Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas

The last days of Advent flew by, and my computer suffered a sort of stroke. Now I am sending you all my best regards for a blessed remainder of the 12 Days of Christmas and a Blessed New Year.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Toronto Happenings




Here are a few pictures of Father Jeffrey on his Toronto visit.
On the feast of our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, we celebrated with a Mass in our chapel offered by Father Paul LeBlanc of the African Mission (White Fathers).
After Mass all who came enjoyed fellowship and breakfast.
Pedro and Matt, two of the producers at Salt & Light TV showed Father Jeffrey their studios.

Advent

Thanks for coming back to my blog, even though I have not posted any news since early October!
On November 15, I was privileged to lead a mini-retreat for ladies of the Catholic Women's League at a Toronto parish. My theme was Praying with St. Paul. As I prepared myself to model how to pray with St. Paul, I found a talk of Pope Benedict XVI given just a few days earlier. The Pope took a very short pray of Paul, one used often by the first Christians: Marana tha,Come Lord Jesus! Pope Benedict composed a prayer with the same words, asking Jesus to come to the refugee camps of Darfur, of Kivu (and other places where people are in dire need); come to where drugs reign; come to the rich who have forgotten their brothers and sisters in need.... This Holy Father certainly is in touch with the needs of the world, and of our need to grow in prayer.
From November 17 to 20th, we Pauline Sisters in Toronto hosted one of the Fathers of the Society of St. Paul, our brothers in the Lord: Father Jeffrey Mickler. Fr. Jeffrey gave talks on St. Paul to two area gatherings of priests of the Toronto Archdiocese; he spoke in our St. Paul Hall to a good group of laity and religious; he was interviewed on Radio Maria; on Salt and Light Catholic Television; and he had a final interview for a program on Radio Teopoli which airs on a regular AM station. Father Jeffrey recently returned from a month long stay in Australia where he was kept busy giving Retreats and talks to Pauline religious, priests and laity. I invite you to check out Father Jeffrey's videos on YouTube and on the site which Father has initiated: StPaulsTube.com.

May you have a blessed Advent--a time to prepare not only for Christmas, but for Jesus' coming. Jesus comes in many ways. May our attentiveness to his presence reflect the advice of today's Gospel reading from Mark: be watchful and ready.

This week is a full one for myself and the other Sisters and the Staff of our Pauline Books & Media center. On Monday two of us will attend a meeting of a newly formed group of Catholic professionals in the media. On Tuesday I hope to have the last installment of a root canal. I have a meeting with someone on Wednesday evening. On Thursday and Friday our center is open until 7:00 PM, so I will be engaged in working in the center. On Saturday we will host our Annual Happy Birthday Jesus Party. Usually about 300 children come along with parents, grandparents and other relatives. There will be pictures taken with "Baby Jeus" (costumes provided); cake and refreshments; visits from St. Nicholas; crafts; balloons and a gift for each child. Pray that we enjoy good weather.

God bless you!
Sister Mary Peter

Friday, October 03, 2008

October 3


Outside my window, a tree waves its branches of bright yellow leaves telling me that another season is trying to move in on us. Thanks to the weather forecasters who predict at least a few more days of more pleasant weather. Today I remembered to pray for the respose of the soul of a Daughter of St. Paul whom I met while I was still in high school. Sister Mary Angela Parnoff who hailed from Bridgeport, Connecticut, was the first Daughter of St. Paul to invite me to join her religious community. I owe her a special debt of gratitude. She and another Sister Mary Caroline would pay visits to my home to see me and to influence my mother in regard to my entering the convent. The visits were usually unannounced: once I was horseback riding; another time I was absorbed in reading a movie magazine. Sister's gentle persistance paid off. Sister Mary Angela died on this date in Boston in 1988. I remember her great sense of humor and enthusiasm for our Pauline life. Sister Mary Angela was one of the first to join the fledgling community of Pauline Sisters in New York. I think she entered the convent in the 1930's. May our Divine Master reward her for her life spent for him.

Both in the USA and in Canada, national elections are coming soon. I pray for all the candidates, and especially for all the voters so that we will have light from the Holy Spirit to chose the persons who will "judge rightly," and "with upright hearts," according to God's laws first of all. In our two countries, we can revel in the freedom we have to vote without fear of coercion. As we know that is not true in many areas of our world.

This is also the First Friday of the month, a day dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Every Friday we usually remember, at least momentarily, the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. On First Fridays many remember the promise of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary to those who attend Mass, receive Holy Communion and offer reparation for sins committed against the Lord. The "Morning Offering" prayer puts the whole idea of loveing reparation into a few words. Here is a version of the Morning Offering used in the Pauline Family:
Divine Heart of Jesus, I offer you through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of the Church, in union with the Eucharistic Sacrifice: my prayers, actions, joys and sufferings of this day, in reparation for sins and for the salvation of all men and women, according to the special intentions of the Suprior General, in the grace of the Holy Spirit, for the glory of the heavenly Father. Amen.
In some forms of this prayer, the intentions of the Holy Father, the Pope, are mentioned.
Have a great and blessed rest of the day! Sister Mary Peter

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

October

October is full of lots of Saints' days and Church events. As I mentioned yesterday the Synod on the Word of God begins next week in Rome. Today is the feast of St. Theresa of Lisieux, or the Little Flower. We had Mass in our chapel this morning celebrated by a missionary priest. Father spent years in Tanzania and then in South Africa. He asked prayers for missionaries all over the world since St. Theresa is a co-patroness of Catholic missions. Although St. Theresa lived the greater part of her life in a cloistered convent, her prayers and sacrifices covered the whole world. She "adopted" some missionary priests for whom she offered special prayers. Vicariously, she too was a missionary. At breakfast, Father shared stories about his experiences in Africa. We marveled at the ingenuity of the White Fathers. That is the common name given to the Missionaries of Africa, since their habit is white. At one time where Father was assigned there was no cooking oil to be had. So the Fathers planted sunflower seeds and reaped an abundant harvest of seeds which were ground into oil for the people.

