Tuesday, November 29, 2016

An Every Day Advent

Happy Advent! Today is the first Advent weekday.
We are waiting for Jesus' arrival on Christmas; his arrival at the end of time; and his unexpected arrivals today. If you've ever waited for a loved one to come off a big jet liner, it seems that he or she is never coming. So many others drift by somewhat dazed from their long flight. I am fascinated by the variety of folks who exit first: tanned faces and flip flops tell of a Florida or Caribbean vacation; parkas and high boots say "It's cold up north!" Some passengers sport cheerful smiles, others reflect a somber demeanor. Perhaps these are coming from or going to a funeral? While we wait for Jesus in Advent, it's good to take a look at the faces that pass us by. When others see me with a serene and smiling face, it may be that Jesus is using me to bring about an "every day Advent." What do I mean by that? As Christians, we know that Jesus Christ wants to dwell in us. He wants to use you and me to make his presence felt in the every day. Not every day carries drama and excitement. I remember the first time I rode Toronto's subway system. Everyone I met was very helpful. My first impression of Toronto still brings a smile to my face. Jesus was showing me his kindness through the courtesy I received that day. Jesus likes to use disguises. For instance, Mother Teresa of Kolkata is famous for saying that "Jesus is there in the distressing disguise of the poor." The poor are not always homeless and shabbily dressed. In our homes there may be one of our children who is rebellious, or moody, or very needy in other ways. When tempted to react to resistance or crankiness, it helps to pray "Lord, what would you have me do right now?" Then we can respond to the behavior as a Christian trying to do his or her best to be a living gospel today. Of course, when we receive Jesus in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, his Body and Blood, or when we approach him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we enjoy a very special Advent visit. Certain Christian Churches have the custom of saying that "Jesus is coming soon!" When I was assigned to Hawaii several years ago, each time we drove to the airport we passed the "Jesus Coming Soon Church." Since most of our airport runs were done after sunset, the church steeple was lit up with a big neon sign: "Jesus coming soon!" As Jesus himself said in yesterday's Sunday Gospel selection, no one but the heavenly Father knows when that final public coming of Jesus will take place. That's why we need to be watchful and ready.
I am reminded of a homily I heard in a parish recently. The priest said when he worked in retail in a big department store, the owners hired "secret shoppers" who posed as customers who were less than satisfied. Some wanted a different size than was available; others wanted items that were out-of-stock. Yet, each clerk had to do his or her best to find an agreeable solution to the problem handed to them. As Jesus said about his coming, he used the word "thief". Jesus and St. Paul both referred to his coming as a thief who uses stealth to break in. Jesus is the Ultimate Good Thief who steals into our lives at the prickliest moments. As we continue our Advent journey let's allow Jesus into our lives under his various disguises. We ask Jesus to be welcoming to him in whatever disguise he chooses. We await his "coming" in this Advent season. He awaits us in prayer.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Lessons from Football

