Sunday, December 31, 2006

Holy Family

I want to wish a special Happy New Year to all the members of the Holy Family Institute. The Institute was the last gift of Blessed James Alberione to the Church. HFI members are married men and women. They may belong as either individuals or couples. My sister Theresa and her husband Bob made their final vows in the Institute in September of 2005.

I was able to attend the three day conference and mini-retreat for the more than 250 members.Children of all ages were also present, so it was truly a "family" atmosphere. Meal times were very "real" with high chairs, and moms and dads tending to tiny tots and all ages. Teenagers had a track for themselves while their parents attended talks given by Father Jeffrey Mickler, SSP. Father Tom Fogarty, SSP has been working for several years to form the members according to the Pauline Spirit. Last year, Sr. Maureen George and I also brought a display of Pauline editions for the group. On one of the days I gave a Power Point presentation on "Pauline Reparation." Being with this enthusiastic group of laity was a real treat.

The Holy Family Institute

When I wished you all a Happy Feast of the Holy Family I was thinking especially of the numerous members of the Holy Family Institute. The last group founded by Blessed James Alberione in the Pauline Family, the Institute is for married couples, or the widowed. Last year in September of 2005, I witnessed the final vows of my sister Theresa and of her husband Bob as Holy Family members.

It was a joy to see about 250 men and women and their numerous children enjoyed a three day mini-retreat at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in North Jackson, Ohio. the Society of St. Paul has a large monastery in Canfield, Ohio just minutes away from the Shrine. Father Tom Fogarty, SSP has been shepherding the Holy Family members in their various stages of formation. They take three vows as we Sisters do: obedience, chastity and poverty. Their chastity is a vow to remain faithful in their marriage to their spouses and to grow more deeply in love for one another. If I can get the photos uploaded, I will share some pictures with you. One of the neatest events besides the profession ceremonies, was the renewal of marriage vows. That was such a joyous moment to see these couples of all ages renew their vows. For my sister and brother-in-law it was extra special, since they had just celebrated their silver wedding anniversary.
In the photos at the top left, that is myself and some of the children whom we entertained with a DVD on Joseph from the Bible; the photo on the right is of Theresa and Bob as they pronounced their final vows with their daughter Rebbecca, myself, and (hidden from full view) our sister Frances; the bottom photo was taken just after the couples renewed their marriage vows.

Holy Family

To all those who read this who are married, or widowed, or parents--Happy Feast of the Happy Family. In a special way I greet all the Holy Family members. These are married men and women--in most cases--couples who belong to the Institute of the Holy Family--the last group founded by Blessed James Alberione in his marvelous "Pauline Family."
Folks in the Holy Family Institute profess the vows of obedience, chastity and poverty within the context of married life. Their chastity is not celibacy but a deeper commitment to each other as married couples. My own sister Theresa Osthoff and her husband Bob made their perpetual profession of vows in September of 2005. I was able to be there in Ohio to witness their vows. Here is a photo taken of Theresa and Bob as they pronounced their vows. I was standing behind them. My niece Rebbecca, their daughter is to my right, my sister Frances is also there but hidden.

Happy New Year

It's New Year's Eve, and also the Feast of the Holy Family. Today's Gospel has the story of 12 year old Jesus being surprised that Mary and Joseph spent three days looking for him. As the priest at Mass pointed out, at 12 Jesus knew who his "real" Father was. He said, "I must be about my Father's business." As holy as Mary was, she reminded Jesus that "your father and I are worried" about you. Imagine the anxiety of not finding your child after three days! So even the Holy Family experienced tension--a very human factor.
Today is also a day for giving thanks for all the good we received in the last year. When this year started, I was in Boston, thinking little if at all, of Canada. Now I am north of the border, and thinking a lot about Canada! This has been a year of surprises for me. Some of them have been very pleasant. Like St. Ignatius says, "I don't think I could live without certain consolations." So God has sent some consolations too. Knowing good friends is one of the biggest consolations I have.
Some of these friends keep in touch via email, some by letter, some by phone.
Of course, the biggest Friend is Jesus who keeps in touch in lots of ways. Only at times I know I did not recognize his presence.
I pray for all those who read my blog. Today I am "on retreat" enjoying a day of prayer and silence. For us Paulines New Year's Eve marks the beginning of our existence over 100 years ago when our Founder--then just a 16 year old seminarian--received the inspiration to start "something new in the church" with the press and other media.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Hello to all my readers, and a very Merry Christmas to you! Since there are 12 "Days of Christmas" enjoy them all. When we went to Mass last night which was preceded by Christmas singing, I noticed a very joyful crowd of people of all ages. Folks were hugging, shaking hands and happy to see one another. There was a hum of excitement in the air.
What I noticed the most was an air of hope and of joy! Despite the sorrows of life, the bills, the pressures and pains, folks were joyful. They knew that Christ has come to save us from all this, and from our own weaknesses and sins. That's news to make us rejoice.
I pray for all of you who read this. May you experience the deep peace and joy that only Christ can bring.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Third Sunday of Advent

