Monday, July 10, 2017

Happy News!

July is well upon us as well as its beautiful weather. Last Saturday, July 1, we at our Boston convent had the joy of welcoming three new professed Sisters into our ranks. The day before the three novices received the blessed habit of the Daughters of St. Paul at the morning Mass.
Our three novices Sisters Julie Turner, Putri Mamesah, and Danielle Lussier pronounced their first vows for one year among the Daughters of St. Paul. Relatives and guests of the Sisters were welcomed at our St. Thecla Retreat House in Billerica, Mass.
There were 13 children present under the age of 6 (including a few under the age of 2 months!) Usually I remain tear free during most of our religious celebrations. This year I found myself reaching for tissues to dry my tears of joy. Each of the three Sisters addressed the congregation in the crowded chapel telling the main reason they were consecrating themselves entirely to God. Their joy was contagious. I pray that the witness of these beautiful young women giving up promising careers and the possibility of having their own families in exchange for the closer following of Jesus will draw many to consider religious life. Their witness offers credibility to the Gospel of Joy which Pope Francis asks all of us Catholic Christians to proclaim first with our lives.
The artistic motif chosen by the three Sisters was the sunflower. The program booklet had a big sunflower on its cover, and the dining room table decorations included sunflowers even on the napkins. Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione was wrote: That like the sunflower which turns to always face the sun, so we must always follow the sun of the Will of God. After the Sisters made their vows, the three stood in the sanctuary as the Magnificat was sung in thanksgiving. Then a procession of about a dozen of the children who each carried a large sunflower. The three new Sisters gathered them and placed them in vases in front of the statue of Our Lady, Queen of Apostles.
After visiting their families for some time, each of the three Sisters will join one of our smaller communities here in the USA. Rejoice with us as these young Sisters begin their Pauline life of self donation for the sake of the gospel. Pray too that other young women will be inspired to follow Jesus as they did. By the way, about 15 young women spent tha weekend with us and witnessed the Profession ceremony. During this July we pray especially in honor of the Precious Blood of Jesus. In every Mass we are offered the Precious Body and Blood of Christ. May those who somehow abstain from the Mass return and enjoy all the benefits of this holy renewal of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Feast of the Most BlessedTrinity

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit! We are blessed to profess One God in Three Divine Persons! The God who always was, is now, and shall ever be is a Trinity! In Jesus Christ we have Jesus, the Son of the Father, God in the flesh. The Holy Spirit is the love of the Father for the Son and the Son's reciprocal love. The Trinity is not a concept we Christians, especially Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, made up. Jesus speaks of the Father in John Chapter 14. When the Apostle Philip asked Jesus to show him and the other disciples the Father, Jesus responded: "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." (John 14:9) Jesus assured the Apostles that when they would no longer see him, they would be strengthened by his Spirit, the Advocate. In John 15:26 Jesus affirmed that he would send the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth. Last week we celebrated that first visible manifestation of God the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday. The Acts of the Apostles, to me, can be subtitled, "The Astounding Power of the Holy Spirit", working through the Apostles and Evangelists of the early Church. From the second Chapter of Acts through the very end of this first History of Christianity we witness the power of the Spirit as he gave light to the minds of the first missionaries, fortitude to bear countless hardships, dangers, and opposition. Those men who preached the Good News of Jesus Christ were on fire with the love of God. Sometimes religious art can impress us so much that we might form an image in our minds of the Father as an old man with a flowing white beard. We may picture Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, seated calmly on the Mount of the Beatitudes with an utterly other worldly demeanor. Maybe we picture the Holy Spirit as a fluttering dove such as the one which pointed out Jesus at his baptism. Whenever we make the Sign of the Cross we can remind ourselves of our own Baptism and of the great Mystery of the Holy Trinity. I once heard a Bishop in the Midwest suggest adding these words once in a while to our Sign of the Cross. He put the wording this way: "In the name of the Father who created me, and the Son who redeemed me, and of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies me."
The love between and among this Divine Trinity is what enlivens us. It's their love that we share in our Christian life. This love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit sustains us and moves us to be Jesus for those whom we meet every day. Explain it all? I cannot take it all in. The famous story of St. Augustine comes to mind: Augustine was walking along the seashore when he spied a little boy trying to fill his little bucket with water from the ocean. He asked the boy, "Why are you trying to empty this vast ocean into your little bucket?" The child answered, "No more than this bucket can hold all the water of the ocean, than you can manage to comprehend the trinity, Father, Son and Holy spirit." A few months ago a film adaptation of the novel "The Shack" appeared in some theaters. A grieving father goes in search of "Papa"--his little girl's favorite name for God the Father. God the Father (and Mother), Jesus, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all depicted. the movie succeeds in letting the audience experience a tad of the love which is the communion of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. When I read the book, I found that part the most uplifting and hope filled. As a Catholic, I like to see the positive elements of movies. Although the film is not "Catholic" per se, the presentation of the Holy Trinity is creative and touching.
Happy Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. Let's spend this Trinity Sunday in joy, knowing that ours is a God of love and compassion.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Happy Easter!

