring a smile to these people who have suffered so much, I wondered what impact this was having on the girls. As we walked back to campus, one of the girls noted that she had been disappointed initially to know she was going to work with homeless men, as she’d been hoping to be assigned to help children. However, she noted, her thoughts changed after our visit. Children, she surmised, were easy to empathize with. But after our day together, she could not walk past a homeless man holding a sign on the street the same way again. This is gentleness.
Ash Wednesday Mass Reflection, February 2017
“Did God specifically say, 'Let there be light, and let Elizabeth Amorosi be a wave in the play so that she can bring honor to me?'”
As some of you may know, I landed a small role in Gonzaga’s spring play, Curtains, which, by the way, runs this weekend and next weekend! In the play, I have a variety of tasks, one of which I will explain in detail.
One rehearsal, the director asked the girls in the show to stand up so that he could assign roles for a big dance number. I stood tall and proud as the director scanned the room, telling the shorter girls to sit down until only four girls and I were left standing. The director’s eyes finally fell on me, and he said, “Close…but not enough. Sit down.” The director explained, “Alright. So the four tall girls will act as mermaids, while others will learn a dance routine, and you and three other girls will be the waves.” I got psyched, imagining myself becoming a makeshift ocean complete with water and currents.
I soon found out the depth of my task, and it was kind of shallow—puns intended. As soon as the coordinated dancers dance out of the way, I run out with a cloth of blue hues resembling the ocean. I wiggle the aquamarine cloth right and left, up and down for twenty seconds, and then I hastily gather the cloth and run off stage. I felt underwhelmed. Let’s be real, Visitation; someone had to be the wave, but it was so easy to make it about myself. I wanted to have a moment in the spotlight, and acting as the wave reduced me to part of the backdrop.
This month’s Salesian virtue is Sincerity, and this month’s quote is, “Let us be what we are and be that well, in order to bring honor to the Master Craftsman whose handiwork we are.” -St. Francis de Sales.
Do I identify as a blue cloth? Did God specifically say, “Let there be light, and let Elizabeth Amorosi be a wave in the play so that she can bring honor to me”? Of course not! But just because I’m not a wave does not mean that I can’t be a wave well. Instead of thinking of my role as silly, I could offer my action sincerely. So I practiced moving the wave up and down, bunching it up, and running off the stage. When I looked beyond myself and put a sincere effort forward, I saw that my humble wave brought honor to the rest of the show by helping create a spectacular dance number.
As you reflect during this Lenten season and perhaps offer a Lenten resolution, I ask that you remember my wave, and find your own. Let your wave be something, big or small, that you offer up not because it will benefit you, but because you will help another and bring honor to God. For example, I always fall into the trap of “giving up” things with the motive of helping myself, like giving sweets because I want to be more fit, not because I want to make a sacrifice for a greater purpose. Try to give up something harder like TV so that you spend more time with family or resolve to be kinder to others and yourself. With each wave you create, you're one step closer to becoming that ocean.
Monthly Salesian Community Mass, March 2017
“At this point in my life, sincerity means lovingly telling my children that not only do I definitely not know enough Math to help them with their homework or insight to choose the right college or the right thing to say to minimize their disappointments.”
When Father Patrick invited me to give the reflection for today’s Mass on the Salesian theme of “sincerity”, my first response was that I sincerely wished he could have thought of someone else.
I never hear that quote of St Francis de Sales without remembering the day my oldest daughter told us that all the Visitation girls would be giving tours at the prospective student Open House the next day. My daughter was a bright-eyed enthusiastic freshman and she could barely contain herself. And with all the goodness of a Visi girl, she breathlessly explained that the Admissions Director told the tour guides to “be who you are and be that well, but just try not to overwhelm anyone”.
For the reflection, this morning, I would like to offer my thought about how sincerity is the virtue and perhaps the gift of mid-life.
I remember well when I was a bright-eyed high school student in the early 80s (a period my own children now study in school). As a young woman, I was often concerned with how I would manage to break glass ceilings, to get ahead and to “have it all” – which I defined as success in my career and family life. Again and again, I was told, especially by the wonderful Sisters at Marymount that if I worked hard enough, it could all be mine.
I worked hard, prayed faithfully, “leaned in” and found myself in my late 30s with a life-giving career in public health and even more blessed by a wonderful husband and 1, 2, 3, and then 4 happy, interesting children. These were heady days indeed. And yet, I felt (and feel) as if I was always precariously balancing things and never quite enjoying any one aspect. Indeed, instead of worrying about “leaning in,” I was always in danger toppling over. My worries about not “having it all” were replaced with the very real concern about not having enough.