It was a fine summer day in Maine's lake region. I was just about ready to exit the pulpit after having given an invitation to the parishioners to visit our book fair. The pastor spoke up: "Sister forgot something!" I made a quick mental fact check. Father continued: "All you men who sit on the couch watching football, there's book downstairs [in th eparish hall where our display was set up] for you." I smiled when the priest reminded me of the "football book." I think it is now out-of-print, The Spiritual Lessons of Football. Since at that time I was not a New England Patriots fan, nor did I follow any other football team, I had not even leafed through the book Father pointed out. Of course, we sold out all the copies of the "spiritual football book." Today I read an article in the Boston Globe about the New England Patriots, who so far have only lost one game in this season. Tomorrow they will face one of their strongest foes. To prepare themselves, New England's coach and all the team members watched videos of their own plays, highlighting their own mistakes. Their goal is to avoid the mistakes they made, or to execute plays they had not tried so as to win tomorrow. St. Ignatius would be glad to see how they are making a football examination of conscience. No doubt coach Bill acknowledged what each player did well, and encouraged his men to keep up the good. St. Ignatius taught that the daily examination of conscience is a "non-negotiable" element of the spiritual life. The daily examen starts with praise and thanksgiving to our God for the graces received in the last 24 hours. Then one looks over the day and checks his or her response to God's grace: You may see that you had the opportunity to practice patience with one of your kids. Did you control your immediate reaction to scold him? Or, did you let loose with a "not again" complaint? Did you show your love for your spouse, or were you too busy to give that little rub to his shoulder, or kiss or when you walked in the door? Whatever your position, married or single, lay person or vowed religious or priest, the daily review helps us to be more aware of God's efforts to draw us closer to him. When we notice our failings, our sins, we don't hang on to them like a weight to be dragged around. We admit our mistakes, we tell God "I am really sorry." And as we might say to our children, "We resolve to do better the next time" we are faced with similar challenges. After we express our contrition, then we pray for the grace to continue on our spiritual journey. We tell Jesus we trust in him to provide the strength we need to overcome our habits of sin: our impatience, our reliance on alcohol or pain killers, our cover-ups for our own shortcomings. Maybe we have fallen into gossip. We plan to change the subject the next time we are tempted to take down somebody we really don't like. Whatever the sin, we admit it. We don't white wash it. We allow Jesus to dissolve our spiritual stains, better than any "oxy" soap. Prayer gives us the power to overcome bad habits, or to do a good deed for someone we may not like; to go the extra ile for soomeone who may not be able to repay us. Blessed James Alberione practiced this Ignatian examination of conscience every day. Alberione gave his Pauline Family members a short prayer that sums up the goal of the examen. It goes like this: "By myself, I can do nothing. But, with God, I can do all things. To God the honor and glory, to me the heavenly reward." The Divine Mercy devotion reminds us to pray often, "Jesus, I trust in You." With the daily awareness prayer, we can face our daily challenges with confidence.
Like Coach Bill and his players, we can go out on the field and score our spiritual touch downs and field goals with confidence and the spiritual skills we learned in our prayer time. November brings not only football and falling leaves here in New England and elsewhere. In November the Church reminds us to remember to pray for all of our deceased family, friends and for folks we have never met--all those who have gone before us. We believe that before we can fully enjoy the presence of God in heaven, our souls need to be purified of stains of sin. The poor souls, as we call our deceased, realize how now how important is every second of our life. They realize what habits of sin, or habits of spiritual neglect kept them from fully allowing Jesus to live in them. St. Paul wrote to the Galatians: "I live no longer I, but it is Christ who lives in me." The Poor Souls wait to be completely purified of all that kept them from fully enjoying the Blessed Trinity. They can no longer adjust their spiritual lives. They rely on our prayers and sacrifices to help them move on to that total bliss of the Presence of God. The Psalm says, "My soul is thirsting for the Lord. When shall I see him face-to-face?" May we perform the work of mercy to pray for the living and the dead especially during this Month of the Poor Souls. Then these souls who thirsted for the Lord will be satisfied for all eternity.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Novena to Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life

