Friday, February 06, 2009
Yesterday, February 5th, I was interviewed on English Radio Maria here in Toronto. My show host was Sharon Di Cecco. Sharon prepares a lovely program every Thursday afternoon. I have been her guest a few times. Since February 5th marked 45 years since the death of Mother Thecla Merlo, we dedicated our hour to her. The former Teresa Merlo from a small town called Castagnito near Alba, Italy was called to be the first Superior General of the fledgling congregation named Daughters of St. Paul. When Father James Alberione had begun the masculine branch of the Pauline Family, he asked some of the students at the Alba Seminary if they knew of a few good young women who shared the dream of evangelizing with the press (and consequently all the media.) Teresa Merlo's brother recommended his sister. Another order had passed over her, citing her fragile health. Despite the fragile health, Teresa met with "The Theologian" as Alberione was once called. She accepted his invitation to use the means of today for the people of today. Although at first there was nothing to show of a future "Media Apostolate", Teresa joined a small band of young women who had already gathered in a small apartment close to Alba's Cathedral. They opened a small book center. A statue of St. Paul was placed in the window. The local passersby made the connection: St. Paul and these young women whom they called "daughters" from the word in the Piedmont dialect "figlia" for daughter or young woman, must be related. Paul, the Father, these young ladies were his daughters. The name became official. The embryonic community of women dedicated to a routine of daily prayer and meditation blended with long hours of writing, editing and printing "for God" grew by leaps and bounds.
Sharon asked what did I think Mother Thecla would say about the Internet, especially now that Pope Benedict and the Vatican are on YouTube. I answered that Mother Thecla would certainly have applauded the use of this wide reaching means to evangelize the good. Her criteria for accepting or rejecting projects was: "Will it do good to the people?" My blog is a tiny way of fulfilling the wish of Mother Thecla to use the means of today for the people of today.
On Sunday, February 1, the Toronto Archdiocese celebrated its Day of Religious Life.
By "religious" we mean especially those who live in communities of prayer and often of apostolic work. These men and women are set aside, consecrated to God especially by vows of poverty, chastity, obedience. Poverty is a simplicity of lifestyle which involves renunciation of income in many cases, care for material goods, a true "work ethic" for God. Chastity is the choice of loving God above all else, and directing one's affection and energies to his work and his people. Chastity does not shrivel up a person's heart, but makes him or her more caring of the whole people of God. Mother Thecla used to say that our hearts have to encompass the needs of all people. that's a big order! (By the way, we pronounce Thecla like: tek-lah.)
Obedience entails submission of our will to a superior who represents the Lord in our particular situations. Obedience is often called the hardest vow, since the item most dear to people is our own opinion. the Letter to the Hebrews says about Jesus that "He learned obedience." His obedience brought our salvation. His grace enables us to live fully the three vows as a sign of Christ's love for all of us.
It was encouraging to see many young religious men and women who were in their first stages of formation. (In the photo where Mother Thecla is seated she is with M. Ignazia Balla, who was her first successor. The other photo captured M. Thecla at prayer.)