I hope everyone of my readers enjoyed a Happy Easter! In the Catholic Church we celebrate the Easter liturgy for a full week, and then for 50 days! This year Eastertide or the Easter Season which lasts until the Feast of Pentecost will last all through the month of June. After the 40 days of Lent, Easter brings joy and hope. The gospel for Easter was taken from Chapter 28 of Matthew's gospel. He tells us of Mary Magdalene who was determined to give Jesus a fitting burial. Since Jesus had died on Friday, no work could be done on the Sabbath, Saturday. Early on that Sunday morning Mary arrived at the tomb dismayed that
there was no body to be found. She and the other Mary's who had carried spies to complete the embalming process found an angel seated in the tomb. He told them that Jesus was no longer there, he had risen. Where was he? As the gospel continues, Jesus called "Mary." Instantly she responded "Rabboni", Master. As one author recently pointed out, Jesus had said, "I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep and I call them by name." Mary's heart must have leapt when she heard, "Mary." Mary had followed Jesus to the cross, and with his Mother Mary, she stayed to the end to witness his sacrifice for all of us. Tradition calls Mary "The Apostle to the Apostles." Jesus told her to "Go, tell my brethren" the Good News. Mary did that to the best of her ability. She evangelized the Evangelizers. Certain icons of the Magdalene show her holding an egg. Apparently Mary evangelized in Rome too. One legend says that Mary traveled there and spoke with the Emperor. When she told the Emperor of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the Roman leader scoffed at her and said, "No more can a man rise from the dead than that egg in your hand turn scarlet!" He no sooner finished speaking than the egg turned a bright scarlet color.
We do not need to see miracles like the Emperor saw because we witness a miracle every time we attend Mass. There are two times when a Catholic priest speaks in the place of Christ: one is in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance/Confession, when he says: "I absolve you from your sins...". The other instance when the priest speaks for Christ directly is when he says at the consecration in each Mass, "This is my Body given up for you....This is my blood shed for you and for many." The Risen Christ, who suffered crucifixion and died for us, offers himself to us each day in every Mass. He chose to remain with us in Communion and in the Blessed Sacrament.
May the Risen Christ be your hope and your joy, your Source of happiness and serenity. May Easter Peace permeate your life!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

