EWTN: Notes from the Show of the Visitation Sisters
The Order of the Visitation is seen as the sanctuary of the Sacred Heart — that was one of the themes emphasized during the May 9 interview on ETWN Live with our own Sr. Susan Marie, the President of the Second Federation of the Visitation.
Here are notes of some of the talk from the first half hour of the interview, conducted by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J. See the video while reading the notes.
Fr. Mitch: It sounds odd to some people — nuns living in a monastery. You have the horarium, or a schedule for the day. You live by the bell.
Sr. Susan Marie: Yes, the tradition is that you stop everything and run to your Spouse. The Visitation Order was started on June 10, 1610, by St. Jane Frances de Chantal, under the inspiration of St. Francis de Sales. Her husband had died. She had to raise four children. She met St. Francis in church. In a prayer experience or vision, each person saw the other person before they met.
Fr. Mitch: The Order spread throughout France. The Sacred Heart of Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.
Sr. Susan Marie: St. Francis felt that we (the Order) were the heart of Christ. This was confirmed by the apparition to St. Margaret Mary. There were writers who said that the Visitation would be the sanctuary of the Sacred Heart.
Fr. Mitch: The Jesuits — my Order — have a relationship with the Visitation. We are the apostolic order called to promote the apparition to the Sacred Heart. Does the Sacred Heart spirituality remain today in the Order?
Sr. Susan Marie: Yes. We have a heart-to-heart spirituality. We honor the pierced heart of Christ. We give an hour before the Lord — whatever you are doing in that time, give it to Him.
Fr. Mitch: Many people know that the Visitation Sisters offer retreats.
Sr. Susan Marie: St. Francis insisted on a period of solitude and prayer. In Annecy (where the Order was founded, in France) we didn’t have enclosure originally. St. Jane visited the sick and poor; that was part of her original ministry. But the bishop there wanted the Visitation to live the same as other cloistered nuns. Women today go on retreat and pray and eat with the sisters.
Fr. Mitch: A lot of people who go on a retreat — they just want quiet.
Sr. Susan Marie: Yes, this is a private retreat, living with the sisters. One woman who came said, “When I come I feel a blanket of peace.” The Lord’s presence permeates the monastery.
Fr. Mitch: Most orders have a spirituality they communicate in retreats. You want to guide women to do what?
Sr. Susan Marie: To guide them in their ordinary duties. St. Francis emphasized the “little virtues.” If there is trouble in families — have patience; holiness does not come right away. To live in the present moment.
Fr. Mitch: One problem people have today is that they are caught up in their own compulsions or sin or whatever.
Sr. Susan Marie: St. Francis said to love your own abjection, love yourself in your weakness, with the goal of wanting to grow.
Fr. Mitch: Encounter Jesus in that weakness.
Sr. Susan Marie: He will give you what you need. We must pray, “Lord, take me; help me.” There is a felt sense of silence — not an empty silence. The room seems full with the Lord’s presence.