Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Whole Season

Happy Easter!
You might say to me, "Easter was on April 1st. That was almost two weeks ago!" The actual Easter Day was April 1st for us Roman Catholics. For the Orthodox, their celebration of Easter was April 8th, just a week after ours. The Latin Rite, which the majority of Catholics belong to, celebrates 7 weeks of Easter.
This season, also called the Paschal Season, the first readings at each weekday Mass are from the Acts of the Apostles. Acts recounts for us the growth of the Church after the Resurrection, and especially from Pentecost up to the Paul's going to Rome.These readings show the strength and courage of Peter, John and Paul, as well as that of their companions. Where once they had abandoned and even denied Christ, now they are eloquent, Spirit-filled Apostles, fearless in the face of threats. Today's gospel reading tells of the gifts of God. These refer to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These seven gifts which we also call virtues are: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel (or Right Judgement), Fortitude (Courage), Knowledge, Piety (Reverence), and Fear of the Lord (which means a Wonder and Awe in God's Presence, see Isaiah 11:1--2). We Christians believe in One God in Three Divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Symbols of the Holy Spirit are fire, flames, wind, light, a descending dove. When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove over Jesus' head.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! Jesus Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Just as the Jews celebrate Passover for a week or 8 days, so we can say "Happy Easter" for seven weeks! The resurrection of Jesus is the pivotal truth of the Christian faith, As Saint Paul attested, "Our faith is vain, if Christ is not risen!" Since he is risen, he was seen by many after his resurrection, we have reason to hope in life everlasting. In the new movie, "Paul, Apostle of Christ", the Saint Luke character played by Jim Caviezel, gathers a group of imprisoned Christians around him to calm them as they face death by wild beasts. "You will feel pain, but it will not last." He continues, "Then you will see Christ face-to-face." He begins the Lord's Prayer with them and all accept their martyrdom peacefully. Paul who saw the Risen Jesus on his way into Damascus was so convinced that from then on, Christ, Crucified and Risen, was the Center of his life. Try to see this movie to help relate the Letters of St. Paul to our everyday life. Another good movie for the Easter Season is called Risen. It should be on Netflicks and be available at Pauline Books 7 media Centers.
In the last 12 days two Sisters of our community died. On Wednesday, March 28th, we buried our Sister Mary Philomena, who had spent 57 years in the USA evangelizing with the media. One of our Sisters who has been caring for her blood sister, laid her sister to rest last Wednesday. On the same day the brother of another Sister was laid to rest not far away, in Staten Island, NY. Today one of the Auxiliary Bishops of Boston celebrated the funeral Mass for his mother, Mrs. O'Connell. The petite Mrs. O'Connell (Delaney) died at the age of 91. She had three sons and a daughter. The youngest, Mark, became a priest and now a bishop in the Archdiocese of Boston. On Thursday, Bishop Mark O'Connell will be the main celebrant at the Mass of Christian burial for Sister Mary Augusta Biolchini who died at the age of 102. She had been the oldest Sister of our congregation which is in 52 countries! Sister Augusta came from the town of Sestola in the Modena Region of Italy. Now it is famous for its ski slopes. When Sister Augusta was just a young teen, Sestola was crowded in the summer time by vacationers who escaped the sweltering summer heat of Italian cities. Known then as Lea, she and her mother had their own cottage industry of knitting. Lea's mother scrapped up the money to purchase a knitting machine. Lea and her mother kept busy making dresses, hats, scarfs and other items of wool clothing. When Lea entered the Daughters of St. Paul, then a very new religious Congregation, she was often asked to knit new clothing for the Sisters, or to repair sweaters and wool dresses. I still have a knit sweater which I almost threw away. Sister Augusta replaced all the buttons and re-sewed the front of the sweater giving it another ten years of good use! Sister entered the Daughters of St. Paul in 1936 in Alba, Northern Italy. The new Sister loved the mission of the Daughters of St. Paul, walking house-to-house in towns and villages in the hilly region of Gorizia. (Now Gorizia borders Slovenia.) In 1958 Sister was asked to be a missionary in the USA. She went willingly. Her brothers had immigrated to Michigan and had brought their mother with them. For the last approximately 20 years Sister Mary Augusta spent her time in sewing and knitting for the Sisters of our Boston Community. May Sister Mary Augusta rest in the arms of Jesus. She had been very devoted to praying for "the poor souls." May Sister Mary Augusta's friends in who passed before her present her with joy to the Divine Master. Blessing ti all for a grace-filled Easter Season.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Sacred Triduum--The Three High Holy Days