One of the Top Ten

A Boston Globe column writer recently described a firestorm of digital accusations and unkind remarks about a female public servant from a small town in the Boston area. Accusations of wrong doing, insults and other negativity filled the lady's hometown Facebook page. Without fact-checking their postings, several people assumed the worst and defamed their town's hard-working councilwoman. Writers assumed the worst instead of fact-checking the event. The lady in question was near another small town which had just suffered a destructive tornado. Since that town's administrator was out of state, this lady stepped in and helped organize rescue and rebuilding efforts. The lady in question did what she did at the cost of sacrifice without receiving pay. She called her boss and asked to make the day she spent helping another town as a "sick day" not a paid work day. People who sent nasty messages to the town's Facebook page implied that the council woman was spending their town's money on another town which in their opinion was an unpardonable offense. Without informing themselves of the realities of the woman's motives and her communications with her own boss, she was being painted as a quasi-criminal stealing from her fellow citizens. To me it sounded like a bit much. Yet in today's volatile social climate it is a sad reality that one of the Top Ten, The Ten Commandments, Number 8 has been transgressed. This is how the 8th Commandment is worded: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." (Exodus 20:16) In ordinary parlance it is translated, "Don't lie about your neighbor. Rather, tell the truth." How many times have I blurted out something which I soon later regretted! From my own experience as well as what others have said, mistakes such as white lies, or blatant big lies, come from not thinking enough. For Lent I one of my resolves is to think about what I am going to say, and how I say it, write it, or record it, or send it out on the Internet. A Maryknoll priest stationed in China shared his homily online. Here is part of it:
In ancient Greece, Socrates [470-399 BC] said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” He said that when he was on trial, facing the death penalty. He could have kept his mouth shut and lived longer, but he wanted people to live better. He kept asking his fellow citizens in Athens what they were doing and why. It is annoying when people challenge us to think. Thinking is hard work. People prefer to speak without thinking and to act without thinking. Socrates. believed in an afterlife. He did not know much about the One God, but at least he knew that death is not the end of everything.(From the Sunday Homily of Father Michael Sloboda, MM, 3/12/17)
Thinking before we speak can indeed be a penance. It's far easier to speak spontaneously and passionately. But, then we may have to symbolically "pick up the pieces" left by our unscripted speech or writing. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a great statement about truth telling:
Truth or truthfulness is the virtue which consists in showing oneself true in deeds and truthful in words, and guarding against duplicity; dissimulation, and hypocrisy... Respect for the reputation and honor of persons forbids all detraction and calumny in words or attitude. (CCC, nos, 2505 and 2507)
When I read the Globe article I reflected about my own social media use. At times my Facebook page gets filled with various rants against elected officials, or Hollywood personalities, or Bishops, and even against the Holy Father. Thankfully, there is an "X" option. I do not forward nastiness or lies. For every "You shall not" commandment, there is a "a shall do" element. If I do not lie about someone, I speak well of them. Or, I remain silent. Lawyers unfortunately are often judged as sly and even dishonest. However lawyers deal with the law, and with truth. They need to defend what is true. Often gathering evidence to prove the truthfulness of their case requires hours of research and reams of paper, and expensive copy maker use. Pope Saint John Paul II referred to St. Thomas More as a Patron Saint of those who defend the truth, especially Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers.
When we make our daily examination of conscience, a quick review of The Top Ten/The Ten Commandments and how we observe them helps to clear our hearts of daily spiritual debris. And, if we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Top Ten help us to find some material to bring to our Confession. I pray that your Lent is progressing well. God bless you!

Saturday, March 04, 2017

How to Handle Temptation

The gospel of this First Sunday of Lent shows us Jesus alone in the desert being tempted by Satan. Re-reading the passage from Saint Matthew's gospel, I am reminded of watching a sword fight. Satan's first thrust is the temptation for Jesus to use his powers to satisfy his hunger by changing stones into bread. Certainly after 40 days fasting, Jesus was hungry for bread. Jesus would not bow to Satan by using his divine nature to do a sort of magic trick to turn inanimate matter like stones into bread. Jesus thrusts back at Satan with the Word of God: "Not on bread alone is man to live, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." The Devil could not trick Jesus by playing on his physical appeptites, so he tried a second time to tempt. This temptation told Jesus to jump off the highest part of the Temple and be unharmed, since, if Jesus wished it to be, no harm would come to him. Satan was clueless about Jesus' resolute iron will: no, Jesus would not tempt God by showing off, by being a first century stunt man. Jesus counters the Devil with another Word from God: "You shall not put the Lord God to the test." I can imagine the passion with which Jesus hurled his answer back to the Tempter. Yet Satan did not give up: he tried a third time: He offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world with all their pomp and vanity on the condition that Jesus of Nazareth would bow down in homage to Satan. Jesus gave Satan a final tuche': "Away with you, Satan! Scrpture says: "You shall do homage to the Lord your God; him alone shall you adore." And, Matthew wrote: "At that the Devil left him, and angels came and ministered to him."
I try to visualize the gospels when I read them. It helps when a passage evokes a movie clip so I can imagine what Jesus may have looked like. In the just released movie "The Shack" the Jesus character is a middle-eastern Israeli. Who knows, since Jesus was a Palestinian Jew, he may well have had raven black hair, big brown eyes and bronze/brown skin. The Jesus we know from the gospel never gave in to the Devil's wiles. He used Scripture to drive out The Evil One. Jesus was rock solid in adhering to the Father's Will. Our temptations may be scaled down a bit, since we are the small fry in the huge ocean of humanity. Yet in our Creed we say that we believe in God the "Almighty." This means God can do all things. The Devil tries to trip us and knock us over the edge of our weakness into a pool of discouragement, or frozen half-heartedness. What to do? All spiritual people I know of never gave Satan the time of day, nor do they "hang around" literally asking for trouble. Satan may be trying to rope you into his clutches by all sorts of mean tricks. Yet praying with the actual words of Scripture gives us a powerful weapon against Satan and his many legions. Our chaplain at Mass this morning noted that the responsorial Psalm yesterday and the day before, and for today the First Sunday of Lent remains the same: Psalm 51. (In older translations it may appear as Psalm 50). After King David fell miserably into adultery and even murder the grace of repentance permeated this Psalm of David. David's pours out his soul as he tells of his sincere repentance and sorrow: "Against you only have I sinned, and have done what is evil in your sight." Yet David did not wallow in his sorrow, he asks for strength to get up and do better: He asks God for the grace to stick to the right path, he says, "and a steadfast spirit renew within me." Father Charlie suggested praying Psalm 51 and slowly meditating on it. I leave you with words from Psalm 51: "Give me back the joy of your salvation and a willing spirit sustain in me." Have a prayerful First Full Week of Lent.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Nuns at the Movies