Today is also the anniversary of the death of one of our Sisters who died in Staten Island, New York seven years ago today. Her name was Sister Mary Alba Roagna. Sister was an outcoing personality, very generous and renowned for her culinary talents. She had been affected deeply by the loss of at least one dear friend in the 9/11 tragedy. She left this world silently and peacefully. We pray that she is enjoying the presence of God and interceding for the rest of her Sisters still on this earth.

October is traditionally the month of the Rosary. We celebrate the Feast of the Holy Rosary on October 7th. The date, October 7th, marks the anniversary of the victory of the Christians at Lepanto when Pope Saint Pius V processed barefoot through the streets of Rome praying the rosary to implore God's help for the Christian fleet.
I think it was on the History Channel where I saw a re-enactment of that famous battle where the skill of Venetian shipbuilders played a significant role in the Christians' victory. Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, said that he always accompanied any project with much prayer, including many rosaries. May the recitation and meditation on the rosary bring you many graces and blessings this month. Our publishing house, Pauline Books & Media, offers two very useful titles on the rosary. One is The Rosary in My Pocket, a handy sized panphlet. The other is the Scriptural Rosary which offers meditation thoughts from the Bible as a way to reflect on the mysteries of the rosary. Check out the Pauline website: www.pauline.org.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Synod on the Word of God



Today, September 30, the Church celebrates the life of Saint Jerome. Jerome may have had a crusty personality, but he was sure an untiring writer and researcher. Christianity owes him a huge debt for taking all the languages in which the Bible was originally written and translating them into Latin. Latin had become the language of the common people of the Roman Empire. Pope Damasus recognized Jerome's extreme talents in the line of translating, so he asked Jerome to undertake that gigantic task of putting the Scriptures into a language understood by the majority of people in the world at that time. His work was called the "Vulgata"--which meant the "common" translation. His work remains a benchmark even today.

St. Jerome should be smiling today thinking that in just a few days the Church will gather more than 300 bishops, priests, nuns and laity in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome to begin the Synod on the Word of God. This meeting of people from around the world will ponder the meaning of Scripture--the Word of God--for people of today. The Synod will no doubt consider how believing Catholics can fall more deeply in love with this Word, or this Letter written to them by God our Father. In his usual direct manner, Jerome wrote: "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." To put a modern positive spin on his words, we can say, "If you want to know more about Jesus, read the Bible!"
Let's pray for the success of the Synod on the Word of God. We Daughters of St. Paul are pleased that our Superior General, Sister Antonieta Bruscata, was called to be an auditor at this Synod. It is an honor for all of us Paulines, and a recognition of our mission to bring the Word of God to all through the various forms of communication.
When St. Paul was sending off his letters to the people whom he had converted to Christ, he was probably not thinking of our times when at Mass we end each reading of his letters with the declaration: "the Word of the Lord!" His words had become Word of God. As is true of the rest of the Bible, God used words of men to transform them into his words. In the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament), God told Moses and his people to "write" his directives not only on parchment but also on their hearts.
Some people call "Lectio Divina", or Divine Reading, a prayerful reading of God's written Word. Vatican Council II issued a small document called "Verbum Dei," on The Word of God. Officially it is called The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. The Latin title is simply "Dei Verbum." Most new Catholic Bibles actually print the text of this document as part of their introductions.
The Bible is also our strong bond between us and non-Catholic Christians. The Hebrew Scriptures too link us to our Jewish brothers and sisters who have the Torah (the first five books of the Bible); the Prophets and the Historical books are common to both Judaism and Christianity. As Pope John Paul II said, the Jewish people are our "elder brothers" in the Lord. I wish a blessed New Year to the Jewish friends who may be reading this. In a week's time, they will be celebrating Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It begins on the evening of October 8 and lasts through the day of October 9, 2008. The dates vary from year to year, because of the differences in the Jewish calendar from our current way of marking time.
May St. Jerome pray for us that we may become good readers of God's Word and good listeners to the message God wants to give us in his Word.
The photo above depicts a missal, or altar book, from the original Jesuit missions in North America in the 1600's. The picture of St.Paul writing is from a collage of Paul's life in the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Mississauga, Ontario.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

September Sunday




Today is a beautiful Fall day in Toronto. A marathon is taking place in the downtown area. In Queens Park, which is also in the heart of downtown, there is a huge book fair called Word on the Street. Authors, publishers and booksellersof all sorts are gathered there in tents to reinforce the idea that "reading is good for you;" "writing is a viable career;" and books are fun; etc.
There is at least one Catholic publisher there. Because of several factors, we are not "on the street" with a book display this year.
In my last post I wrote about the Holy Family Institute. Here are a few of the scenes from that event.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Autumn

To all my blog readers, welcome back!
It's been a really long time since I sat down to write to you. After a brief home vacation in early June, I cameback to Toronto for about a week. Then I went to our retreat house outside of Boston for a week of silent retreat, and then a further week of meetings with several of our Sisters from around the USA and English Speaking Canada.
On returning to Toronto, I found myself immersed in the activities of our book centre on Dufferin Street in Toronto. We were short staffed due to the vacation schedules for employees and the retreats and vacations of some of our Sisters.
On September 12th, I gave an hour long introduction to St. Paul at the Newman Centre in downtown Toronto. The group to whom I spoke is called The Theology of the Body. This year these (mostly) young adults are delving into the life and letters of St. Paul the Apostle. The Newman Centre Chapel where I spoke has beautiful stained glass windows of some very "modern" saints, such as St. Teresa Benedicta or Edith Stein; the martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador; and several others. I was pleased to find a whole window dedicated to the life of St. Paul.
On September 18, I drove to Ohio to join about 250 families from all over the USA and Ontario. The events we attended were part of the Triduum of the Holy Family Institute. This year Canada was well represented by almost 20 persons.
I will post some of the photos on my very next blog.
The site of the meeting was the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in North Jackson, Ohio. North Jackson is west of Youngstown, Ohio and about 40 minutes east of Akron. The spot is spacious and serene. There are farms nearby as well as the Meander Reservoir with its lake and pine trees.
Sisters Irene and Helena joined me from our Chicago convent.
Since my time this morning is limited, I will continue soon!
God bless your day.
Sister Mary Peter