I had read enough Penelope Leach books to successfully get my children to age 5 or so, but as they got older there was more of their lives that could not help navigate. That had challenges, frustrations and disappointments that were beyond my control, much less my expertise and training.
A busy household and two advancing careers makes it hard for even the best marriages not to suffer from neglect – and there were times when ours were no exception. But what I found hardest of all was the changing relationship I had with my parents.
My parents had always been such a great source of support and wisdom and in recent years, that relationship flipped and suddenly they increasingly turned to me for counsel, advice and help. It was very clear that the life I had was a life for which I was ill-prepared and poorly-equipped. And believe me – it showed.
It became very clear very quickly that in order to navigate this time in my life, the most important virtue I could practice was that of Salesian sincerity – that I had to be honest with myself and those I love most and remember that at this point in my life especially, I truly am called to “be who I am and be that well”, not for the dream of having it all, but “in order to bring honor to the Master Craftsman”.
At this point in my life, sincerity means lovingly telling my children that not only do I definitely not know enough Math to help them with their homework or insight to choose the right college or the right thing to say to minimize their disappointments.
There is plenty I do know though and believe me, I don’t hesitate to shoot from the hip – such is the prerogative of midlife. But some days I don’t have the patience to be the wife and mother they want and need me to be and God calls me to be. I am a successful partner and mother to the extent to which I practice sincerity and ask my children or husband (or both) for their forgiveness and the chance to begin a day anew and to start over after a misstep or thoughtless act.
With my parents, successfully navigating the end of their lives meant standing with them through difficult decisions and challenging times – and embracing with sincerity that showing up and being present is the only and yet the most important thing we can do for another.
Since my daughters came to Visitation, it has been a sincere blessing to be part of the Salesian community – and so many blessings have come to me through this community. As a wife, mother and daughter I have drawn true inspiration through the life of St Jane de Chantal as I have come to know her through Sister Berchmans’ monthly Salesian friends group.
No one shoots from the hip quite like St Jane. (well, maybe Sister Berchmans). St Jane in her time “had it all” – an active family and robust career. She was a widow and a CEO. Her letters so clearly reflect the sincere struggles that come from “having it all”. How can you not appreciate the “advice” she gave her daughter about marriage:
“I’m certainly very happy that your relatives and I arranged this marriage without you, for this is how things should be, and dearest, I want you to always follow my advice” (page 210)
as well as her sage reflections after things went awry at her work:
“I think that from now on, the Sisters should be asked to give their opinion only after they have left the Novitiate” (page 247)
St Jane is a wonderful example for all of us seeking to lean in without toppling over because she embraced her life, herself and her faith with a robust sincerity.
As we go forth today through the last weeks of Lent, I encourage you to also consider how we best live lives of Salesian sincerity – to be who we are and be that well – not to overwhelm those around us or ourselves – but truly to “live Jesus” and bring honor to the Master Craftsman whose handiwork we are.
“Being a child of God is the highest calling on this earth, so be patient with yourself, beloved family, as God transforms you into something you never imagined."
“Be patient with everyone but especially with yourself; I mean that you should not be troubled about your imperfections and that you should always have courage to pick yourself up afterwards.” - St. Francis de Sales
Beloved family, I’ve been asked to offer a reflection on patience, and I was delighted to share my thoughts on this. I’m a New Yorker, so patience did not come naturally to me, and I would not have been able to give this reflection in my 20s. Control and freaking out, was more my style, and, I was a borderline diva … back then. Thankfully, God changed me, and made me a patient person, for the good of others.
How did he do this? Well, I’ll tell you. I used to be impatient about everything in my life, until I experienced the love of God. I came to realize that God cared about my problems more than I ever could. I saw that Jesus always has the highest good Planned for us, beyond anything we could plan for ourselves, so I learned to be patient. Watching his pattern of taking over, I began to trust God with all of the details of my life - my dreams - my hopes - my fears, and by the way, he’s answered most of my dreams, and has crushed all of my fears.
I began to think, I’m God’s child and bug him constantly, with the same old prayers begging for forgiveness. I must sound like a broken record with all of my needs … how does he put up with me? He loves us deeply, and feels what we’re feeling, and wants to hear from us. He longs to be your best friend, and the one, you come to first.
I realized, if he’s so patient and tender with me, I’m going to patient with myself, and others. Jesus tells us in John 15, “You can do nothing without me”. So, I’m thinking, I’ve fallen on my face enough times, I need to take this advice and not humiliate myself further, and just wait on him. We were not designed, by our God, to carry our problems alone. We were to give our burdens to Jesus, who would take care of us. Huge miracles follow, as we forgive ourselves, and trust, and wait.
