Yesterday a friend and I had the opportunity to spend a day at the Vistation Monastery in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, a cloistered convent where Sisters of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque's order still reside and live lives of quiet prayer and recollection.
We came to join the Sisters in morning prayer and at their noon meal, and then spent an afternoon of solitude walking the serene grounds and reflecting in their quaintly beautiful chapel. The monastery is quite lovely, with magnificent artwork and Scripture passages stenciled on the walls. The Sisters themselves spend most of their day in silence, with special times set aside for prayer, work and recreation. Each one we met was warm and gracious, recalling the spirit of their founder, St. Francis de Sales, known as the "Gentleman Saint".
The name "Visitation" is based on the welcome that the Blessed Virgin Mary received from her cousin, Elizabeth, when she traveled to be with her during both their pregnancies. It is that spirit of gentle and loving hospitality that permeates the monastery, and I am quite sure that St. Margaret Mary is smiling down upon them.
Hospitality is an important part of our faith, as St. Paul reminds us: "Do not forget to practice hospitality with strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." (Hebrews 13:2) These faithful Sisters remind us all to be gracious to friends and strangers alike, and they welcome those who are searching for a contempletive atmosphere to come and be strengthened for the journey. Thank you, Sisters - may the Lord make His face to shine upon you this day!
St. Margaret Mary, pray for us!