Monday, June 25, 2018

Two Pillars to Remember

I once met an enthusiastic 6th grade religion teacher who prayed regularly to St. Paul. "Sister," she declared as she bought herself a new copy of her beloved Novena to St. Paul, "I taught religion to sixth graders for all my life. With St. Paul's help I was able to succeed!" I was delighted to see someone who was not in the Pauline Family so devoted to our Patron and spiritual Father.
On the devotional popularity list, I am afraid that St. Anthony and St. Jude seem to be top scorers! One day I hope to see many more people devoted to St. Paul. Blessed Alberione, our Founder, called his religious men and women and dedicated laity "Paulines," since he wanted us to be "St. Paul living today." We Daughters of St. Paul are in the midst of praying a solemn Novena in honor of St. Paul. We often sing much of it, recalling passages from the Letters of St. Paul and some from the Acts of the Apostles. One of the refrains in the Novena goes like this: "O St. Paul, the Apostle, preacher of truth and doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God who chose you." I promise you my faithful readers that I do ask St. Paul to intercede for you too. Friday is the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. We continue our Novena on Friday the 29th of June. On Saturday, we members of the
Pauline Family will celebrate the Commemoration of St. Paul. Because Paul is our Patron Saint, and our spiritual inspiration, the Church grants this privilege to us to celebrate our own day in honor of St. Paul. For many of us, including myself, our anniversary of professing our vows falls on June 30th, So please rejoice we us as we celebrate here in Boston the anniversaries of three Sisters who are "golden" jubilarians; four who are celebrating 60 years of religious profession; and one Sister, Sister Lorenzina celebrates 70 years of vowed life!The Sister in the white veil is from Youngstown, Ohio. She is home from from Kenya, Africa where she has served for about 40 years. She is one of the 60th anniversary Sisters.
However, we cannot forget Saint Peter, head of the Apostles. It was he who on Pentecost Sunday began to speak boldly about Christ, and eventually made his way to Rome, the Capital city of the Roman Empire. It was a dangerous occupation: preaching that Jesus Christ is Lord in a world where a Roman Emperor took it upon himself to be "Lord" of his domain. In prison or out of it, Paul preached about this Lord and Savior who died and rose again to win salvation for all. When you travel to Rome and other parts of Europe, you will often see statues of Peter and Paul together, or one on each side of an altar. The pair of ardent apostles appear many times in Rome's Basilica of St. Paul Outside the (ancient) walls of the city. Pray for Pope Francis on the 29th of June especially, since he is successor of St. Peter. Have a blessed rest of this week of joy!

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Good Shepherd

In the USA I have not seen very many sheep mainly because I have not been to "sheep country." A yearly event where I come from is called the Canfield Fair which features farm animals,including lots of sheep and goats. Once when traveling from a diocesan event in San Angelo, Texas we stopped the car to take a closer look at a large flock of sheep. Something about our appearance spooked the animals. All of them began a mass movement away from us except for one curious lamb. Several months ago I was gifted with a trip to Ireland. Sheep are everywhere in the countryside. Our tour included a visit to a sheep farm with a demonstration of how a shepherd dog on his own could round up a flock and move them up a steep hill, and then back to their original corral. It was amusing to see how there was always one sheep sticking its head out of the mass of wooly neighbors to see what was going on. We ended our sheep farm tour with a sheep hearing demonstration. With a strong shepherd brandishing an electric shaver, two sheep lost their thick wool in five minutes! The sheep put up little resistance, partly due to the size of the burly fellow who sheared them. Now when the gospel of John mentions Jesus as Shepherd, I can picture a large sheepfold with several gates to keep to the sheep safe from marauders. Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd, and the gate which protects his sheep. "I know my sheep and mine know me," Jesus tells us. When I was in Italy for a course of study in 2003--2004 every school day we would pass a real shepherd with real sheep. The road we took was one of the boundaries of Rome, large power lines bordered the western side of the road we traveled. Even though we were still in the city, there was plenty of grass available. The flock of about a dozen sheep gathered around their shepherd. Sometimes they would be to our right near the powerlines, or they would be on a little hillside, or grazing close to large super market. Although he was part of a profession dating back millenia, our shepherd carried a cell phone and on rainy days he sported rubber boots and toted a huge black umbrella. Even in the 21st Century shepherds still keep watch over their flocks, and their sheep know the voice of their shepherd. How do we know the voice of our Shepherd? We can "hear" his voice when we listen to his gospel proclaimed in church, or over the media. When our universal Shepherd, the Pope, speaks, we can hear the advice of Jesus being filtered for our 21st century ears. When we read the Scripture, the Shepherd is speaking.

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!