In the "Pauline Family" to which my community of Daughters of St. Paul belong,both secular and religious, our principal devotion is to Jesus Christ, and Master, our Way, our Truth and our life.In most of the myriad depictions of Jesus Master, Jesus is pictured holding a Bible in his left hand, while his right hand is raised in blessings.
In the ancient world when a master or teacher lifted up his right hand while holding two fingers together, it signified that he was indeed a qualified person with authority to teach. Statutes and pictures of Jesus Master portray him standing with his right hand having two fingers raised, as his left hand bears the Scriptures. Many of early Christian Churches portray Christ as Lord and Master. When I visited the Cathedral in Pisa, I remember how the fresco in the sanctuary depicts a very majestic Divine Master. The little camera which I had at the time could not take it all in. So I rely on my memory to visualize the majestic Christ the Master which dominates the dome above the altar. The images of Jesus Master and Teacher are a help to me in this chaotic time before the USA presidential election. As we pray this Novena to the Holy Strong One, may he enlighten us to make the best decisions. And, may he help whoever wins to be a good, wise, humble, gospel living and firm leader. We Paulines celebrate the Feast of Jesus Master on the last Sunday of October. I want to share with you The Novena to Jesus Master.
The Novena begins with an antiphon which is repeated between Scripture verses: "One only is our Master, Christ Jesus. O, come let us adore him." Then follow verses gleaned from the Gospels: I am the way, the truth, and the life. No follower of mine shall ever walk in darkness. Repeat the antiphon. You address me as Teacher and Lord, and fittingly enough, for that is what I am; for I have given you an example: As I have done, so you must do. Repeat the antiphon. Avoid being called teachers. Only one is your teacher, the Messiah. (You are all brothers.) Repeat the antiphon. A student is not above his teacher, but every student when he has finished his studies, will be on a par with his teacher. Repeat the antiphon. I am the vine you are the branches. He who lives in me and I in him shall produce abundantly. Repeat antiphon. I am the Bread of Life; if anyone eats this Bread, he shall live forever; the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. Repeat the antiphon. Go into the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The man who brelieves in it and accepts it will be saved. Repeat the antiphon. Then you may read from any of these selections: Matthew 23:1--10; John 14:1--11; Hebrews 1:1--16. A Hymn to Jesus Master may be sung here. A suggested song would be "You Lord Are the Way" by Lucien Deiss After the hymn, the leader (when there are 2 or more) says or sings: Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life. The response is: Have mercy on us. Antiphon for the Magnificat(The Magnificat is Mary's joyful hymn of praise which is recorded in Luke's Gospel, 1:46--55. O Master, we know that you are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, alleluia. "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty one has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and tp his descendants forever." Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen. The antiphon O, Master.... Let us pray: God, our Father, you sent your only Son to be our Teacher and Lord. May we ponder his teaching so that we may better understand divine wisdom. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Saintly Pauline

Today the Church celebrates a Saint who embraced a very modern apostolate, Blessed Timothy (Joseph) Giaccardo. Father Timothy, as we affectionately call him in the Pauline Family, was the first ordained priest in the Society of St. Paul, after the Founder himself, Blessed James Alberione. As a parochial vicar in the parish of St. Bernard's in the Italian Piedmont town of Narzole, Alberione noticed the signs of a priestly vocation in young Joseph Giaccardo. When Alberione asked him if he wanted to become a priest, Joseph responded enthusiastically. Then he hesitated, since his family was poor, he did not have the necessary funds to put him through the seminary. Convinced of Joseph's priestly vocation, Alberione found benefactors to sponsor Joseph in the diocesan seminary. As soon as he could, Father Joseph Giaccardo asked his bishop permission to enter the tiny community founded by Father James Alberione. When the first group of Pauline priests pledged their lives to God through vows of obedience, chastity, poverty and fidelity to the Roman Pontiff, then Joseph took on the name "Timothy" in imitation of St. Timothy, a devoted disciple of St. Paul.
The group's mission was "glory to God, and peace to men." They would carry out this motto by living an intense prayer-life and then plunging into their work as writers and editors of Catholic publications. The ever-expanding Society of St. Paul would use the printing press, the radio, films and whatever new means would be invented to "preach." These priests would not only preach from a church pulpit, but they would expand their audience to thousands of readers and viewers by adopting high speed presses and radio and television to preach the Good News. Alberione's young followers were entrusted with the task of reviving the Alba Gazette, the Catholic newspaper of the Diocese of Alba. The paper was about to go under for lack of subscribers. After Alberione took over its direction and printing, the paper thrived. Today Gazzetta d'Alba (The Alba Gazette) occupies a four story building in Alba, Northern Italy. Alberione called his mission "The Good Press" (La Buona Stampa). Aware of the radio in its infancy then, Alberione told his band of very young men that they were to use not only the press, but any of the new means which would emerge to spread the gospel. Since many of the first Pauline priests and brothers entered as youngsters, the Founder entrusted their guidance to Father Timothy. Timothy learned from Alberione to live a saintly life. He was a writer and editor for God, as well as a sought-after confessor and spiritual guide. In the 19th century Italian world, anyone who was a journalist needed to obtain a license. Both Alberione and Giacardo enjoyed being bonafided "journalists!"
Father Timothy became Alberione's right-hand-man assisting his spiritual father in myriad ways. Father Alberione founded the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master in 1947. Their Mani as prayer-warriors for the rest of the Pauline Family. These Sisters pray two Eucharistic hours each day for all the rest of the Pauline Family; and in reparation for the evil use of the media. Some Sister Disciples are talented artists and architects who use their skill to promote high quality liturgy. The Sisters also have an apostolate of assisting the clergy. Blessed Alberione entrusted the formation of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master to Father Giaccardo. Not all the official Church understood the genius of Father Alberione and his various religious congregations. When the foundation of the Sister Disciples seemed threatened to extinction because of the incomprehension of certain officials, Father Giaccardo offered his life that the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master would be approved and that they would thrive. The Lord accepted Father Timothy's offering of himself as a victim for the Father Timothy learned to accept the differences in personality between himself and Blessed Alberione. For example, Timothy loved ceremony, nice vestments and flowers on the altar. Alberione, instead, preferred simplicity. He enjoyed Gregorian chant and appreciated both art and music--to a certain degree. United in their goal of promoting the Good News with the press, Alberione and Giaccardo made a great Team for Jesus and the Church. John Paul II beatified Father Timothy on October 22, 1989. What is there to learn from this saintly priest and media apostle? His silence, serenity, his deep prayer-life, his humility, and his inventivness. In their era, they were pioneers who dared to