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More on the Pauline Year


Greetings from Toronto, Ontario! Summer is winding done fast. In Toronto folks are visiting the Canadian National Exhibition. It seems to be a combination of what Americans would consider the county fair and the Cirque du Soliel all at once.
In my home area, people are flocking to the annual Canfield Fair which features livestock, baked goods, 4-H exhibits with all kinds of animals, cotton candy, live entertainment, carnival rides, and lots more. The Fair serves as the "official end of summer" ritual.
Now, as the school year begins, is the time for us to recall all the uplifting ideas we (Sisters) heard during our annual retreat. Someone asked how often do I go to our retreat house, St. Thecla's. Usually I go once a year for a week-long retreat, and then an almost week-long meeting held at St. Thecla Retreat house in Billerica, Massachusetts. In case you wonder who is St. Thecla (pronounced Tek-la), according to a long standing tradition St. Thecla was the first woman convert of St. Paul and his constant collaborator.
Generally the retreat house is reserved for the Daughters of St. Paul, Pauline Family members and select groups. The best way to request a tour of the retreat house or arrange to use it is to call the Provincialate of the Daughters of St. Paul at 617-522-8911. When I was there in July, the chapel was partially rennovated, with a new altar and backdrop, as well as new pews. The original chapel was built by the Maryknoll Fathers and brothers after World War II.
On August 20th, the Pauline Family celebrated its 94th birthday. Back in 1914, then Father James Alberione, with just two young boys, began what is today the religious order called the Society of St. Paul. By June of the following year, Alberione had begun the first feminine Pauline group, the Daughters of St. Paul who share an identical apostolate (or mission) with the Society of St. Paul. Eventually Alberione's foundations numbered 10: The Society of St. Paul consisting of priests and religious brothers; the Daughters of St. Paul; the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master; the Sisters of Jesus the Good Shepherd, known as the Pastorelle; the Sisters of Mary Queen of Apostles or Apostoline; the Institute of Jesus the Priests for diocesan priests; The Institute of St. Gabriel the Archangel for single men living a consecrated life in the world; for single women living in the world, the Institute of Our Lady of the Annunciation; for married individuals or couples (as well as the widowed) there is the Holy Family Institute; and the Pauline Cooperators are lay collaborators in the Pauline mission. Check out www.alberione.org to see more information on the Pauline Family. We in Toronto marked a 52 year presence in this Archdiocese and English-speaking Canada on August 23.
Father Jeffry Micker, SSP, assigned to Canfield, Ohio, has expanded the Pauline Family presence in cyberspace with a new video website called www.StPaulsTube.com."
Check this site for Pauline Family information, videos and events. With Father Jeffry as webmaster, this site will provide wholesome videos. It is true that other video websites may hold a lot of good things, but to find a good site it entails slogging through spiritually "unhealthy" websites, and some that leave much to be desired....
If you are interested in finding out more about the Daughters of St. Paul in the USA and English-Speaking Canada, check out www.pauline.org.
For information on the Society of St. Paul and the secular institutes, contact
www.vocationoffice.org.
Last Monday a friend brought me to Mass at the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Missisauga, Ontario. The artist who depicted St. Paul did a fine job of making him look real, amiable and holy. The artist's last name is Carroll(I believe.) I do not want to infringe on any copyright laws by posting the picture(s). However, I think people who love St. Paul would appreciate seeing a St. Paul who is more approachable and likeable! Have a great Labor Day weekend, and a wonderful beginning of your new shcool or work year. God bless you!
Here is a thought to ponder from St. Paul: "Be imitators of God as beloved children. Walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us to God...". (Eph. 5:1-2)

The picture of St. Paul preaching is by Carroll, in Sts. Peter & Paul Church, Mississauga, ON, Canada.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pauline Year August Already!