The Holy Week liturgies have been building a sort of momentum to the final days of Jesus' life. Today is called "Spy Wednesday", since the gospel of today tells of Judas' plan to literally "sell out" Jesus--the Master whom Judas has followed for three years. Why did Judas turn traitor? One indicator is the remark in John's gospel that Judas would steal from the common money bag. Another indicator was that he seemed to have sympathies for the Zealot Party, anarchists set on a violent overthrow of Rome's hold on Israel. Jesus had talked about a kingdom "not being of this world." Judas apparently wanted the Kingdom right here, right now! Matthew's gospel says, Judas left and it was night. Judas chose the dark side, the night to do his evil deed. He walked away from the Light which he had been delighting in for three years. How many times do we walk "into the night"?
Today we held the funeral Mass for one of our Italian born Sisters, Sister Mary Philomena Mattuzzi. Sister was in the USA for more than 50 years. She had become American with the Americans. The very thought of leaving her mission field was hard to even think about. Sister Philomena came from a very small town near Verona, which is famous for two inhabitants, Romeo and Juliet. Sister had a profound impact on all of us who lived with her, especially when she was enjoying relatively good health. She was a prayerful person, yet fun to be with, energetic and apostolic. Flowers were a passion for her. She cultivated them as long as her health permitted. She spent 13 years in Buffalo, New York when snowstorms were as frequent as could be! At that time (1970's and '80's) we never even considered hiring someone to clear the snow from our parking lot. She shoveled often and well! And, so did the Sisters who lived with her. The homilist at today's Mass had asked her at breakfast one day, "What are you planning to do today?" Sister answered immediately, "God's will" would be her agenda for the day. May God's will and the journey of Jesus to Calvary be our agenda as we begin the Sacred Triduum. I promise you my prayers.

Friday, February 23, 2018

One of the Greats

Today is Friday of the First Week of Lent. This date, February 23, the Church commemorates one of the Saints of the Early Christian Church, St. Polycarp of Smyrna (now in Turkey). Polycarp could be invoked as a Patron Saint of the Senior Citizen. He was 86 years old when a persecution against Christian broke out. Polycarp had grown up knowing the Apostle John. Because this stawart Christian leader lived in the first century of Christianity, he is considered a "Father of the Church." Clement of Alexandria, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Ignatius of Antioch are considered "Apostolic Fathers" because they either knew one of the Apostles or were influenced by those who had heard the Apostles.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Lent and Spring Training

