Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ready for a New Year

After our stormy beginning of the week, the sun has shone and temperatures have risen. The big snow drifts are starting to down-size. the new year of 2011 should begin with sunny skies, at least in the Boston area.
My prayer is that the gift of a new year of life will be the best ever for you and for me. I am reading a book called "The Reed of God" by the late English author Caroll Houselander. Even though the book was written in the early 1950's it is graced with a Christ-centered and very practical view of how to live "in Christ" in daily life. There are parts of Ms. Houselander's descriptions that disguise an almost hilarious wit. This is especially true when she details how some individuals live what they call a "spiritual" life, but only on a part-time basis. In other words, they are kind of half-hearted about following Christ. They follow him, but more or less on the sidelines, like a sports enthusiast keeping score for his or her favorite team, all from the comfort of a warm couch. This is my paraphrase of the author's wit.
In the new year, we may be asked to rise from our couches and invite someone to seriously consider returning to Mass and the sacraments, or to think about what the Catholic Church offers them. We may actually be invited to speak up about what we believe and why we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Christ may want to speak through you or me with a good, uplifting word, a compliment, a word of advice, or even an admonition. May we be open to what God wants us to do and say.
There is a saying that can accompany us this new year, "The will  of God will not take us where the grace of God cannot keep us."
May your New Year be one crowned with grace upon grace throughout the New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pictures Speak for Us

Our Christmas celebration was very relaxed and joyful. We placed a Nativity scene in our living room window, so Baby Jesus was front and center. We prepared a good dinner with ham, sweet potatoes, and two kinds of greens. A few days before Christmas, I made "kolachi", a sweet bread roll that many of my neighbors from Eastern Europe would give our family as gifts. This year I was able to make apricot roll, walnut roll and poppy seed kolachi. It freezes well and makes a handy snack with tea or coffee, especially in cold weather. Of course, we sampled some of each flavor to make sure they were all right.
We also had eggnog which gives a special holiday feel to our celebrations.

Sr. Emily, Sr. neville Chrstine,
Sr. Patricia Mary, Sr. Mary Peter
On Christmas Eve night we attended 9:00 PM Mass at Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Northeast Philadelphia. We were treated to a very lively homily by the pastor, Father Quinter.

A "Cool" Gift
On Christmas Day we attended a 10:00 AM Mass at St. Christopher Parish a little farther north of us. The singing was very good and at that Mass too the priest's homily reminded us of the reality of God taking on a real human body on the first Christmas Day.
On the next day we ventured out into the oncoming blizzard and hurricane which caused us to stay overnight in Rhode Island. Here are two tiny videos with a few seconds of us Sisters in real life winter weather.


video
video

Christmas Week Adventure

If you live in the USA, you no doubt heard or read about the "Bluricane" of 2010's winter. On Sunday, December 26, the snow did not "lay, deep and crisp and even". Instead, the snow blew deep, unevenly, icily, and swiftly as we drove north on Interstate 95. Travel through New York City was the slowest I have ever seen. The majority of drivers went slowly and carefully. When I took the wheel, roads were already very slippery. Snow covered the roadway, and all the huge snow ploughs seemed to be going south as we headed straight north into the jaws of a great nor'ester. At times the snow pelted us with ice which kept tapping on the car coating the windshield with ice. The maximum speed was 30 miles per hour. I avoided using the brake to avoid spinning out and losing control. At a certain point when white-outs, blinding blasts of snow surrounded us, we decided to take the next exit with a lodging sign. Thankfully, there was room in an inn for three of us Sisters. The snacks and fruit we brought along served as supper, since there was no restaurant close by. We had taken along our eggnog which provided protein. The next morning, the inn had a well stocked breakfast room.
The inn extended its checkout time until noon, so we prayed and did some computer work in the comfort of a warm hotel room. Boston was still getting snow, so we took our time and made our way to Boston. We were just about 60 miles south of our destination. However, the force of a combination of blizzard and hurricane destined us to stop in Rhode Island. We were blessed that there was "room in the inn" when we arrived. On Monday Interstate 95's four lanes were all cleared and visible. On Sunday evening, barely one lane was clear, and it was often invisible.
As we drove north, we saw many cars which had spun out and were facing in the wrong direction, or some had slid off the roadway. My faith in our  Guardian Angels was reinforced after many near misses, when people passed us and then swerved right and left because of the treacherous roadways. As darkness enveloped us, and white-outs threatened, I kep thinking of the hymn blessed Cardinal Newman wrote, "Lead Kindly Light amid the encircling gloom, lead thou me on." We were all thankful for having arrived safely, for the efforts of all the snowplough drivers, the salt truck men, the highway patrols, and the good roadways and communications systems. We kept in touch with our Sisters by cell phone, so they would know where we were.
As we await the New Year, we pray in thanksgiving for all the graces God has sent in good measure. And, we thank God ahead of time for all the good he will shower on us in 2011. Have a Merry continuation of Christmas week!