I will never be able to wrap my mind around how big God is and how much he does for us. He’s an artist and is shaping us all the time to shine in this world. Did you catch that – you’re becoming a diamond! He does his transforming work in us, especially when we’re waiting, because we can hear him in quiet times. Being patient, allows us to tune into God’s voice and Jesus said “My Sheep Hear My Voice.” Who doesn’t want to hear directly from God? I remind myself that his timing is perfect, not mine, and it is.
When I get anxious, I’ve learned to take my eyes off of the problems, and instead, see how powerfully God is working out other areas of my life. The Lord often does big miracles, just to get my attention and build my faith, even when I haven’t asked for anything.
I cultivated a high level of patience, realizing that I’m God’s child, and he’s responsible for me, and you. Wow, that’s really awesome, to be taken care of in adulthood. Being a child of God is the highest calling on this earth, so be patient with yourself, beloved family, as God transforms you into something you never imagined.
As you are waiting and forced to be patient, look around, God is working on your behalf. He's put people in place to help you. He's suddenly changing circumstances in your life that are not just coincidence. If you've been patient for a long time, know that Jesus loves you too much to leave you dangling, and is doing things for you, that your human eyes can't see.
When I have to wait for something and be patient – here are my absolutes from the Bible, that help me be patient: 1) He is good. Period. (Psalm 107:9) 2) He is always with me. Period. (Matt 28:20; Isaiah 41:10) 3) He’s always in control and has the final word. Period. (Psalm 27:1) 4) Nothing can separate me from the love of God. Period. (Romans 8:38) And the ultimate scripture for patience 5) Be still and know that I am God. Period. (Psalm 46:10) God is the author of time and will plan every moment of your life, if you let him.
Finally, I encourage you with these words, your impossible is possible, because anything is possible, with God. As you wait, life with God will be an adventure and full of surprises!
Blessings, beloved family, as we enter into Holy Week together. Thank you.
Alumnae Reunion Mass, April 2017
“Standing in patience helps me to know that God's time is always the right time.”
Saint Francis de Sales instructs: “Be patient with everyone but especially with yourself; I mean that you should not be troubled about your imperfections and that your should always have courage to pick yourself up afterwards.”
How often have we snapped at someone—a child, a spouse, someone at work or an ailing parent?
I know I have and every time I look at my behavior, it realize it is not about the other person, but the lack of patience with myself for not being able to “fix” the problem presented to me.
The prevalence of mobile technology infers that everything must be done NOW, can be fixed NOW. But not everything can be fixed, at least not by human intervention.
When dealing with ourselves, and not with our computers, change is slow. In the beginning, our efforts are usually more failures than successes. Learning patience with self occurs gradually with daily practice.
I have been a lay minister for over 30 years and continue to learn that patience is an interior state. In order to minister effectively, whether at home or at work, I have learned to take a slow, deep breath before dealing with the challenges inherent in interpersonal interactions. In order to bring Christ to the interaction, I must be centered on Him and His Word, to be patient as He has been patient with me. I must be at peace with who I am and how I am called to manifest the Spirit at that moment. I must be willing to forgive as He always forgives me.
Patience requires that we persist, despite some failures, in our attempts to change. Patience calls for deliberate reflection, affective commitment and self-discipline.
Patience also comes into play in our “timing”. We often need to wait for the “right time” to begin manifesting new behavior or to introduce a sensitive topic with another. Patience dictates we pray for divine guidance on what to do and when to speak.
I regularly notice that “God’s Time” seems so much slower than “my time”. God is infinitely patient with us. Despite our faults and failures, God sustains us. With an extended appraisal of any given situation, we are more patient with ourselves and with others and not in such a hurry. Standing in patience helps me to know that God's time is always the right time.
Empathy is a direct offshoot of patience. Being able to sit with someone in their pain, loneliness or fear means I understand what that feels like. I can be more gentle with another if I understand what it means to be gentle with myself.
Virtues like patience are very often interpreted by others as “extraordinary”. Patience is not “extraordinary” or “special”. On the contrary, patience is a simple, but compelling, virtue which makes a difference in our day-to-day lives and the lives of those with whom we interact.
Saint Francis de Sales saw great power in patience. If we reflect on the role of patience with self, it will shape our lives and relationships. It will help us form and build community. With patience, centered on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we can change the world.
May God grant each of us patience, pardon and peace.