I skipped a whole two weeks. Well, here I am starting with you the last full week of Advent. This year Advent is the shortest it can be. The Fourth Sunday is the last Advent day, since it is also Christmas Eve!

Today the priest who celebrated the 11:00 AM Mass at St. Charles parish in Toronto gave a homily that was -- at least for me -- very good. He pointed out how so many people come to Canada, and work, work, work--leaving no time for God, or for decent relaxation and then all of a sudden their company moves away--and they are left empty, spiritually and financially. People are looking, even in their frenetic work-a-day lives--for that "something else", that craving inside for "the one thing more" which is God. How or what is God asking for in this season? So many times God says, "Give to the one in need;" "Give to the poor;" "Give a cup of cold water;" give as God is always giving to us. The one thing he gives to each one is his personal love for you and me.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Advent Monday

Today I lit my miniature Advent wreath in my office, and while I made my Eucharistic adoration I lit the first candle on our chapel's Advent wreath. The candle seems so appropriate on this blustery winter day, especially when snow clouds block out the sunshine. Christ is the Light that penetrates our darkness. Regards for a good Advent--a time of waiting for the Lord with joyful expectation.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

From Sister Rose in Los Angeles

Here's something from our Hollywood correspondent nun: Sister Rose Pacatte:

Dear friends, family, and colleagues,

Please check out my blog and get thyself to the movies now!!


December Countdown

After Mass today, I took some evergreen from our backyard for my mini-Advent wreath. It looks pretty good. The Advent candle lights have lots of meaning: they symbolize the hope of a Savior coming into the world; the light of Christ penetrating the darkness of our sinfulness; the centuries before Christ when people were awaiting a Messiah. Advent candles are supposed to be lit in succession one week at a time. That bit of discipline reminds us of the waiting that comes with the spiritual life and our human life. We all have to wait for God to act in his good time.
I went to the 11:00 AM Italian Mass at St. Charles Church. Father Donato preached a good homily on living in the present moment--not worrying so much about the past or the future--but living the "now" God allows us to the full. Those thoughts remind me of Michael Card's song, "Let Me Know You in the Now."
Last night as I mentioned in my last blog entry, we went to see The Nativity Story movie. I enjoyed it especially as a great way to ease into Advent. I felt a bit disappointed at how few people were in that very large theater for this movie. People were out and about last night in the Yorkdale Mall which is close to us. I hope more people go to see it today. After all it needs to be a success at the box office for the producers to be encouraged to keep on making quality films with themes taken from the Bible or built on gospel principles.
For American Catholics this week will mark the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. As Father Donato said this morning, "This is a big day for the Italians." He does not know perhaps that The Immaculate Conception--Mary--is the Patroness of the USA.
I would like to use this free day to prepare my Christmas greetings but there are two other things I need to write in order to meet a deadline or two.... My nephew John Al and my brother-in-law Dennis also celebrate birthdays on that day. Happy Birthday ahead of time to to them!
I forgot to mention that Sr. Marie Paul, myself and Marilyn Elphick were on Radio Maria here in Toronto this past Thursday. I may be on Omni News Italian version this week. They want to discuss the The Nativity Story movie.
I know I can talk in Italian for 15 minutes straight, but I am not sure of my accuracy in Italian grammar!
Have a great beginning of Advent. God bless you all! Sister Mary Peter