Monday, December 20, 2010

On the Theshold of Christmas

The last few weeks have been filled with activity. We Sisters in Philadelphia carried out three Birthday Parties for Baby Jesus. If you are wondering what's a Baby Jesus birthday Party anyway, it's a simple response. For years children have been taken to shopping centers to meet with Santa Claus to ask him for what they want for Christmas. A visit to Santa was always an occasion for a holiday  nice photo. Since Christmas is really the commemoration of Jesus' birthday, why not put Jesus in the center of the photo? At our Baby Jesus Birthday parties, children and often their parents dress as characters of the Nativity Story. We provide costumes, a manger and a Baby Jesus statue for the photos. Many families have made attendance at our Baby Jesus parties a normal part of  their Christmas holiday activities.
Since our Philadelphia book store is temporarily closed as we search for a better location, we have taken the Parties "on the road".
An integral part of the Birthday Party for Baby Jesus is our display of  good books and audio/visuals. Pauline media offer a means to reinforce the idea that the Christmas celebrations really are a way to wish a truly Happy Birthday to Jesus, and remind the children that Christmas is more about giving than receiving. Of course, with the generosity of two local bakeries, we gave a treat to  each child.
At our first Baby Jesus Party, we took the time to "be in the picture" too.


It's amazing how otherwise mischievous children pose as little angels, or shepherds or as Joseph and Mary. And, they look authentically holy--at least for the time it takes to snap their pictures!








A "Nativity Scene" pose in south Philadelphia
As you make the final preparations for the celebration of Jesus' coming as a real baby into this world, may you be graced with much peace, love and true joy.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

America's Patron

Tomorrow, December 8, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin.
Under this title, Mary is the Patroness of the United States of America. That is why we have a National Shrine in Washington, DC dedicated to Our Lady under this title. Here is a link to the Shrine: National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. If you are ever in Washington, visit this shrine which hosts at least 70 chapels dedicated to Mary under various titles.
December 8 is also a special day in the town of Agana, Guam where Mary is honored in a very special way. The feast day there pre-dates the one on mainland USA. Guam was colonized by the Spanish after a zealous Spanish Jesuit, St. Diego San Vitores died trying to bring Christianity to the people of Guam who are called Chomorros. After the people accepted Christianity, a statue of Mary was found floating in the Pacific Ocean off Guam's coast. The statue was brought ashore and is now enshrined in the Cathedral of Dulce Nombre de Maria (Sweet Name of Mary) in Agana.
Guam was occupied on December 7, 1941 the same day as the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Guamanians lived through some terrible times during World War II. However their faith helped them survive and to thrive.
As we know the title "Immaculate Conception" refers to the fact that Mary, of all creatures, was conceived free of original sin from the moment of her conception.
We ask through Mary Immaculate's intercession graces for our country, for ourselves, and for protection for our American men and women serving in the armed forces--especially those in harm's way.
Here is a picture of the statue of Our Lady Called Kamalen.

