How do we serve God with gentleness? What might this look like? In praying, “Father, may it be done not as I will, but as you will” how do we recognize what is the will of the Father? Consider the paragraph about Mary Magdalene. What does it mean for God to call us by name? How do we today recognize the Lord in “his gardener clothes”? What is the significance of Jesus appearing as a gardener to Mary Magdalene? Why is it so easy to think that our crosses will be “precious and fragrant” when in fact they are really “vile, worthless, foul-smelling”?
If you like the chat below, check out the Living Jesus Chat Room of the Visitation Sisters. Join us at 7:30 p.m. ET each Sunday! We read a passage or letter from St. Francis de Sales and gather great insights and sharing!
Kindness and Gentleness
Visitation Sister: I automatically think of how we deal with one another- sometimes we are not as gentle as we would like to be. Gentleness is an approach that helps people receive the aid being given usually.
Sherry: I like this definition Sister; it is like a catalyst.
Visitation Sister: Hmm that’s an interesting observation!
Sherry: I link gentleness with grace – but also with truth. I would be interested in how you distinguish between gentleness and kindness.
Visitation Sister: Expressing the truth gently?
Sherry: Yes. Communicating – or conveying truth, but so gently, that it gets easily absorbed.
Visitation Sister: I would say kindness is the action and gentleness the style in which we do the action.
Sherry: Very good, thank you. Gentle is somewhat the absence of force maybe too.
Visitation Sister: Even in prayer, say entering a Church, one can kneel down gently, or….!
Sherry: Haha... Now I need to know the other way.
Ines: Gentleness is something I did not grow up with. It is on my mind constantly, how to be gentle in every circumstance, with myself and others.
Visitation Sister: Yes, and maybe gentleness is associated with persuasion rather than force.
Ines: It is hard to be gentle with sixth graders hanging from the ceiling and cavorting like monkeys, haha.
Visitation Sister: FIRM BUT GENTLE? Does that work with 6th graders?
Ines: Yes, that’s what I strive for… sometimes it works!
Sherry: Lot of firm, and little bit of gentle.
Ines: Yes, Sherry! Exactly.
Amanda: Humble comes to mind….
Sherry: I don’t know why, but the song comes to my mind, from Mary Poppins, “a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down.”
Visitation Sister: Ah yes, and they do go together.
Ines: They don’t need any more sugar, hahaha… I get your point, though! Btw I love the Rembrandt that depicts Jesus with a large-brimmed hat as the gardener.
Sherry: I smiled at that hat too Ines.
Visitation Sister: St Francis chose Jesus’ comment about his own heart, Meek and humble of heart, as key virtues.
Ines: Aren’t they the hardest ones? Humility and meekness are not considered very important in this world.
Sherry: I think their rewards are not enough communicated.
Visitation Sister: Very countercultural today and misunderstood, as well.
Sherry: Agree. But even people who love to live a godly life take a while often to see the beauty of a life of humility and meekness.
Sherry: As you said, so countercultural.
Ines: Yes, misunderstood, definitely.
Amanda: Meek and mild, not important to be recognized but to quietly go about doing the Will of God… hard when the crosses are many….
Sherry: I love the litany of humility. Well, I love it because it helps me to make the ship of my life return to “God course” during the week.
Ines: Yes, Sherry! I also find great power in that litany of humility. Humility in accepting when I’ve made a mistake, or in pointing out someone else’s error (as I must do when teaching).
Amanda: It was only today I introduced my adult daughter to the litany of humility. It was in reference to forgiving a wound.
Ines: Amanda, thank you for mentioning that. I have an 8th grade student who is always asking how to forgive someone (a family member). I will print out the litany of humility for her.
Visitation Sister: Divine providence, Amanda!
Sherry: Good call, Amanda.
Ines: That is the question of all questions, Sister! I’m gathering from my own experience and struggle that it is precisely what is in front of me. Sometimes I imagine myself as a small child trying to wriggle out of Father’s arms, arching my back and pushing… instead of accepting what is being given to me as His Will.
Visitation Sister: We have guidelines in general but for specifics, interior life must be sensitive to little whisperings.
Amanda: I feel a certain kind of peace, I call it the ‘under the dome of grace’. Perhaps a little voice or an illumination?
Visitation Sister: I like that phrase!
Ines: To hear the little whisperings, there needs to be a certain quality of interior silence. This is sometimes hard to cultivate in lay life with so many responsibilities and things/people pulling from every direction.
Amanda: Lately, I’m seeing the importance of reading scripture so I can distinguish God’s voice when I hear it….
Sherry: When I am caught in a spiral of semi-panic that I could miss the will of God, I remind myself that all God wants from me is to live my life – with my heart close to His heart. There are not a lot of daily decisions that can catapult you totally from God’s will.
