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


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!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The 12 Days of Christmas Originated Where?

One of the very merry Carols of the Christmas Season is a delightful naming of the 12 Days of Christmas. What have leaping lords, French hens and geese-a-laying to do with Christmas? From 1558 until 1829 Roman Catholics in England and Ireland were not permitted to openly practice their faith. A gifted and creative catechism teacher invented the 12 Days of Christmas carol as a sort of code to remember the religious truths of their faith. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ.
The two turtle doves are the Old and New Testaments. The three French hens are Faith, hope and love. The four calling birds are the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The five golden rings are the Torah, or the Law, the first five books of the Old Testament (also called the Pentateuch).
The six geese-a-laying are the six days of creation. The seven swans a-swimming represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. These can also represent prophesy, serving, teaching, exhortation, contribution, leadership and mercy, as in the seven corporal and spiritual works of mercy. They may also represent the seven Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation/Confession, Holy Orders, Matrimony, the Sacrament of the Sick. The eight maids a-milking are the eight beatitudes. The nine ladies dancing are nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace. patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The ten lords-a-leaping are the Ten Commandments. The eleven pipers piping were the eleven faithful apostles. The twelve drummers drumming represent the twelve points of belief in the Apostles Creed.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

She's a Light for Us All

Today the Church celebrates a Saint of Light in the midst of winter's darkest days: St. Lucy. Her name comes from the Latin lux which means light. One of the first women venerated in the Church since the 4th century, Lucy was a Christian young woman. The story goes that her mother had a debilitating illness. Both Lucy and her mother went to the tomb of the martyr St. Agatha also from Sicily. While there, Lucy had a dream in which St. Agatha came to tell her that her mother would be cured. Lucy, however, would witness to Christ by dying a martyr. A persecution of Christians broke out. A young man who had hoped to marry Lucy turned on her and denounced her as a Christian. Attempts to put her to death failed, until finally an executioner plunged a sword into her heart. Her name is remembered each time that the Roman Canon, or First Eucharistic Prayer, is used at Mass.
I was surprised to discover that until the Reformation, St. Lucy Day was celebrated each year with great festivities in England. In Scandinavian countries, St. Lucy is celebrated each year with young women dressed in white with red sashes which represent Lucy's virginity and martyrdom. The women wear wreathes of lighted candles on their heads as they gather and process. Lucy spread the light of the Gospel with her courage and faith. So we are called to spread the light of faith through our prayers and example. Jesus said, "You are the light of the world." Today may we brush off anything that hinders others from seeking the Christ Light within us.
Many people pray to St. Lucy to be healed from ailments of the eye. Pauline Books & Media publishes a St. Lucy Novena booklet Contact or visit Pauline Books & Media to procure a St. Lucy Novena booklet for yourself or for someone praying for better eye sight. Go to Have a blessed day!

It's Already Upon Us!

The season of Advent is upon us! The first December weekend in Boston, our Daughters of St. Paul Choir performed their annual Christmas Concert. This year's title is "Love Among Us." Because the Concert would be the opening act of our Advent Season, our dining room was thoroughly decorated, Christmas tree and all! Many guests have to pass through the dining room on their way to chapel and to the book and craft fair, and lots of convent baked cookies in Cushing Hall under the chapel . Advent is just 24 days long, ending on Christmas Eve. Some folks may not even be aware of this gem of a season when in our part of the globe nights begin so early, and we long for more light. Indoor and outdoor lighted displays feature Santa and Rudolph the red nosed Reindeer. Some feature the event which is the reason for the Christmas Season, the stable of Bethlehem and the figures of Jesus, the Infant, and Mary and Joseph. The liturgical colors for Advent are purple and pink. The Third Sunday of Advent which this year falls on Sunday, December 17, is called "Gaudete Sunday, or Rejoice Sunday. The Mass vestments for Guadete Sunday may be rose (or pink) colored. This is to indicate the joy that our Savior approaches. The purple vestments used on the other Advent days indicate the time of preparation as we "make way" for the coming of the Lord. This time of getting the path of the Lord ready requires that we clear out space in our souls for his arrival. Just as when we get ready for a visit from relatives or good friends, we try to get rid of the junk that clutters our home or garage, or even our yard. So in Advent we try to be more attentive to God's advent in our lives. One practice which you might want to use--if you haven't done so yet--is the lighting of the Advent Candles. You can use a wreath with four candle holders, or use four flat candle holders arranged in a circle. You may want to arrange pine cones, evergreen, or other greenery around the wreath. If you can't find the colored purple and pink candles, you can tie purple ribbons at the base of white candles and a pink ribbon on the candle representing Gaudete Sunday. By the way, all of our Pauline Books & Media Centers in the USA and English-speaking Canada stock Advent candles. Check out our locations on our web site: The ideal is to use three purple and one pink candle to symbolize the Sundays and weeks of Advent, and the centuries during which the Jewish people awaited the coming of the Messiah. Families can use the Advent Wreath ceremony as a way to instill the idea of spiritual readiness into the minds and hearts of children. The lighting ritual give a family time to pause a bit longer to reflect on what Christmas means.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Christ the King, Christ the Homeless, the Panhandler, the Immigrant, Christ in Disguise