As we continue the Lenten Season, we pray for those who lost their lives in the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida. And we entrust the grieving parents, spouses, siblings, classmates, and family members to the intercession of the loving heart of Mary, Mother of Sorrows.
We pray too for our elected officials so that they may enact laws prohibiting the sales of high powered assault rifles, and that mentally unstable and violent individuals may be helped and prevented from doing harm. Lent is a sort of Spring Training for our bodies and souls as we prepare ourselves for the celebration of Easter and Jesus' Resurrection. Like coaches everywhere, the Church is asking us to be moderate in food, drink, entertainment and many ways to restrain our appetites. Anyone who has competed or even had a class in one of the sports, practice is a daily requirement. Practice turns a habit of doing good into a virtue. When you steer a conversation away from the brink of gossip and flip the topic to a positive outlook, you have practiced the virtues of prudence and charity. When we begin our day with the Morning Offering and tell the Lord that "all I am going to do today, cooking, driving, walking, praying, etc., as well as all that I enjoy and all that causes me discomfort I offer up to you Lord for you and your holy intentions. Like the pitchers of the baseball leagues, the batters, the catchers, and the first basemen and all the team's players need to be in top shape. I read an article that gave 15 ways to "Keep Lent" by doing something, or by avoiding certain foods or activities. One suggestion was for those who spend a lot of time in the gym. The author suggested cutting back on the treadmill and putting in more time in reading the Bible, or books on the spiritual life. Listening to CD's or podcasts on our Faith and spiritual lives are other ways to get in some spiritual life training.
Recently I was privileged to spend time with Sister Augusta who is almost 102. When she was hospitalized with the flu and pneumonia, she kept repeating many short prayers. When not impeded by various tubes and IV's, she kept her rosary in her hand. I can't tell you if I will ever live to be 100, but I do want to become a person of prayer so that when it is time for me to exit this world, I will have hit a "grand slam" and covered all the bases of faith, hope and charity well lived. I pray for all those who read this that you may continue this Lenten season growing in grace and virtue not nly day-by-day, but moment-by-moment!

Friday, February 02, 2018

The "Encounter in the Temple"

Have a Happy February! I looked up the origin of the shortest month of the year. February comes from the Latin "februum" which means "purification." Often the Lenten season begins in this short month which in our northern climate is often the least pleasant. As I write, the weather app on my phone tells me that it will be 32 degrees Fahrenheit when I get ready for Mass tomorrow morning.
There are plenty of days left to rejoice: 13 of them! February 2nd is a Feast in the Latin and Eastern Catholic Churches. It is the commemoration of the Presentation of the child Jesus in the Jerusalem Temple. In St. Luke's gospel, Chapter 2 tells us that Mary and Joseph took Baby Jesus to dedicate him to the Lord. Here is what the gospel says about this Feast of the Presentation:
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord",and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons." Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Guided by the Holy Spirit, Simeon came into the Temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him into his arms and praised God, saying,
Now Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel."
While still holding the Divine Child in his arms Simeon prophesied as he drected his words to Jesus' Mother, Mary, "Behold this child is destined for the fall and the rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted--and you yourself a sword will pierce--so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
Luke continues the story of this "Encounter of the Lord" who comes to his Temple. Eastern Catholics and the Orthodox Christians call this the Feast of the Encounter of the Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ. During this Encounter we are introduced to Anna, another elderly person who was waiting to see the Messiah. She who lived a life of prayer and fasting recognized the Savior presented in the Temple with Mary and Joseph. She began to spread the Good News that the Messiah had come in the disguise of a baby boy. "She spoke about the Child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Israel." I was impressed by the directness of two prayers for this day used in the Melkite Catholic Rite. From the "Publican's Prayer Book" published by Sophia Press of Boston, Massachusetts:
For the Encounter of the Lord O Christ God, who through Your birth have sanctified the virginal womb and have blessed the arms of Simeon, You have come today to save us. When wars prevail, keep your people in peace and strengthen our public authorities in every good deed, for You alone are the Lover of Mankind.
Here is another prayer from the Publican's Prayer Book
O Mother of our God, Hope and strength of all Christians, watch over those who place their trust in You O Most Pure. Let us, O Faithful, glorify the First-born, the Eternal Word of God, born of the Virgin All-Pure, for we have seen beyond the shadow and the letter of the Law, a sign of Christ in these words: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.
As Pope Francis pointed out in his homily given in Rome today, the Encounter in the Temple was not just a meeting with Simeon and Anna. Francis invited us to remember that when Jesus comes into the temple, into his Church, it is a meeting with others, with all the baptized. This episode highlights the totality of membership in the Church: rather than just a "personal relationship with Jesus," being a member of the Church puts me and you into relationships with others. Today in Rome (this Sunday in North America) the Church celebrates Consecrated Life. What's Consecrated Life? It happens when men and women pronounce vows of obedience, chastity and poverty, consecrating themselves for life to the service of God and of his Church. As the Scripture said about Jesus, he was designated, or dedicated, to the Lord God, so men and women who are vowed religious, and lay men and women who live their dedication to God "in the world" are doing their best to imitate Jesus. If you are reading this and you are not a "consecrated religious", not to worry! When you were baptized you were consecrated to God then. The vowed consecrated life is a calling to be a reminder and a witness to the supernatural. We do not work for wages for ourselves, we do not own personal cars or properties. We are free from certain cares to "be" for Jesus.
Now one way for you and I to "encounter the Lord and Savior" is to attend Mass and place ourselves into God's hands during the Mass. When we receive Jesus in the Sacred Host, Encounter takes place especially during those brief moments when we can talk to our Divine Guest, and if we listen, he can talk to us. Another way to encounter the Lord at Mass is in the readings from the Bible, the first readings and the gospel. If you can't hear the readings, or if you attend Mass in another language, get a St. Paul Daily Missal, or pick up one of the several monthly missalettes available. Our Pauline Book & Media Centers all stock the missals and missalettes. On February 3rd, we will experience the Blessings of the Throats on St. Blase Day. During this flu season, we need such blessings! Have a blessed continuation of the Month of February.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Under-Reported