I enjoyed a week long retreat at our St. Thecla (pronounced "Tekla") Retreat House in Billerica, Massachusetts in early July. Our retreat director was Sister Filippa Castronovo. Sister Filippa is a scripture scholar who specializes in studies on St. Paul. When I was in Rome, Sister Filippa gave a semester long course on St. Paul and our Founder, Blessed James Alberione. I enjoyed her classes, since they were not solely academic but infused with an enthusiasm for Paul. The Pauline retreat which Sister prepared for us brought in more dimensions of St. Paul's spirituality and practicality.
Our retreat was followed by another week (almost) of meetings and presentations. This year we once again enjoyed the insights and suggestions on dialogue offered by Sister Janet Baker, a Sister of Mercy from Philadelphia. Then Sister Rose Pacatte, one of our own Daughters of St. Paul, presented a full "media day." Sister emphasized "Media Mindfulness" and awareness of the impact of media on our lives and on our culture today. She showed us a movie called "The Story of Stuff" which is a simple yet powerful indictment of "buying just for the sake of buying," or as some would call it, "consumerism"--getting "stuff" we don't need that we soon throw out or store in our garages or pay to store in storage units. Sister Rose heads up our Pauline Center for Media Studies located at our center in Culver City, California. If you want to see "The Story of Stuff" go to www.thestoryofstuff.com. You can download it or order a CD.
The Encounter, as we call our 5 to 6 day meetings and updating, was also a chance to reconnect with other Daughters of St. Paul stationed across North America, and this year with two of the Sisters who have been in Africa. One American Sister who has spent the past six years in Nairobi, Kenya returned to the USA. Sister was the novice director for all of our African novices. Now a native African Sister is taking over that position.
Another Sister, who is from my home town, Sister Augustine Nemer, also attended the retreat and encounter. Sister Augustine was back in the States to celebrate with her co-novices the 50th jubilee of her religious vows. Sister returned to Nairobi on July 29th. She has been in Africa more than 20 years. She works in the editorial sector in Kenya. It is good to meet and talk with these Sisters working far from their home lands.
Since this is summer: time for vacations, retreats, encounters and staff holidays, it makes for a full schedule for myself.
This past Sunday, August 10, was the day of our Pauline Cooperators' picnic. Since rain was always a possibility, we held the picnic at our place. Our center has a spacious hall on the ground floor equipped with a small kitchenette. Our grill is on our rooftop patio. Two of the men cooperators generously offered to fire up and maintain the grill. Everyone brought food or drink. We had Philippino dessert and the traditional noodles called pancit (pan - zit); special cornbread from a Paraguayan lady; salad from an Ecuadorian lady; veggies from a Chinese lady and lots of other goodies. Two of our Holy Family members attended the picnic with their spouses and some of their children. Games and music filled the evening and we all enjoyed ourselves. Most of us at the picnic had been awakened at 3:50 AM by a thunderous noise. Since we have had so many thunder storms lately, I did not rush to the windows after the initial sound. Then came a series of "booms"--almost like continuous fireworks. At one point I thought "Is this an explosion?" It was not raining, so it was strange to hear thunder.... At 9:30 Mass in our parish, the pastor asked us to pray for the explosion victims. At that early hour, a propane gas depot blew up and several explosions followed. Those who looked out their windows saw an orange ball and then flames as several propane tanks blew up. A few thousand people were evacuated from their homes and apartments. Many left in their night clothes, some even without shoes on their feet. Miraculously there were only two fatalities: a fireman who collapsed, and it seems the night watchman. Had it been a weekday, and a school day, there may have been much more damage and loss of life. The apartment buildings next to us shook with the explosions, and were lit up by the light of the fires. "In the twinkling of an eye" life changed for a lot of people. It was a literal "wake up call" to be ready for any future disaster, and to be ready--when the Lord comes--to meet him. People in Niagara-on-the-Lake saw the orange sky from across Lake Ontario. We thank God for sparing our city from what could have been a massive tragedy. We pray for our city and provincial governments to do their best to insure that this kind of accident does not happen again. I also prayed for all the "first responders," firemen, policemen and EMT men and women who were at the scene in minutes, and stayed for hours.
I wish you all a great rest of the week. To those who have sent in comments, thank you. I still have not been able to take the time to check out your suggested links. God bless you all. Sister Mary Peter Martin, FSP

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

St. Paul's Year

The last three weeks have been crammed with home visits, a high school graduation, a baby shower for a niece's on-the-way grandson, trips to Virginia and Pennsylvania, and a chance to seemany of my relatives. As soon as I returned from vacation late last Monday (my sister and I were both delayed at the Pittsburgh airport due to stormy weather), I had voice mail messages to answer. One was from an Italian-Canadian gentleman in regard to the visit of Sister Filippa Castronovo. Sister is an Italian Daughter of St. Paul who is a Biblical scholar, and an expert in Pauline studies. As you know "Pauline" studies refers to St. Paul the Apostle and his writings. When I spent a year in Rome (2003--2004) Sister Filippa was our professor for an entire semester on St. Paul and Blessed Alberione.
When I heard that Sister was scheduled to give retreats in June and July at oujr Boston convent, the thought came to me that she "has to come to Torontowhere there are so many Itlians." There is a saying that Toronto, Canada has the largest number of Italians outside of the city of Rome. There are about a half a million Italian immigrants in and around the Greater Toronto Area. With just a few days between retreats, we were able to book Sister to speak in Italian on St. Paul in our St. Paul Hall. Since it is the first time in a very long time that we held any Italian events here, I was not sure if anyone would show up.
My little faith was bolstered when I answered the first voice mail. The caller is head of a Scilian Canadian association. His group broadcasts on radio about once a month. "Could Sister Filippa speak on radio on Wednesday evening the 25th of June?" I replied that as long as weather permitted, and transportation would be provided we would be there. So began a truly whirlwind tour of Toronto. After her first radio talk, our host drove us to see some of downtown Toronto. Sister was amazed at how big out city is. On Thursday we had an appointment to speak for two hours on Radio Teopoli which broadcasts in Italian and then in English on an AM station. There was a slight mix-up: I understood that Sr. Filippa would be "live" for the first hour, then be recorded in Italin for another day. Instead, as the program got underway, we were informed that we were the guests for the English portion. Since Sister does not speak English, that meant I was to go "live" too. As Sister spoke I jotted down some facts about St. Paul, and the Daughters of St. Paul, etc. Our Patron St.Paul certainly helped us to produce a program which seemed fine to me. I pray our listeners were inspired in some way to read St. Paul's letters, to imitate his evangelical attitude, and to learn from him to pray. His letters are a treasure of prayer.
Tonight Canada celebrates its 141st anniversary and I am acceping an invitation to watch the fireworks from a neighbors 19th floor apartment.
May your Year of St. Paul be full of blessings.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Proclaim It From the Rooftops