Feast of the Visitation Mass, May 2017
Hospitality... “It's simple, yet difficult all at once, for we need to practice this virtue all the time.”
St. Jane de Chantal once wrote “May our hearts be enlarged with compassionate loving support of our neighbor! Let us always be ready to serve, assist, console, support, and comfort others as much as possible in a spirit of joy and cordiality.” When I volunteered to give the reflection on hospitality, I immediately thought of my mom and dad. If any of you have been to my house, have met my parents, or have crossed paths with them as they help out with the concessions stand during the plays and musicals, you know that you cannot walk by without them giving you something to eat or drink. They open their house to anyone who needs and always makes sure that our guests feel at home. That’s just how they are: the epitome of hospitality and friendliness.
Although I cannot say that I am as generous as my parents, I can say that I do know what hospitality looks like. It is opening your home and kitchen to people around you, making sure that people feel welcome in a strange environment, and taking the time to just care for others. It's simple, yet difficult all at once for we need to practice this virtue all the time. No, we don't always necessarily have to feed everyone we meet, but we can make sure that they all feel welcome, at home, and comfortable in a new place or around new people.
I am very happy to say that I have experienced hospitality myself when I came to Visitation my freshman year. Yes, our junior and senior classes and all the teachers were very hospitable, but one group of people truly stepped up to make us feel at home: our commons roommates, who are now seniors and going to leave the school in a few weeks. So, at this time I would like to thank the seniors, who, to me, will always be the cool sophomores who knew what they were doing and always seemed to stay sane when things got hectic. You treated us so well, showing us the way around campus, making sure we got to class on time, and helping us adjust to the crazy thing that is a visi girl’s life. Thank you for always having our backs when we needed it and for giving us the little push of encouragement that was sometimes necessary when we so badly wanted to give up.
I have witnessed your kindness, compassion, and hospitality in chorus homeroom, in the musicals and plays, in the classrooms, and everywhere in between. You made us feel comfortable in a place that we hadn't been able to call home yet and, because of this, I know that all of you will succeed wherever you go and in whatever you do. Even though ignoring and giving up on us when we needed help was the easiest option, you knew that love and hospitality should be freely given and shown.
Next year, you guys will be off spreading your smiles and laughter in a place other than Visi and it will be up to us and everyone else that you left behind to show love and kindness. Although a daunting task, it somehow doesn’t seem so scary because you have made such an impression on our school and you have taught us all so many invaluable lessons, only one of them being the ability to constantly show hospitality and kindness to our neighbors. I'm pretty sure that I speak for everyone here because when I say this. Thank you all so much for everything you have brought to visi. Thank you for smiles, your laughter, and your happiness. Thank you for your willingness to learn, to fail at times, and to succeed at others. Thank you for leaving your very own and very unique stamp on Visitation and on our hearts. And thank you for being amazing freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Finally, thank you all for being wonderful friends.
Monthly Salesian Community Mass, May 2017
“Welcome, I’ve been expecting you!”
When I returned to Visitation in the early 1990s to serve as Director of Admissions, I was keenly aware of the privilege - and responsibility - I had of serving as a minister of the Salesian virtue of hospitality. I was often the first person a family met - and therefore the first impression a family received - of Georgetown Visitation. Some families were very familiar with Visitation. Yet to so many others, Visitation was a complete ‘unknown’ - and in their eyes, they were completely ‘unknown’ to Visitation.
Yet, as I have heard Sr. Jacqueline, say so simply and yet so profoundly over the years to incoming freshmen and their families, “Welcome! We have been waiting for you! We have been expecting you! We have been praying for you since before you were born - for every day, the Sisters pray for all students who have attended Visitation, who attend Visitation now, and who will someday attend Visitation.” Visitation may have been unknown to them, but they were never unknown in the hearts and through the prayers of the Sisters of the Visitation. We had been waiting to welcome them.
To me, this anticipatory hospitality is the essence of hospitality in the Visitation tradition. The Sisters of the Visitation’s humble way of Living Jesus… Daily inviting me to see every encounter with another as an opportunity for The Visitation - going in haste to one another, being in loving service to one another, carrying Christ to one another.
Our Visitation school history and monastic charism have a long tradition of both celebrating diversity and valuing community through the expression of Salesian hospitality. Appreciation of difference and hospitality to all are Salesian companions and cornerstones of the Visitation order whose founders welcomed women who had not traditionally been able to join monastic communities.