If you were fasting from food yesterday, how did you do? I was surprised that I did not feel faint or super hungry. At breakfast this morning, I had a real appetite. Our two cooks make a substantial meal for breakfast, so I admit it was hard to say "no" to all the muffins and sweet breads. On another topic, our Founder, Blessed James Alberione wanted to see the gospel message communicated through movies both sacred and those more secular. This evening some of us Sisters will view the new movie "The Shack." Having read the book, I can only imagine the scenes right now. After a few hours I will have seen it. Only then can I comment on it. Some of our USA/Canada Daughters of St. Paul are film critics. Sister Helena Burns,(Tweet @SrHelenaBurns)
Sister Rose Pacatte (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sisterrosemovies/),
and Sister Nancy Usselman.
Sister Marie Paul Curley also includes film reviews in her blog Windows to the Soul: https://windowstothesoul.wordpress.com.
Sister Hosea Marie Rupprecht, FSP appears regularly on Catholic TV along with Father Chip Hines as a film reviewer. (bemediamindful.org/reviews)
Since movies are part and parcel of our North American and even global culture, part of our mission is to evangelize the culture of film today. Let us include Hollywood and independent film makers in our prayers that they may be instruments of evangelization in our world. Have a blessed end of this first partial week of March.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Live with a Penitent Heart