Last week in Toronto's downtown Shearton Hotel at least 500 Catholic communicators in both the press and electronic media gathered to be reunited and rejuvenated.
The three day conference began with Archbishop Celli, the Vatican head of communications, reading a message to the group from Pope Benedict XVI.
Cardinal John Foley was in attendance all three days. For more than 25 years, Cardinal Foley was the Vatican's head of the communications commission. The group honored Cardinal Foley with various awards and a friendly "roasting" at the first evening's banquet.
I was charged with assigning people as readers for the Masses each evening, and for those who would participate somehow in the liturgies. I was very impressed at how willing people were to take part as readers, or to take up the gifts at the Offertory procession. One of the ladies whom I asked to take part in the first Mass' Offertory procession had never had that opportunity before.
People from different language groups participated too. We had petions at the Prayer of the Faithful in three languages: English, French and Spanish.
It was good to meet these leaders in Catholic communications in person. Many of them "wear several hats"--they juggle myriad responsibilities at one time with lots of grace and poise.
Our first speaker was Margaret Somerville, a petite, witty and articulate Australian born professor at McGill University in Montreal. She focused on the importance of being a "word warrior." It is extremely important for us in the media to choose words which are positive, honest and to the point. She also demonstrated how with much tact and effort, we can reach common ground with many persons or groups.
On the second day our main speaker was Father Frederico Lombardi, SJ. If you watched Pope Benedict's visit to the USA, you may have seen Father Lombardi. He is the spokesperson, or as we say in the USA, the Press Officer who takes the comments of the media and strives to answer them well.
The texts of most of these talks are available on line at www.zenit.org.
One of our friends from Toronto did an audio interview with Father Lombardi. To listen to Frank Ruffolo interviewing Father, please click onto to: www.italiani.ca.
I hope to give you a more exact link later.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Niagara Falls


I forgot to mention that we took Mother General and Sr. Inocencia to Niagara Falls for a very "quick trip" on Friday. We had a picnic lunch, enjoying spray from the Falls as we ate. A red winged blackbird paid us a visit and ate out of my hand too. Our Superior Genreal wore a hat to protect her from the sun. I forgot sunscreen and now I have a very red face to prove it!

Weekend

In the USA this was and is a holiday long weekend. For Canadians, the longweekend was last week. Our visitors from Rome came and went. We enjoyed their visits and the interaction and dialogue with the two General Councilors who came last week, as well as with Mother General who spent a few days with us. She left for Chicago Saturday morning. She is being accompanied by Sr. Inocencia, a Filippina sister, who serves as her tranlsator.
Today was the Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus--often referred to as Corpus Christi.I attended the 11:30 AM Mass this morning at Blessed Sacrament parish in Toronto. Immediately after Mass there was a Eucharistic procession which left the church from the main doors facing Yonge Street--the longest street in Canada, and a very busy one at that. A group of parishioners held a white canopy over the monstrance which held the consecrated Host--the Blessed Sacrament. I was able to follow directly behind the clergy. When we entered the church, we had Eucharistic benediction. Afterwards there was an abundant reception in the church hall. The procession with the Blessed Sacrament and all the people following served as a loving and peaceful demonstration of devotion to our faith and to our Lord Jesus.
I felt at home at the nice welcome from the pastor and parishioners and from four friends and cooperators who attend Blessed Sacrament.
Later on in the day I did go to see the Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian. I enjoyed it. There is more character development in the main protagonists. It is hard to transfer certain stories to screen, yet I believe the director did a convincing job of using C. S. Lewis' material and his own creative instincts.
Have a good week. I will be involved for three days with the North American CAtholic Communicators Conference in downtown Toronto. We will be graced to have Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican Press Secretary, as one of our speakers; Cardinal Ouellet from Quebec City, and many other presenters. Our own Sister Hosea will present a workshop on "Praying with the Media." John Michael Talbot will provide a concert for our Thursday evening banquet, and many other good things are planned.
God bless you!
Sister Mary Peter

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Prince Caspian

You may notice the widget, that's the film poster on the sidebar of my blog. It's a mini-poster of the movie Prince Caspian.
I plan to see it on Sunday. I saw a few very detailed and positive reviews so far. One of our Sisters saw it today and liked it. That's a good sign. I hope that those looking for wholesome viewing for their families will go to see it soon.
God bless you!
Sister Mary Peter

International Visitors

I apologize for being so tardy in posting a new blog. Our little community has added a new member, Sister Lupe. She arrived three 3 weeks ago. On the evening of her arrival, Sister M. Paul and I attended a Confirmation in St. Thomas Aquinas parish, under 10 minutes from here by car. I was asked to be a sponsor for a young man named Eduardo Michael, and Sister Paul sponsored a young lady named Kathy. One of the Toronto auxiliary Bishops, Bishop Greco presided at the Confirmation and confirmed 101 young people. Bishop Greco gave a very energetic and memorable homily. He stressed three points which he explained with colorful examples. The first point was the total emphasis on the fact that Confirmation and of course, grace, a free gifts from God. We do not "buy" them or earn them.
After the Mass, Sister and I each went to the celebrations of our confirmed young person. Michael's Mom had baked a lovely cross shaped cake and she had another cake for Michael's younger sister whose birthday was the same day. Michaels "abuelos" (grandmother and grandfather) came, and some other relatives and cousins. Somehow there was a whole dinner waiting for us when we arrived at the house.
One day along with Sister Marlyn I attended a seminar on "end of life" issues which was especially for health care givers and chaplains. Several people were pleased to purcahse my book "Tender Mercies, Prayers for Healing and Coping." The attendees often have to deal with people suffering from grief and other sorrows. I pray that all the folks who will read and pray with "Tender Mercies" will be strengthened and consoled.
The past month seemed to have been filled with extra meetings and preparations for various events. One of the"events" was the visit of two of our General Councilors who are from our Rome headquarters. Both of the Sisters were very thoughtful, enthusiastic and sisterly. One of them, Sister Samuela Gironi, served in Africa for the past 23 years. She was the superior of the Nairobi delegation which includes Tanzania, Zambia and Sudan. Yes, despite all the problems in parts of the Sudan, our Sisters from Nairobi opened a Catholic book centre in one of the southern dioceses of that huge Afrian nation. Four Sisters are there. If I remember correctly they are from four nations, one African, another Maltese, another Indian, and an Italian. When our Sisters visit from the Generalate they also connect us more with our sisters all over the world.
Tomorrow our Superior General, Sister Antonieta Bruscato, will arrive for her once-every-six-year visit. Another councilor, Sister Inocencia Tormon, will be with her. Sister Antonieta is a Brazilian of Italian descent. Her term is for six years at a time. During her term she is to get to see every Sister of our cognregation which numbers about 2,500 Sisters scattered in 53 nations. When I lived in Rome four years ago, I stayed at the Generalate where Sr. Antonieta, her six councilors, their secretary and bursar all live. It was good to get to know the major Superior and to see her more often. I look forward to her visit. I will let you know more in my next blog.
In the next blog, I will say something about another event I and Sister Hosea are preparing for: The Annual Catholic Communicators' Convocation to be held next week: May 28, 29, and 30th in downtown Toronto. Sister and I are on the Toronto planning committee, and each of us has some roles to play. I will be writing the Prayers of the Faithful for the three eveing Masses with our Archbishop, CArdinal Ouellet of Quebec, and Cardinal John Foley an American who lives in Rome. For more than 25 years Cardinal Foley served as the head of the Vatican's office for comunications. Even though he has another post, Cardinal Foley has always remained a member of the Catholic Press Association, and he is much loved by all those involved in Catholic media.
Keep that three day event in your prayers too.
Have a blessed ending of Mary's month of May!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Arrvederci Pope Benedict