Friday, October 07, 2016

Autumn Leaves

To all those who try to be faithful readers of my blog, please accept my sincere apologies. I am still learning time management: how to balance my prayer life, my mission, my community life, and stay in touch with my social media friends! Those on Facebook who are "friends" with me are a large number. Yet, many of them, to be honest, the great majority of my Facebook friends are unknown to me. These friends are an international bevy of men and women religious, priests and laity. Many are Catholic, others may not be. In our Pauline Family we have a prayer of praise for the media of communications which bring glory to God, and draw people closer in fellowship to one another. Personally Facebook is where I find news about family members who otherwise are far from me geographically and physically. It is true that there are some who misuse this form of Internet communication to defame others, to bully, to spread downright lies. Yet I am impressed by how many ask for prayers for themselves and many others every day. They are intercessors for the needs of others. I enjoyed a vacation that took me to Ohio for a few visits to the Canfield Fair. The Fair is one of the longest held festivities in the Youngstown, Ohio region. Whenever I am home in August and September, I try to go for at least one day. This year I think I attended 3 days. The weather was hot so I and my sisters and niece took our time to view the display, the various farm animals: draft horses, ponies, 4-H horse barns, chickens, ducks, goats and llamas. There were pigs for only one day because of the possibility of swine flu. Officials reported that there were over 500 vendors. Most of them sold food: cotton candy, Italian specialties, French fries, lemonade, apple fritters, and of course, ice cream. From the 8th grade through the 11th grade I attended the Fair as a 4-H person. I kept a horse (owned by my oldest sister) at the Fair along with those of my family 4-H club members. We had kept a record of how much we spent on feed and care for the animal, then we were judged in various competitions. 4-H (head, hands, heart and health) helped to form us kids to be responsible and accurate in the way we cared for our horse project.
At the Fair we met other 4-H'ers who had cattle. Some local churches operated food stands as fund raisers for their congregations. Ethnic groups performed dances and had stands where one could learn about their heritage. When I attended the fair we did not have Mass available. My Dad had to drive us to the 7:00 AM Mass at St. Paul's Monastery in Canfield. Now, as a Daughter of St. Paul, I realize that those Masses were my first introduction to the Pauline Family. Of course, I think St. Francis of Assisi would love to be at the Fair too. He wrote a Canticle of Praise where he tells all of creation to praise God. The varieties of farm and domestic animals, the abundance of crops on display, and the variety and ingenuity of the attendees, young and old, were a sight to behold. I enjoyed the art building filled with photos and paintings of local artists. Local musicians had a chance to entertain too. For me it would be an opportunity to have a booth stocked with upbeat quotations from Scripture, Pope Francis, and the saints to hand out. Tomorrow at our St. Thecla Retreat House in Billerica, Mass. our Sisters are hosting a weekend retreat called "Clay Pots" for Catholic media workers Pray that the Holy Spirit will indwell all those participating and directing. Some of us will be at St. Thecla's to keep prayers ascending to intercede for those on retreat. Each of us will pray an hour of adoration in the Retreat House Chapel, asking God to give special graces to our guests.
Tomorrow too I hope to invite you to visit our Webathon page. At noon and at 8:00 PM in the evening you can view and pray along with Daughters of St. Paul here in Boston via the Internet. Check out our web site: Tonight I ask you to pray for all those in the path of Hurricane Matthew, and for all its victims, especially in Haiti. I will try to be more of a blogger. God bless you!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A New Age