On January 19th, thousands of people from all over the USA will convene on the Mall in Washington, DC to witness to the sanctity of all human life in the Annual "March for Life." The March, which employs hundreds of bus coaches, high schooler and even younger students,college students, Gen X'ers, Boomers, and even older folks is a statement on behalf of the unborn.January 22 marks the sad 45th anniversary of the day when the US Supreme Court handed down a decision which de-criminalized abortion.
Although I have never physically participated, I was a prayer-partner especially to our Sisters who did brave the weather to march with thousands of others. Our Daughters of St. Paul sisters from Alexandria, Virginia usually always participate. Usually a few of our Sisters from New Orleans/Metairie join in the large contingent led by the Archbishop of New Orleans.The annual March is more of a pilgrimage which witnesses to the value of every single human life from conception to natural death. Thousands of Catholics and Christians of other denominations, as well as non-Christians make the many sacrifices entailed in getting to Washington for the March. Bus loads of high schoolers camp out in local high school gyms. When I served in our Alexandria, Virginia, Pauline Books & Media Center, I was impressed by the variety of locales represented by our March for Life visitors. One lady hailed from Kansas and stopped by our Center every year. From northeastern Ohio, my sister and her young adult daughter join in a bus trip sponsored by a local church. The group comprises Catholics and Protestants--all united to stand for life.
In this era when media can be focused for days on natural disasters, or political debates, it is mystifying to witness a bias, a deliberate downplaying of the magnitude of the March, the sheer number and variety and especially the youth of those thousands who sacrifice time, money, comfort and for some loss of pay to stand up to protect the unborn, and all stages of human life. Prayer vigils precede the March so that the people marching will have the strength to persevere, that the weather will be a bit more bearable, and that our laws may soon protect the unborn and the elderly from death at the hands of abortion providers or of physicians all too ready to administer "cost effective" medications to end the lives of the elderly, the depressed and mentally ill persons and those deemed too disabled to care for. I was alarmed to note that in the state of Massachusetts where health care is some of the best in the entire world, doctors who once protested against assisted suicide are now lobbying for it. A few days ago the Boston Globe published two articles side-by-side presenting the case for each position. The person explaining why he is against assisted suicide is a disabled person. I pray that the Bay State voters when given the opportunity, will vote for life, never against it! Whether we March for life, attend prayer vigils and Masses to promote respect for life at all its stages, we are raising awareness of the innocent blood that is shed every day in this country, in Canada and around the world. For those in Ireland and other countries facing ballot questions to push for legalized abortion, please speak out for life with your vote for life. For the Irish who suffered so long a persecution for their faith, here is an opportunity to defend the lives of the future of your country. In the Old Testament God said, "Choose life!" Let our words and actions teem with life: both spiritual and physical. God bless you!