Although I live in Canada, I am an American, very interested in what Pope Benedict would say and do in the USA. While I lived in Rome in 2003--2004, I saw Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) several times as he concelebrated Mass with Pope John Paul II. Often, since John Paul was already failing in health, Ratzinger would serve as chief celebrant at various Masses, with Pope John Paul present. I was struck by the German Cardinal's humble demeanor and evident spirit of prayer. It was great to see him this week on TV -- the scholar and theologian -- who had "learned to be Pope" as one commentator said today. I was edified to hear people of other Christian faiths also call him "Holy Father." It he is truly a "Father" in many ways. He encouraged us to continue doing the good things Americans do, and to avoid the things we do which are not in line with the gospel. I never heard him "condemn" America. I felt bad when I saw a certain TV commentator use negative language about the Pope. Probably those comments stood out because they were defintely in a minority. It seems that this TV personality has a sort of "Americans can do no wrong" attitude. Americans too pray the Hail Mary in which we say, "Pray for us sinners...". Humility is truth, recognizing both our gifts and our shortcomings. At the Yankee Stadium Mass, I was happy to hear Benedict invite young men and women to follow Jesus more closely as priests and religious sisters or brothers. Tonight Alitalia's Shepherd 1 will bring Pope Benedict XVI back to the Vatican. May his visit to North America bear much fruit. May he rest well when he returns to Rome. I admire his stamina. For a man who is 81 years old, he is remarkable.
As one Boston woman said this afternoon to a CNN interviewer, "Thanks to you in the media" who brought the Pope into our homes with live coverage. In these post 9/11 times, all the news people had to deal with security, travel, and tight schedules. May the Lord reward them!
The Pope's birthday, April 16, coincided with the feast day of a French saint who died in Rome, Benedict Joseph Labre'. In another blog I will dwell a bit longer on St. Benedict Joseph Labre'.
There is a prayer with which I want to end this blog entry: Lord, cover with your protection our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI. Be his light, his strength, his consolation. Amen.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter!

On Wednesday, March 19, Sister Mary Caroline Tessa, a Sister of our Boston community died of pancreatic cancer. I knew Sister when I first met the Daughters of St. Paul in Youngstown, Ohio. Sister never seemed to age with her lovely complexion and sweet smile. She offered herself to the Lord with her first vows on March 19, 1948. On her 60th anniversary, the Lord came to take her to himself where she would celebrate an eternal Easter with him. We recommend Sister's soul to the Lord's loving mercy, and we trust that she is enjoying the reward of "the good and faithful servant."

As I write this, it is still Holy Saturday. In some churches in our part of the world, the Easter Vigil is underway. On this night people are being baptized, and confirmed and receiving the Eucharist--Communion--for the first time. My little community attended an earlier Easter Vigil Mass at a convent in our neighborhood. Sister Hosea sang the Exsultet, a song that begins with the word "Rejoice" that is sung immediately after the Easter fire is lit, and the Paschal Candle is brought into the church. Sister has a lovely voice and made the evening's liturgy even more solemn. Today a gentleman accompanied by his wife, his mother-in-law and his young daughter came into our center to celebrate the man's reception into the church which was to take place tonight. He was beaming with joy as he told us that he would receive all three sacraments tonight: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. The three adults all were intent on choosing Christian DVD's and other DVD's with good values. He wanted the "classics" such as Ben Hur, Song of Bernadette and many more. He choose one of our favorites, Amazing Grace. It's the story of William Wilberforce who labored in the House of Commons in England to abolish slavery in the British Empire in the 1800's (about 30 years before it was abolished in the USA). The new Christian/Catholic's enthusiasm was contagious. It made clear to me why Christianity must have spread so fast in its early days. When someone is truly joy-filled, and ready to explain the why of his joy, then it is hard to resist being caught up into the same enthusiasm. The word enthusiasm comes from the Greek "en theos" (roughly translated) as "being in God." Theos is the Greek word for God. A recent Catholic news item said that about 64,000 men and women were to join the Church in the USA tonight. I am not sure how many are being received into the church in Canada. However, I think it is a large number too. Despite the sins and failures of Catholic Christians, people are finding Christ in the Catholic Church and the true peace which comes from that relationship with the Lord. And, it is a relationship with Christ in his brothers and sisters too. "How can we love the Christ we cannot see, if we do not love the brother or sister whom we do see?"
Many people came in our Pauline Book & Media Centre today looking for gifts to help new Catholics on their spiritual journey. It's a great feeling to know that in some way through our mission of media evangelization, we have been able to accompany and assist these new Christians.
A Sister from Italy sent me a bookmark with a lovely Easter saying. I'd like to share it with you as my Easter greeting to each of you: It is from Pope Benedict (no date was supplied), "The Lord says to each one of us, 'I have risen and now I am always with you!' Wherever you might fall, you will fall into my hands. I am present with you even to the gates of death....There [in heaven] I await you and for you I will transform darkness into light."