Sherry: I also have seen again and again that GOD does give second chances. Sometimes in miraculous ways.
Rebecca: Good thought, Sherry.
Ines: YES! This has been a recent message: Live your life abiding in Him.
Sherry: I agree Amanda – when we immerse ourselves in scripture reading – our hearts can become so sensitive to hear His voice.
Denise: My sheep hear my voice, John 10:27.
Sherry: Yes, Denise, exactly.
Amanda: We are like ‘The Runaway Bunny’ (Margaret Wise Brown); he is always seeking us and coming for us??.
Visitation Sister: Sometimes one gets the Word from the Bible, in a confirming sense, as to what to do.
Sherry: Like on the road to Emmaus: “didn’t our hearts burn when He talked to us?”
Ines: This has happened with me consistently, Sister. It is comforting and very helpful in discerning.
Rebecca: I think that it is not usually like a puzzle to be solved, but more like an attitude, a desire, a listening, a walking WITH. He has given us so many words to guide us. AND the Church as the repository of graces.
Ines: You are so right, Rebecca. For years I went about my life as a puzzle to unravel rather than living and abiding.
Amanda: I agree, God uses everything and everyone to speak to us….
Rebecca: Amanda, that sounds like a children’s version of “The Hound of Heaven.”
Amanda: I love that poem, Rebecca- Bishop Barron referenced it a few times….
Rebecca: Yes, God is pursuing us. The poet compares God to a dog, imagine! But oh, so lovingly.
God Calls Us by Name
Consider the paragraph about Mary Magdalene. What does it mean for God to call us by name?
Sherry: Has anyone of you seen the series The Chosen?
Ines: I have called you by name, and you are Mine. That was one of the first scripture verses that stuck with me after my reversion. Identity comes from God, is perfected, and returns to God. The Chosen! Love!
Rebecca: I’ve watched part of it — The Chosen. A local parish used it for their book discussion group recently. That is, Season 1; Season 2 is just starting.
Sherry: There is one scene in the very first episode in the last 5–10 minutes, where Mary Magdalene is tormented by demons, that make her life truly hellish. And it seems that she is contemplating to take her life, and then she meets Jesus, she does not respond to his presence, but as she turns around – Jesus is saying her name – (it is a different name as the one she was known by in the village where she lived). She turned around, and walks towards him, and lets her head fall on his shoulder. And that is where her healing happens, in being known and seen and embraced by the one who made her. I so loved this scene.
Rebecca: And in the Book of Revelation there’s a verse about God giving those he has chosen a NEW NAME (on a white stone) known only to Him and to the person who receives the name.
Denise: The most powerful scene!
Ines: Me, too, Sherry. I appreciate that they began the series with that event.
Denise: Thank you, Rebecca! It is most beautiful scene, true conversion.
Sherry: It makes me strangely happy that you loved that scene too.
Amanda: I imagine God has a special name for us all.
Ines: Our names are important, aren’t they?
Rebecca: On retreat, after reflecting on that scripture verse, I was “given” a new name in a dream. But it was written on a little BEIGH stone. And I “heard” in the dream (in German) “always written small” — as I saw it on the little stone in the dream.
Our Precious Crosses
Denise: Question 6 is good for reflection! Why it is easy to think my crosses will be precious, is this pride?
Denise: Sorry I jumped ahead.
Ines: OH yeah, like “THIS cross can’t be for me. It’s too rough and crude.” = pride (convicted!!).
Visitation Sister: One thinks of crosses in the abstract in one way, but when they arrive it can be a different story!
Ines: Oh yes, that’s so true!
Sherry: Can someone define “cross” for me?
Cindy: A cross could be anything that Jesus asks us to do, but it’s not always dramatic and hard.
Amanda: There before the grace of God, without him any cross is too difficult for me to bear… keeps me on my knees… I can’t veer away not an inch… I lose my way…can’t do it alone. Praise God for helping me finally see this!!??.
Ines: Amanda — yes yes yes! I think of it as my “well” is much too shallow. I have to continuously go back to Him to be filled and renewed in grace.
Rebecca: Funny that today, without my noticing, I had the shift lock on and typed my name with a small “r”.
Sherry: For me a cross is something that makes my life hard, that forces me to step out of living for comfort and embrace pain and non-comfort.
Denise: Mortifications. The things which purify us.
Sherry: A cross is something I could avoid, but I choose not to. Even if the choosing is only my attitude of acceptance.
Ines: Mortifications = sixth graders. KIDDING. Sort of… In all seriousness, I love those kids, but my penchant for order and quiet is constantly turned into a cross amidst noise and chaos (and a need for all of us to grow in virtue).