Earlier this week we read of the violent death of 85 year old Father Jacques Hamel, a priest of the Diocese of Rouen, France. Two young men entered the Church in the small village of St. Etienne near Rouen. They killed Father after they forced him to his knees. The Church has lived through many persecutions, some memorialized by churches, statuary and monuments. I believe it was the early theologian Origen who said, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the faith." Father Hamel could have retired 10 years ago when he reached he age of seventy-five. Since he had the energy and the will to keep in his post as an active priest, he stayed on. People loved him because of his dedication, his kindness, gentleness and humility.
One media account quoted an Algerian born Muslim woman who came to the site of the Church to offer her prayers and condolences. She had been touched by the priest's kindness. During this Year of Mercy, I am sure that Father Jacques would have whispered "Jesus, forgive them, they know not what they are doing."
Let us pray for all victims of violence and their survivors who mourn them. As Pope Francis said, "This is a war", scattered in many places. But, he adds it is not a "religious" war. Greed is the prime mover of much of the violence we witness in our life time. Although it is at times hard to watch, the movie "Blood Diamonds" shows how human trafficking, greed and violence trap men, women and children into In the USA we see racial tension, joblessness, gang violence, random shootings, and discontent among many. Others of us need to stop and refresh ourselves in prayer offered for our leaders, our priests, our Pope and each of us. May Father Hamel's death remind us of how unexpected death may be.
Following the Crucified Lord day-by-day we can overcome our fear of death, natural though it is, by daily "dying" to our selfishness and other sins. Our daily self-denial is what we can offer in the chalice and on the paten raised up in offering and consecrated during daily Mass. Is our Age, a new Age of Martyrs. Whether or not that be true, we are witnessing examples in our days: Father Hamel, the 4 Missionaries of Charity slain in Yemen, the young Christian men killed by ISIS in Libya, are part of this "New age of Martyrs." May these men and women, new Christian martyrs, intercede for us. May they pray for us to be be solid in our faith, and alive with enthusiasm for God and our brothers and sisters.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Birthday of the Church

Happy Birthday Church,that is, best wishes for a great celebration to all of us members of the Church. The Church began with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit "on Mary and the Apostles," and all who were present with them in the Cenacle. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that after the Ascension of Jesus the early Christians, Apostles and the holy women and other first disciples of Jesus. Where they had been timid about their belief in Jesus as Lord, now they were all proclaiming to crowds of people the Good News of the Savior, Jesus of Nazareth. At the Ascension of Jesus he had promised that they "would be clothed with power from on high when the Holy Spirit comes to you." May we share in this same "Pentecostal" experience and rejoice in the gift which is the grace of God and membership in this Church. Let's ask to be "clothed with that power from on high. That power grants us the seven Gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, knowledge, counsel, fear of the Lord, understanding, piety and fortitude. We can always grow in these gifts which are also virtues.
Pope Francis tells us:
We are not Christians "part time", only at certain moments, in certain circumstances, in certain decisions; no one can be Christian in this way, we are Christians all the time! Totally! May Christ's truth, which the Holy Spirit teaches us and giveds to us, always and totally affect our daily life. Let us call on him more often so that he may guide us on the path of disciples of Christ. Let us call on him every day. I am making this suggestion to you: let us invoke the Holy Spirit every day, in this way the Holy Spirit will bring us close to Jesus Christ.
As we see in the Scriptures the Apostles were gathered with Mary and they all received the Holy Spirit. Sister Mary Ann Lorraine wrote about Mary, Queen of Apostles. Enjoy her enlightening words. Here is the link which I am typing and I hope you will be able to open. http://thomasfortoday.blogspot.com/2016/05/mary-and-holy-spirit.html Let us ask Mary, Mother of Jesus and Queen of the Apostles, to grant us each a new and deep Pentecostal experience of truly living in the Spirit! Have a Happy and Holy Pentecost as we celebrate our common Birthday together!