Philadelphia's A King Is Born Concert



video
Last night our singing Sisters put on a lovely concert at Father Judge High School. They offered a wide variety of Christmas songs, including one in Italian to Baby Jesus. There were contemporary songs as well as old timers, such as Jingle Bells.
The audience was very excited with the Sisters very own edition of a Sister Act scene. I am uploading some pictures and a small video so you can share in the fun. The Sisters have three more concerts: one at St. Anne Church In Marshfield, Massachuseets, and two in our convent chapel in Boston's Jamaica Plain.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Christmas Concerts

Our Daughters of St. Paul Choir arrived in Philadelphia this afternoon. They had given a concert of Christmas music in St. Paul's Church in Princeton, New Jersey. Tomorrow evening they will be singing at Father Judge High School in Northeast Philadelphia.  Four of us drove up to Staten Island on Thursday to join the Sisters as they sang for benefactors and friends for the 16th year at the annual benefit dinner. It was a pleasure to see and hear our choir sing a variety of modern and ancient Christmas music. In a way it is a "Sister Act," a real one, where our Sisters show the joy they have in serving God through music.
to get a preview of the Sisters' concerts go to daughtersofstpaul.org.
Our week's agenda is full, so I will let you know more on Tuesday, God-willing. Have a great second week of Advent.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Advent and a New Year

Maybe it's the feel of something I did in my early teens and still do today that gives me a great feeling of joy whenever I prepare an Advent wreath. I  remember getting the candles and the prayer card for the family ritual from the Daughters of St. Paul when I was in high school.
Today I pulled out my "Christmas Box"--a big flat under-the-bed storage box that hides my Advent/Christmas treasures.
I found Advent candles, but my candle holders are in Boston. I improvised something sturdy to hold the four candles: three purple and one pink to symbolize the weeks of Advent and the time before Christ's coming when people awaited his coming. From clippings from holly bushes in our yard, and from fir trees hanging well over our lawn. I fashioned a wreath to encircle the candles in our living room and in our chapel.
As we prayed the evening prayer for the First Sunday of Advent, we lit the first of the candles to remind us of the season. This time celebrates our waiting for God. And, as our Mother General wrote to us, God waits for us too.
To continue the Advent theme, we fashioned a set of paper candles for our bay window. To go along a bit with the culture, we changed the wreath at our front door to one with greens and a bright red bow.
As our Holy Father, Pope Benedict asked, this weekend we pray for all the unborn around the world that their lives will be a blessing to their mothers ad fathers, to their communities, and to the entire world. May the unborn be protected, nourished and cherished. The Blessed Virgin Mary is our model in Advent. As she awaited the birth of her Son, she serenely carried out the chores of her daily life, and she was no doubt, a woman of the deepest prayer. May the words of Caryll Houselander shed light on our Adventjourney: "This time of Advent is absolutely essential to our contemplation too. If we have truly given our humanity to be changed into Christ, it is essential to us to us that we do not disturb this time of grace.
"It is a time of darkness, of faith. We shall not see Christ's radiance in our lives yet; it is still hidden in our darkness; nevertheless we still must believe that He is growing in our lives; we must believe it so firmly that we cannot help relating everything, literally everything to this almost incredible reality." (From Houselander's "The Reed of God", Ave Maria Press edition, 2006)
May you and I experience a beautiful, grace-filled Advent.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

To all who celebrate Thanksgiving Day, have a blessed and joyful day!
Yesterday I went out for a few items needed for our Thanksgiving menu.
The store where we usually shop for fruits and vegetables was very crowded. shoppers were stocking up for big dinners. Others were selecting wreaths already decorated for Christmas. People were rushing in and out--in a hurry to beat the traffic which was already getting congested. Yet folks were polite and patient, especially in the parking lot.
Today I baked two pumpkin pies "from scratch"--meaning that the pies came not from a can put from a "real" pumpkin, cut open, cleaned out, and steamed to soften it for cooking. I found a nice recipe for pumpkin cookies too, so I baked some of those too.
As I mixed, and stirred and baked today, I was grateful for the health to be able to do all this; I was also thankful that we have such an abundance of food to prepare; for the spices that come from distant lands and fill our house with pleasant aromas; for the grace to be in a country that allows freedom of speech and of religious practice; for my family, my friends and the Sisters of my religious community. I thank God for giving me a mother who made sure that all of us 13 children learned to cook (at least enough to survive.) More and more when I prepare something, I think "How would Mom have done this?" Then I recall what she used to do and find myself doing likewise. Tomorrow all of my little community here in Philadelphia will prepare something for our holiday dinner, and we are all looking forward to this pause to enjoy time together before our activities resume this weekend. To each and all of you all the best for a very blessed and joyous Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Season of Thanks