Monday, March 17, 2008

Holy Week

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all of you who commemorate the great missionary Saint. The late Cardinal Richard Cushing of Boston once compared Patrick to Abraham,Father of All Believers. Those of us of Irish descent owe the roots of our faith to the seeds Patrick planted centuries ago. Today I am wearing a little label pin shaped as St. Briget's cross with a green shamrock in the center. Bridget used to make crosses out of blades of grass or straw. Since they were all woven there are four parts joined by a square of woven grass in the center. I have one of the straw crosses which my mother brought me from Ireland over twelve years ago.

Yesterday ushered in the greatest liturgical week in the year: Holy Week. It seems that this year Lent sped by faster than ever. Our order's Co-Foundress, Mother Thecla Merlo, reminded the Sisters in a talk she gave on Wednesday of Holy Week in 1958,
At the beginning of Lenteach of us selected a penance for herself.
I believe that we all did it, whether big or small, according to the fevor
of our soul.
Now we are in Passion Week and we must try to add some other little thing which
is a sacrifice for us....We have to live together and we have to have
patience and try to bear with each other for the love of Jesus....Every day and'
every moment there are things to put up with....First of all we must live in
charity well; then everyone should week to give her contribution so as not to be
a burden on others....If we take something, then let us put it back in its place;
if we close a window, let us close it well, with the handles turned the right
way. Even these little things pleas God.Let us act this way during this Passion
Week.
Mother Thecla is called "Venerable Mother Thecla" an "official" title given by the church which designates that a person has already passed the first official stage on the way to sanctity. The next stage is beatification, and the person is referred to as "Blessed James" or Blessed Jane. I promise more on Mother Thecla and sanctity later.
My prayers for all of you that you may have a deeply prayerful Holy Week as we meditate on what Jesus did for each of us.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

February's Almost Over!

Someone sent me a card lately reminding me that I did not post anything for January! Ooops--was that an omen for this year? I hope not. A few people invited me to join Facebook, another web source of cyber relationships. After putting it off for months, I finally signed up with halting steps. I was surprised by the number of folks already there whom I know, or at least, I have met at one time or another. A (great) niece from Tennessee is there, a South Carolina niece, and lots of the Daughters of St. Paul from Great Britain to Singapore, Boston and beyond.
After being cold-free for more than two years, I had was attacked by cold germs this past weekend. I forgot how miserable one can feel. Having a cold now and then should make me more compassionate. My voice immediately goes an octave or two lower, breathing is impaired and sleep clamps me tight as I look with watery eyes at the alarm clock. My Sister Superior who is also our book centre manager invited me to go to bed around 3:30 on Saturday afternoon, even though we were our usual Saturday busy. I was happy to comply.
At Sunday Mass I tried to wave off folks who wanted to grasp my hand at the sign of peace. I wanted to keep my germs to myself. I think they got the message. The Mass on Sunday was a bit longer than usual, since a baby was baptized. The priest was gracious in that he explained each step of the baptismal ceremony. It was the first time I had witnessed a baptism in Italian. The 11:00 AM Mass at St. Charles Borromeo Church here in Toronto is packed with Italian speaking folks as is the 8:00 AM Italian Mass. I was pleased to see a new generation in attendance. So the myth that all the Italo-Canadians are gray haired and past their prime is not true. I have found that many second generation Italian-Canadians are sending their children to learn Italian. Since I did not grow up in a bi-lingual household, I see how precious a gift this is to this children. That was a long digression on having a February cold.
Last Wednesday we held our monthly Italian Pauline Cooperators meeting. This group is very small, but faithful. When my Italian swerves to the grammatical left, they steer me on the right course! Once in a while I watch Italian news on television so I can keep up-to-date with this language. For Chinese New Year, a number of our patrons who speak Chinese have come in. With them I could at least give them greetings in Cantonese. For Lent, as a positive practice, I started once again to study French, the official second language of this country of Canada. I've only been to Montreal once. However, as soon as one crosses from the Province of Ontario into Quebec, all the signs are French. So it helps to know a thing or two to get around La Belle Province! In our book centre we find it useful to speak Spanish too, since a good number of Hispanic people frequent Pauline Books & Media on Saturdays in Toronto. A trusty employee from Ecuador orders our Spanish materials.
I hope you are all having a great Lent. This year I notice the Sunday readings more than I ever have before. They present a virtual feast for the soul. Last Sunday's story of the Woman at the Well and her blunt dialogue with Jesus has so many layers of meaning. At our baptismal Mass, Father reminded us of the waters of baptism. Years ago I heard a famous American homilist give a whole day's explanation of the fourth chapter of John. He compared the lady at the well to biblical Israel, and also to us.
Next Sunday's gospel is about the man born blind whom Jesus cured. The man who was cured had to testify about his blindness and his cure. Yet, he was not afraid to speak the truth, even though it was politically incorrect.
Have a good end to this leap year February. May the graces of Lent this year bring you to a deeper intimacy with Jesus. Ciao! And, better yet, as the deacon said today at the chapel I attended "Sia lodato Gesu' Cristo!" Praised be Jesus Christ! (The response is: May He always be praised! Or, in Italian, "Sempre sia lodato!")

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Lent Begins

A friend of mine emailed me from Brazil last week. Noise from revelers enjoying Carneval kept her from getting a good night's sleep. It seems that some of her neighbors dreaded the idea of Ash Wednesday and the 40 days of Lent. Lent signifies a springtime. Maybe those folks celebrating Carneval never heard that there are three main aspects of practicing Lent: prayer, fasting (refraining from some legtimate good, or from an addiction); and alsmgiving--which means to help those poorer than ourselves.