Sherry: Well, if I keep praying that “the cross situation” goes away, then it is not a cross in my life, but an unfortunate circumstance I try to change.
Amanda: Very true, Sherry.
Ines: Sherry, you are spot on.
Rebecca: It is often, but apparently not always, the consequence of living faithfully in a faith-less world or environment. Yes, then it is like Jesus’ cross a free self-sacrifice, not an “execution.”
Ines: And when I try to change or push against the circumstance, it actually becomes MORE painful because I am not accepting grace in that moment.
Amanda: I agree, Ines.
Sherry: Yes, Rebecca, and yes, Ines.
Cindy: That is true, Ines.
Visitation Sister: Sometimes we do need help with our crosses though.
Sherry: Bring out the Simons.
Ines: Haha, Sherry! Yes indeed!
Cindy: God’s will in the moment is what we should seek. Sometimes it is hard, but if He asked us to do it, He will help us.
Amanda: God wants us to be Simons to others….
Denise: Thank God for our Saints!
Sherry: Often when we look at our cross, we can only see what it hinders – or does not allow – but when we pray that God opens either our eyes to see beyond or fills us with supernatural faith that this cross in not a “pain in vain,” then things become somewhat easier. At least I like to think that.
Rebecca: Once a supposed, well reputed, healer told me that I could not be healed BECAUSE I was “offering up” my cross. He thought that also asking to be healed would be like taking back my offering. I disagreed, though, pointing out that Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane prayed, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, but not my will, but YOURS be done.” He then realized that it was possible to BOTH offer oneself, and to ASK to NOT have to suffer.
Sherry: Great answer, Rebecca.
Ines: Yes, Rebecca. I think there’s a difference between asking for the cup to pass and actively resisting it at all costs (thereby not accepting God’s will).
Sherry: Rebecca, that needs a whole chat in itself, such a deep topic. Healing. And offering up.
Recognizing the Lord
Visitation Sister: Speaking of saints this one on St Mary Magdalene we missed: How do we today recognize the Lord in “his gardener clothes”? What is the significance of Jesus appearing as a gardener to Mary Magdalene?
Amanda: Vine dresser???
Sherry: Good one, Amanda.
Cindy: Or the farmer who plants the seed?
Sherry: I never gave a thought on that one. As for the gardener, the one thing that comes to my mind is that the garden is always a place of deep intimacy in the Bible. Jesus as the gardener could be his revelation as the eternal bridegroom. Just thinking out loud here as I am typing.
Ines: Yes, Sherry! I think of Jesus as the gardener of my soul.
Denise: St Francis says it is Our Lord “in his gardener’s clothes that you meet every day in one place and another when quite ordinary occasions of mortification come your way. You would like him to offer you different and more distinguished mortifications. But the ones that look best are not in fact the best. Do you not believe that he is saying: Mary, Mary to you? No, before you see him in his glory, he wants to plant many flowers in your garden; they may be small and humble, but they are the kind that please him. That is why he comes to you clothed in this way.
Sherry: Oh. Thank you so much, Denise. Where did you find this? Is this in our reading today?
Ines: Amanda — this is important! He does comfort us when we accept His will. I’ve found the radical difference between accepting and moving forward with Him and resisting or trying to back out. He offers the consolation and strength that we only receive if we say FIAT.
Denise: Yes, in the reading today.
Ines: St. Francis de Sales FTW.
Cindy: Oh Denise, that also sounds like the beginning of Abandonment to Divine Providence.
Sherry: I like your thoughts, Amanda and Ines.
Ines: Yes, what Cindy said about Abandonment to Divine Providence.
Denise: I have that book but have yet to read it. I must!
Sherry: Ok. Have to ask. What is FTW?
Ines: FTW = “for the win” (I was being silly). Abandonment is a must read — several times over.
Denise: Thank you Sr for all.
Sherry: Yes, thank you Sister.
Ines: I am learning and feel so connected. Thank you, Sisters! And that you, sisters in Christ!
Sherry: And thank you, all ladies.
Cindy: Thank you, Sr Susan Marie.
Sherry: I bless GOD for all of you. Have a blessed week everyone.
Cindy: This is such a great community.
Ines: I have to get going too. God bless you all this week – let’s remember to pray for each other on this journey with Our Lord.
Amanda: Thank you for the opportunity to share and to be united in Christ??
Denise: Goodnight all.
Ines: Good night!
Cindy: God bless us everyone. I just live that line from Tiny Tim.
Rebecca: Thank you, all of you. A good group! “It’s been real!” (Some of my patients, and some of my students would say that about a session or a lesson.) Let us continue to pray for one another.
Rebecca: Good night. God bless you!
If you liked the chat above, check out the Living Jesus Chat Room of the Visitation Sisters. Join us at 7:30 p.m. ET each Sunday!