This community philosophy of valuing diversity and inclusivity was reinforced to me each fall in admissions as I would listen to hundreds of different fourteen-year-old girls describe their impressions of the one “Visitation girl.” Remarkably, they never described the same person. I came to realize that each applicant’s perspective was uniquely influenced by the myriad facets of her identity that were a mirror of those at work in our world: ethnicity, family composition, race, religion, language, ability, identity and orientation, socio-economic status. I loved that each unique girl could envision herself being welcomed for the one-of-a-kind person she is, to then join in community be wearing the exact same uniform - common cloth that represents unity of spirit while not requiring uniformity of identity.
There are so many beautiful metaphors for hospitality that has been described as “the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity (Louis, chevalier de Jaucourt describes in the Encyclopédie)” - an extra place being set at the dinner table for an unexpected guest, a warm bed and a hot shower for a weary traveler, an open office door for a student or colleague to come in and talk about what’s on their mind. But, in our Visitation Salesian tradition, it is this metaphor of a mirror that resonates most strongly when I meditate on the virtue - and grace - of hospitality.
Hospitality is more than inviting someone into your school, into your home, into your workplace, into your monastery... into your life, but rather allowing yourself to be a Salesian mirror for them to see themselves, perfectly imperfect, loved unconditionally and made in the image and likeness of God. For each person we encounter is Christ - those to whom it is rewarding to show hospitality and those to whom it is a great challenge. And, for each person we encounter, we are the face of Christ, echoing Sr. Jackie’s greeting of Salesian hospitality, “Welcome, I’ve been expecting you!”
Faculty and Staff Meeting, May 2017
“We must go out in hospitality. We must be willing to leave our homes and make our hearts a dwelling place.”
Eduardo Arroyo was the most difficult student I have ever taught. He was an obstinate and argumentative fifth grader in my classroom at Guardian Angels School in Denver eight years ago. In my more patient moments, I would remember the many difficulties of his home life and family situation and temper my reactions to his outburst with compassion. In other moments, I struggled to summon the joy and cordiality that St. Jane describes in this month’s quote.
One spring afternoon, as we were reading a beautiful novel called Esperanza Rising, a book I’d recommend to anyone with middle school readers out there, Eduardo interrupted me. “Miss Fitzpatrick, Esperanza reminds of that woman who shouted to Jesus, Ravioli! Ravioli!” I was speechless. There is no such gospel story. The rest of the class laughed and I wondered if this was a silly attempt to derail my lesson. Once Eduardo mentioned the empty tomb, I realized he spoke of Mary Magdalene and a resurrection story we had read together a month before. In John’s gospel, when Mary Magdalene grieves at the empty tomb and is comforted by a man she thinks is the gardener, the Risen Jesus calls her by name and she sees him for who he truly is. Her astonished and joyful reply is one Hebrew word, roughly translated to, “My dear teacher.” Rabbouni. Not ravioli. Eduardo’s connection between Esperanza and Mary Magdalene was not just relevant but very astute.
As Providence would have it, I taught that exact same gospel story during my interview here five years ago in Father Franco’s Religion I class. I again taught that resurrection story a few weeks ago in my own class and realized, on St. Jane’s reading, this is a story of hospitality. As is always the case with Jesus, he goes out, finds the brokenhearted, and “supports, assists, consoles, and comforts with a spirit of joy and cordiality.”
My little Jack is responsible for teaching me my more recent lessons on hospitality. Like most little ones his age, he is obsessed with trucks. I think he would say that garbage trucks are his favorite but he doesn’t discriminate. Delivery. Utility. Construction. He’s a fan of all of them. We have been known to chase them down and sit and watch them at work for longer than I would like to admit. Recently I have begun to see his enthusiasm for an approaching truck mature into a friendly and cheerful interest in the driver behind the wheel.
Jack has forced us to slow down. Sometimes he is not content with a passing wave but insists we stop, observe, say hello, introduce ourselves and strike up a conversation. We have become Marvin the UPS truck driver’s fan club. As I delight it watching Jack open his beautiful heart to these drivers, I also wonder how often I rushed past or looked beyond these men who have become so much a part of my daily life these last few months. At best, I was too busy to meet their gaze and say hello. At worst, I was too self-absorbed to care about them.
I suppose this is what has transformed my understanding. We must go out in hospitality. We must be willing to leave our homes and make our hearts a dwelling place. In the early moments of Resurrection shock and joy, Jesus went out and tracked down the disciples shuttered away in the Upper Room. He shared with them the most hospitable message of Easter I can imagine: Peace be with you.
And so we pray together in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit:
Make of our hearts a home that joyfully welcome and give shelter to our students, our family members, our friends, and the stranger. Make of our hearts a home for the Holy Spirit to dwell in and radiate from.