In our hemisphere Spring is coming, although the grass here in Toronto is again covered with lots of heavy snow. Experience tells us that one day the sun will shine, the grass will turn green, and we can enjoy the outdoors without donning boots, heavy jackets and hoods.
In our spiritual life, we are headed for the greatest feast of the Christian year--Easter--the celebration of Christ's Resurrection from the dead. One writer said that C. S. Lewis once commented that nothing that has not died can rise. Jesus said "unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies" it just remains a grain of wheat and never sprouts into a sheaf of wheat bearing much grain. We are made to live, and I for one, am not delighted at the prospect of death--naturally speaking. However in Lent we are not speaking of the purely "natural" but of the next level up--the life of grace, the spiritual life each one lives. Some persons have been working on their spiritual hygiene for a long time. Others are just beginning, and still others perhaps have not begun to address the health of their souls. For me Lent is a time to renew my purpose in life, to give more time to essentials which include prayer, reflection and deeper reading of the Word of God.
In our center here in Toronto, I was edified at how many people have come in to select reading to help them spend a better Lent. About a week ago a family of three, husband, wife and adolescent daughter, spent time browsing and choosing reading. Each one toted one of the baskets we provide for our customers. They were seriously preparing to spend the best Lent ever. Others came in for booklets on the Way of the Cross, or books for daily Lenten reading.
Yesterday I received an email with Lenten suggestions from a priest of the Society of St. Paul in Italy. Father spends much time in giving retreats and helping Paulines with spiritual direction. Father reminded us that Lent is a good time to renew the resolution to work on practicing the virtue that is the opposite of our outstanding vice--or to put it more gently--our "specialty." That is the one tendency in us which pulls us away from God--this could be inordinate pride, or a nasty quick temper, or selfishness, or addiction to eating too much. The list can become a litany. The seven capital sins are the roots of these specialties that each one may experience. Practicing their opposite is a real "hands on" way of living Lent. It is translating the teaching of spiritual masters to "die to yourself" so as to live more as Jesus would. It is making space in our egos for God to be in control. Since many of you may have watched the Super Bowl, Lent is a time to let God be the quarter back calling the shots and we the one who catches what he sends. As in football (American football), sometimes yards are gained slowly and painfully, so it can happen in our spiritual journey. We gain territory only after a lot of effort, sometimes we drop the ball, or we even get out of bounds. Lent calls us to direct our efforts toward God. It can mean fasting from food; fasting from outbursts of anger, or criticism; fasting from the Internet; or fasting from some media that is pulling us away from virtue. As one seven year old girl told me today what she is going to give up: "I guess I will give up being mean to my older sister." That was a good guess!
Whatever be your specialty and your remedy for it, I offer you my prayers that your Lenten journey will be a happy one. Lent is not something we "go alone" on. We travel it with millions of others, and Christ travels with us.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Epiphany

In Italy today is the day of "Befana" a bent old lady who brings gifts to good children and chunks of coal to those who were not so good. It is a day for gift giving in many countries. Epiphany means a manifestation -- a showing, a sort of revelation. In the liturgy of the Epiphany Jesus is coming among all of us, since the Wise Men came not from Israel but from other nations. In the past, this was a day of sending forth missionaries to manifest the Good News of Jesus to all the world.
The Wise Men or Magi brought Jesus gifts of gold for a king; frankincense to worship the king; and myrrh to embalm the king who would die for all of us. Myrrh is also a sign of sacrifice. The Little King whom the Magi adored would become the Lamb of God sacrificed for all. One of the hymns used at the close of the Mass we attended today had the word manifestation in every verse at least once. If someone had missed the homily or the gospel, that song would have jogged their memory!
As our Founder, Blessed James Alberione said, It was left to our generation to be able to truly proclaim the gospel "From the housetops", from broadcasts,to film, to iPods, and the Internet. Using the media for God is a contemporary daily Epiphany.
Of course, each of us is called to be -- in our own way -- an "Epiphany" of Christ to those around us.
Has anyone ever barged into your world with a big smile, perhaps with a small gift, and a few good words? For me, that kind of person is a real Epiphany of the presence of Christ among us. Or, maybe someone has confided to you that they are going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, they are going to read a special good book...in other words, they are working on a deeper relationship with God. I ma privileged to know people like this, and they are for me real manifestations,little epiphanies on overcast winter days. May your week be filled with many such epiphanies.
I ask you all to pray for the people in Kenya, that a lasting and just peace will come about in that country. Pray for our Sisters who are there--many are novices from all over Africa. Pray too for the situation in Pakistan. We have a numerous group of mostly young Daughters of St. Paul in the major cities there, who may be at risk.
Thanks to all of you who read this blog. You can also reach me at pmartin@pauline.com.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

The New Year came in last night rather softly here. I was in our chapel where we were free to spend time closing the old year and beginning the New year with Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament. Close to midnight I could here some fireworks and other noise in the distance, yet it was good to begin this year in the company of the One who came to bring us real happiness. To help me focus on the needs of friends and family, I actually began to write names in my notebook: family members, Sisters, Cooperators, priests whom I know, and many more. In fact, there were more names than I could count. I remembered especially a young man who suffers from mental illness. About a month ago, his mother had purchased my book "Tender Mercies, Prayers for Healing and Coping." At that time, the young man was hospitalized. It appears he did read some of the book and was helped by it. His form of illness and depression makes him think that he is not loved by God. That's a heavy burden to carry around. I assured him that he is certainly loved by God. In fact, God "loved him into existence" and his love sustains him each moment. I ask all of you who read this blog to pray for this young man, and for his mother. She is a strong woman who is coping as best she can with her son's illness. There is a prayer/support group for those who suffer from mental illness, and for their family members and friends: the Guild of St. Benedict Labre'. There is no such Catholic group yet here in Toronto that I am aware of. The Guild helps many people in this situation.
As we begin this New Year, we begin in hope as Pope Benedict tells us. Hope runs deeper than mere optimism. It sees the realities of the political unrest is so many nations, the violence and wars going on. yet, hope is planted or rooted in God, not in science or any material source.
I thank God for granting me and you the grace to begin a New Year. Later this year, we will begin a year-long celebration in honor of St. Paul. That "year" will begin on June 29. Until then we can, as St. Paul tells us, "live in love, and let the Word of Christ dwell in us."