Best wishes and prayers for all my readers as we begin the Church's longest penitential period: Lent. A title out a number of years ago described Lent as "The Tough 40!" Sometimes I think Lent gets a bad rap, looked upon with dread and annoyance, a yearly time of spiritual and physical belt tightening. As Christians we aim to follow Jesus. He told us: "Come follow me...Take up your cross daily and follow after me....Learn of me, for I am gentle and humble of heart...". In a world that encourages us to say "yes" to every urge, and to retaliate every big or little challenge to our opinions or our preferences, Jesus' words offer us a challenge. He tells us, "Without me, you can do nothing." He metes out straight unadulterated truth. Anyone who has tried to imitate Christ in his meekness and self control, or who has tried to refrain from indulging in some favorite food may attest to what I have experienced. My will at times is as weak as a wet kitty! When we receive the ashes on our foreheads we will hear one of these two formulas spoken to us: "Repent and believe in the Gospel." Or, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Personally I think that the first word: Repent gives me a key to what to do and to be this Lent. Repent! I can remember hearing a street evangelist in Buffalo many years ago. In the heart of downtown on Main Street he shouted: "Repent! You are on the way to Hell if you don't repent right now!" A few blocks away, people who were ready to repent could slip into a confessional in St. Michael's Church and receive forgiveness and grace to do better. They could stay for the noon Mass and have a real encounter with Jesus Christ in Holy Communion. They would receive the spiritual nourishment that would fortify them against temptations. The church is not alwys standing on street corners and bellowing the Gospel to us. Yet the Church is appealing to us to take this precious season of Lent as a gift from God who loves us. It is an invitation to open our hearts to God who is knocking on our inner doors and asking to come in. If you ever visit a Pauline Family chapel you will see the words in the sanctuary: "Do not fear. I am with you. From here (the Tabernacle) I will cast light. Be sorry for sin." Or, "Live with a penitent heart." Back in 1924 Blessed James Alberione Founder of the Pauline Family experienced grave difficulties as he worked with his three new religious orders: the Society of St. Paul, the Daughters of St. Paul, and the Sisters, Disciples of the Divine Master. In a dream or a vision, Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life appeared to Alberione. The Master stood near the tabernacle in a Catholic Church. Pointing towards the tabernacle, Christ Jesus said: "Do not fear! I am with you! From here I will cast light. Live with a penitent heart." Some translations say "Be sorry for sin." Soon after the vision, Father James Alberione renewed his efforts to organize his new Pauline Family. Always tenacious in following his inspirations, Alberione found even more courage after that encounter with Jesus. Since the words Blessed Alberione heard were in Latin, there can be slight variations in their English translations. This is the way I like to see the final phrase, "Live with a penitent heart." As we begin Lent, I want to ask for the grace to live with a penitent heart. Does this mean going around all day saying "mea culpa", "I'm sorry," or wearing ashes on my forehead for all of 40 days of Lent? No. We can hold our head high because we trust in a God who promises help. A penitent heart is one aware of its weaknesses and tendencies to stray from our good resolutions. Our pentitent hearts know that our strength lies not in us, but in Jesus. He says in the 11th Chapter of Matthew: "Come to me all of you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28) Besides burdens of a job, of family duties, of personal health issues, or financial worries, we can be carrying heavy burdens of sinful behavior, or bad habits that keep us from letting Christ shine through us. A penitent heart wants to truly be sorry for sin and desires wholeheartedly to be Christ-like. As one spiritual director told me: "We know well that the one thing that counts is always and everywhere to remember that it is Jesus who wants to live in you; he wants to think in you; he desires to will in you; he wants to love in you; and to give of himself through you." This advice echoes what St. Paul told the Galatians: "It is now no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." (Gal. 2:20)
Somebody might say, "All that sounds too goody goody, too "holy" for my place in life." Yet, if we strive to do our best in studies, work and at home, why not make the effort to do the same for God in our spiritual life? Father Ron Rolhiser in his book "The Holy Longing" tells us that there are certain non-negotiables in the spiritual life. One of these is the daily spiritual check-point, the examination of conscience. This practice is a sure fire way to acquire a "penitent heart." Father James Martin, SJ, has printed a handy post card size outline of what to do. He lists five steps to making an exam that could last as long as 20 minutes or less. First, the exam time usually begins with placing ourselves intentionally in the presence of God. Then we express gratitude for "two or three things for which you are especially grateful. Savor them....thank God for them." Then we look back or review our "day from start to finish, noticing where we experienced God's presence. Notice everything from large to small: from an enjoyable interaction with a friend to the feel of the sun on your face. When did you love? When were you loved?" As we look over the past day we can see that we "may have sinned today or done something you regret. Express your sorrow to God and ask for forgiveness. If it's a grave sin, pray about seeking forgiveness from the person offended, or (in) the sacrament of reconciliation." Grace is what we ask as we conclude the Daily Examen: "You may want to turn to a meaningful part of your prayer and speak to God about how you felt. At the close of the prayer, ask for God's grace for the following day."
It may be that your night hours are taken up with infant care, or other obligations. You may even use your daily commute to work as exam time. Or, you might do the exam while taking a coffee or tea break between laundry loads, or between clients at your office... Soon enough the daily exam becomes part and parcel of your spiritual life. After awhile you can recognize a pattern in your actions, your omissions, your habitual failings. Having a penitent heart is being very honest when it's time to make an examination of conscience. A good way to steer ourselves into a "Lenten State of Mind" is to do some daily spiritual reading. Pauline Books & Media offers a compact edition called "Lent with Pope Francis" for folks with limited time to read.
Another title from Pauline is "When the Lord Speaks to the Heart" by the French priest Father Courtois. Our website offers many other titles to help you follow Jesus in this season. The Lenten/Easter volume of "Everyday Grace" offers reflections on the Gospel of each day in the Lenten season. Check our website wwww.pauline.org for details on how to purchase these titles. Let us pray for one another that this time we are given to draw closer to Christ by having penitent hearts will be truly a Springtime for our spiritual lives! Happy Lent!