Today is the feast of St. Cecilia, Patroness of Church Musicians. In Rome's Catacombs of St. Callistus there is a lovely statute of this saint. With long flowing hair she is depicted as lying on her side, three fingers together signify the Triune God for whom she died. During this month, the Church has honored saints with her without canonization: all those who have "fought the good fight", and have "won the race" as St. Paul described himself.
For Americans of a certain age, this day stands out too for the shock of seeing our president assassinated 47 years ago. I remember the day and the moment when a woman emerged from a taxi in Buffalo, New York. She shouted to anyone who could hear, "They shot the president!" That was the first time in my life that someone had done violence to a political leader in my country. Then came Bob Kennedy and Martin Luther King--both victims of assassins. those events seemed to me to mark a new era in our history.
Yet, in comparison to some other places on this earth, we Americans and Canadians live in relative peace. This is something to be thankful for. Yesterday on Public Television a Benedictine Brother was featured as one who preaches gratitude as a way to gain peace. He said that "everything is a gift." He is so right about that. He qualified his statement by saying that war and other obviously evil events do not in themselves call for gratitude. However how we face up to unfortunate events can be a source of gratitude, if we make the best of them. It's worth the time it takes to transform a potential cause for griping into a cause to celebrate and to give thanks.
Thursday we Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day. May we each say a profound "thank you" to God, and to all those to whom we owe gratitude.
Best wishes for a very blessed Thanksgiving Day!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Good Day

Today was a full one for me and the other sisters. Sr. Emily and I left early this morning to be at Nativity of Our Lord in Warminster, PA. Saturday evening Sisters Patricia Mary and Neville Christine set up a spacious display of Pauline books, CD's and DVD's in the Parish Conference Center. Two Sisters of St. Joseph, Sister Peggy and Sister Madeline, prepared coffee and donuts to make us feel at home and to keep warm on a chilly morning.


People did come over to see our display, including the pastor and his associate. both of the priests purchased titles for themselves and their ministry. Some of the ladies who staff the parish's "Neumann Library" were very helpful. The parish library is housed in the Center and part of the library is available on a cart at the church entrance.
Sometimes it is a challenge to explain titles to youngsters. A five year old boy was having a hard time choosing a book. I picked up "the Adventures of St. Paul" which has colorful illustrations and a simple vocabulary. As I showed the book to the young man, I noted that the cover showed Paul keeping afloat while the boat he had been on was breaking up. I thought that maybe this eager reader would not comprehend the word "shipwreck." I said, " You know who St. Paul was. He was a good friend of Jesus who went through a lot for Jesus. He was even beat up many times for God." The boy's big brown eyes widened: "He was beat up?" I replied, "Yes." By this time he had grasped the book and was holding it tight. St. Paul's enduring a hard time for Jesus convinced the little man that he should know more about this hero. The kindergartner's big smile was one of the highlights that made my day.
It was consoling to realize too that several people were able to take home books meant to alleviate stress and mental hardship.
For us Paulines today was the Feast of Jesus, the Divine Master, Way, Truth and Life. We pray that all those whom we met today may be blessed with a deeper love for Jesus Master.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Spookiest Weekend

In our Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood, almost every lawn has Fall decorations including scarecrows and ghosts. Halloween is celebrated in a big way here. The Feast of All Hallows--Halloween--has morphed into a much bigger celebration than long ago when we trekked door-to-door with Dad's old hat. At each stop we would sing song this phrase: "Halloween is coming and the goose is getting fat. Please put a nickel in the old man's hat!" I don't recall getting many nickels, but we did reap a bountiful harvest of candy corn and other sweets. Things have certainly come a long way from candy corn and apple dunking to orange colored lights and glitzy costumes. A friend said he has to go to a parade today. His granddaughter's school is having a Halloween parade--a not-to-be-missed affair! We grown ups know that All Saints Day, November 1st, is All Hallows Day when we Catholics attend Holy Mass to honor all those holy men and women who preceeded us in life. Some are officially recognized as saints with a capitol "S". The over whelming majority are lower case "s's", but still saints. I think of Mrs. McN., the mother of a local priest who is a university chaplain. Left a single Mom when her husband disappeared after their son was born, she waitressed in local diners to support herself and her son. In the early 1960's a black man came in to the diner where she worked and ordered a hamburger. Her boss ordered her to salt the man's food so heavily "that he and his kind would never come back."  Mrs. McN. removed her apron, handed it to the boss and refused to follow his orders. She returned home and told her son, "We will probably be hungry for a few days. But that's OK. God will provide for us." God did provide and her son grew to be a priest even though he met difficulties on the way to ordination.
My own mother took in my youngest brother's high school friend for an entire year. His new "Dad" locked him out when he came home one night and told him not to come back. Even though ours was a large family, we always had room to take some neighbor boys to Mass on Sunday. During our post high school years, a friend who went to school with me stayed at our house for four years while she worked out some of her difficulties.
Even though Halloween might seem to be a pagan custom, we who believe in the Communion of Saints--those in heaven and those on earth--have a deep reason to celebrate everyday holiness. Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Week