Advent Update

It's been a long time since I updated this blog. Sorry to all of you who have been waiting for news. Life has been busy for me and my community. When I volunteered to help coordinate screenings for "The Nativity Story" movie I had no idea what a roller coaster adventure that would entail. I had been told that a company in California would arrange a screening of the movie for us here in Toronto. We would provide email addresses, and they would send them for us. They also would rent a theater, etc. In the meantime a Canadian distributor contacted us, and we hesitated to work with them because of the Los Angeles connection. In the end, the LA firm realized that in Canada we had to deal with the local (or national in this case) distributor: Alliance Atlantis. This company had hired two Christan men: Jeff Thiessen who runs a TV PR company and who is experienced in Christian media; and Deacon Bill Kokesh who lives near Montreal. Jeff was extremely helpful in introducing us to what all this meant. We met him finally at a screening which we partially helped to arrange at a downtown theater.
Then we were offered two screenings: one on Nov. 22 and another on Nov. 27. After we had sent out 500 emails, we were told, "No. The theater is not available on the 22nd since that is the eve of American Thanksgiving. Three new movies are released that date, so no space. Change to the 23rd. " That entailed many emails, and phone calls. Part of our screenings included a duo of Sr. Marie Paul Curley, FSP and Ms. Marilyn Ephick who contributed chapters to the book "The Nativity Story: Contemplating Mary's Journey of Faith." After the film screening the two invited comments from the audience and then told of their involvement with the film, especially with the script, and how that happened.
As of tonight, I have seen The Nativity Story 4 times. This evening after we closed our book center--after having about 300 or more children, their parents, grandparents and others come to our Birthday Party for Baby Jesus, we headed off for the theater closest to us in the Yorkdale Mall and saw it for the 4th time. This time we paid for the tickets in order to support the film finacially. Films are usually gauged by how much they bring in at the box office during their first few days of release. We wanted New Line Cinema to be encouraged to keep doing this type of good movie. For Sr. Marie Paul it was the 5th time. She had seen a first cut of the movie when it was screened at the City of Angels Film Festival in Los Angeles.
Our last screening for the film included among the close to 300 attendees, about 40 to 50 Christians of various denominations. They all seemed very positive in their reactions. I personally see it as a "meditation" on the journeys in the spiritual realm and in the material, physical world for Mary and Joseph. It also starkly shows the harsh surroundings and difficult political world into which Jesus was born.
I will say more about this later.

These pictues show some of the Baby Jesus Birthday Party activities. Sister Marlyn took all the Polaroid photos. Sr. Donna headed up the face painting area, and Sister Hosea coordinated the ehole affair, while Sr. M. Paul was in charge of the costume area. I was upstairs greeting the folks and helping the grown ups find books.
Here are a couple of pictures of the Party for kids today. New Line Cinema also provided, via Alliance Atlantis, for a nice Advent Calendar with pictures from the film to be given to each child.
Have a blessed beginning of Advent.
By the way, the weather this morning was our first steady snowfall for Toronto. However it cleared up and the children kept coming. For many families this Baby Jesus Party has become a yearly tradition. Besides getting a picture taken with Baby Jesus; there are birthday cakes; crafts and gifts for every child (and grown ups too.)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Advent Reflection

(A pictue of Blessed Alberione)
I found time to pull out my tiny Advent candle set to light tomorrow morning. Last year Pope Benedict wrote this about Advent: "The hope of Christians is directed to the future, but it always remains rooted in an event from the past.
"We are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice will abide, and whose blessedness will answer and surpass all the longings for peace which spring up in the human heart."
The Nativity Story film is a great way to begin Advent. See it and support it. I found it a beautiful rendition of the reality of the Incarnation.
Here's a prayer taken in part from tomorrow's liturgy: God of power and mercy, open our hearts in welcome. Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy, so that we may share his wisdom and become one with him when he comes in glory...Amen.
Here's advice from our Founder, Blessed Alberione: Let us make our resolutions to spend this Advent well. Let us especially ask for humility, for hatred for sin, and for the desire to have Jesus be born in our hearts and transform us into him. Let us ask for the desire to enter his school: the School of Nazareth.