Today we sing Happy Feast Day to Jesus Christ, King of All People and King of the entire Universe! In the Apostles' Creed we declare that Jesus "will come again to judge the living and the dead." The Church's gospel selection for this last Sunday of the Liturgical Year is the Last Judgement from the gospel of Matthew, chapter 25 verses 31--46. Many of us Christians are aware of the scene depicted in this passage. All of humanity who ever lived is standing before Jesus, King and Judge. He says all those who "saw me hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick, ill or imprisoned and helped me, and welcomed me when I was a stranger will be among the sheep". The sheep are the followers of Jesus who are welcomed into the heavenly kingdom. These men and women helped those in need wholeheartedly. They did not require an exam for the needy person to pass in order to qualify for an act of kindness from them. Those sent to the goats are those who did follow Jesus up to a certain point. Then when Jesus showed up dressed in rags that barely covered him, or asking for a sandwich or a cold or hot drink, or for a place to sleep that was too much. "That guy will only spend my dollar on alcohol," or as some say, "Let them get a job. Why should my taxes pay for such a cunning people who know how to work the system to steal our money." I just finished reading an article from the newsletter of Casa Juan Diego in Houston. The author, a member of the Catholic Worker movement founded by Servant of God Dorothy Day described some of those who hear the jibe, "Get a job." Each one of the persons he described came to the Casa for desperately needed help. Each one either had chronic illness, or was caring full-time for an invalid relative at home. Not one of them was physically capable of being hired by anyone. Yet, each of them has heard, "Get a job." Of course their job lies at home. How many of the well fed, and relatively well off accuse clients of Casa Juan Diego and other centers of catering to the lazy and those immigrants who would take unfair advantage of any kind of welfare.
If one realized that it was Jesus asking a favor, the response might be: "Let me see what I can do. Can I give away the excess clothing in my closet? Can I spare some cash today? Can I get a gift card from McDonald's or any other restaurant chain and hand it to a needy person who asks?" If I give someone a sandwich, do I slip a bottle of water or another beverage in the bag? A women near Washington, DC, once came in our book center and asked for food. I went upstairs to our convent and made a sandwich. I put that along with a bottle of water in the plastic bag with the food. She came back to thank me for the water. Anyone who has lived near D.C. in the summer can testify that the heat and humidity are grueling. Several years ago I met a secretary in Miami, Florida. She was a Christian, a Protestant. "You know," she said, "my boyfriend is Catholic. For me. my religion is like a jacket. I put it on when I am in church. When I leave church, I take it off and hang it up. My boyfriend is not like that. He's Catholic all the time! Everything he does is Catholic!" Apparently his "being Catholic" was a testimony to her, not a bother, but something she appreciated. A practicing Catholic takes the Matthew 25:31--46 to heart. After all, the real bottom line on our life, the litmus test of our behavior is this passage. Jesus the homeless, the stranger, the immigrant, the annoying panhandler is asking for help. Jesus could be in disguise at home: the parent with the memory loss; the petulant infant who can sleep hours during the day and keeps you up at night; the new cashier who makes a mistake at the grocery store; or the waiter or waitress whose English is myriad forms and in the oddest places, Jesus, our King and Shepherd is waiting for your and my allegiance, my obedience to his appeal to help him as he hides in the disguise that shows up in front of me today.
"Lord," I ask, "Help me to serve you wherever you show up and need my help or forbearance. Please give me strength and courage to behave as a real member of your holy kingdom. I trust in your mercy. Let me show mercy to all whom I meet. Amen." I like this picture of Christ, the King, still wearing his crown of thorns, because it reminds me that in the sick, the suffering the demented and the mentally ill, Christ still wears his crown of thorns. My kindness helps to alleviate the pain someone may be enduring from his or her crown of thorns.
Not to make this blog too long, but I must mention that today is the anniversary of the death of our Founder Blessed James Alberione. His last words were "Ave, Maria!" Although Father Alberione, was already unconscious, Pope Paul VI hastened to go to be with Blessed Alberione as he lay dying on November 26, 1971. I close with a quote from Blessed Pope Paul from the ceremony in 1969 when Paul bestowed a special honor on Alberione: From the address of Pope Paul VI: Here before us we see the Pious Society of St. Paul, originally from Alba in Piedmont and now with a General House here in Rome. We know well that yours is not a simple institution but a Family: the “Pauline Family,” made up of various religious Institutes, which we are pleased to welcome here today and, as it were, pass in review…. We know about your activities, all of which are characterized by an apostolic spirit and purpose. Your principal apostolate is that of the editions, but you also carry out a liturgical apostolate, a parish apostolate, a vocation apostolate, and an apostolate aimed at helping various classes of people live the Christian life more intensively. We remember well that you began your apostolate by making modern use of the stupendous instruments now used for what is called social communication and that this is one of the characteristic features of the Pauline Family…. And this blossoming of different forms of disseminating Christian thought and word goes hand in hand with the geographical spread of your work, which by now has reached every continent…. We owe the building of your monumental Institute to your Founder, our dear and venerated Fr. James Alberione, here present. In the name of Christ, we thank and bless him. Here he is, humble, silent, tireless, ever vigilant, always recollected in his thoughts, which run from prayer to work according to the traditional saying: ora et labora (pray and work), ever intent on scrutinizing the “signs of the times,” that is to say, the most inspired ways of reaching souls. Our Fr. Alberione has given the Church new ways of expressing herself, new means to invigorate and broaden her apostolate, new capacities and a new awareness of the validity and possibilities of her mission in the modern world, with modern means. Permit the Pope, dear Fr. Alberione, to rejoice in this long, faithful and tireless effort and the fruits it has produced for the glory of God and the good of the Church. Permit your children to rejoice with us and tell you today, perhaps as never before, of their affection and their promise to persevere in this work. (Cf. Paul VI, Audience of 28.06.1969)