On Thursday, Sister Neville Christine and I traveled south in the Philadelphia Archdiocese to attend the Delaware County Catechist's' Night Out. About 100 men and women who dedicate their time to teaching religion to young people were honored at the dinner and get together. Many of the people present went home with Pauline titles.
Some of the women who attended the Grief and Loss Seminar

This weekend was spent bringing our publications to different groups of people. On Saturday morning, our novice, Sister Emily and I went to Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania to be present at a workshop on Grief and Loss for those who offer the ministry of help to those who suffer grief at the loss of a loved one, or at the loss of a job or  some other important aspect of their lives. These dedicated folks, most of whom seemed to be women, accompany the families of deceased persons. they even visit the grieving persons in their homes, or welcome them to the parish rectory where they are comforted and helped even with planning the funeral liturgy.

Sister Emily helping at the Grief and Loss display tables

We were able to offer them several titles. Some chose "Tender Mercies" since it has prayers for those who are grieving.

Interest in the books was very high at St. Cyprian's.






Sister Neville at St. Cyprian's
While Sr. Emily and Sr. Patricia Mary went to St. Cecilia parish in Philadelphia's Northeast, Sr. Neville and I were in West Philadelphia at St. Cyprian's Parish. The parish, even though it's church was built in 1924, was founded in the Holy Year, 2000 A.D. It is a thriving Catholic African American community. People welcomed us heartily and availed themselves of our visit to add to their family libraries or to acquire gifts for friends and family.
The third Mass held there on Sunday was in Ibo, the language of Nigeria. Many of the people wore colorful Nigerian clothing. Drums and lively music were a natural part of their liturgy.
This week will find us Philadelphia Daughters of St. Paul at a Catholic school in Moorestown, New Jersey. We are there with our books, DVD's and CD's for the children, parents and teachers.
I love school book fairs, since little ones acquire a taste for wholesome reading from their earliest years.
May your week be blessed. Sister Mary Peter

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Birthing of a book

Tender Mercies, A Book of Prayers for Healing and Coping

Many people have asked me, "Why and how did you ever write a book of prayers like this one?"

Several years ago I began some formal studies in pastoral psychology. In my undergraduate days, the only psychology I had was philosophical psychology which I did not find very practical. After working closely with some individuals who were volunteers, I discovered that I needed some further background to understand their behavior and my reactions to it. With the hope of helping both myself and the lay people with whom I worked, I enrolled in Boston College’s Institute for Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry. The IREPM as it was called provided many courses that dealt with psychological problems and pastoral concerns. Classes on grief and loss and troubled personalities coupled with weekend seminars offered remedies for caregivers, counselors and those who might be afflicted with mental difficulties.

As any student knows, there is hardly a class without some “paper” due. Ours were no exception. At one point rather than give a heady scientific response to clinical problems, I decided to compose some prayers for the “troubled personality.” Troubled personalities can be people suffering from mild stress to clinical depression. That is a really vast spectrum of people!

The first prayers were a Way of the Cross and a set of meditations on the 20 mysteries of the Rosary.
 A few “reality check” prayers were part of the initial paper. Of course, I was not advocating a boycott of psychologists or psychiatrists, or of medications which can relieve stress. Rather, I was directing people to the source of all peace and comfort, the God who created the human heart.

When I presented the original manuscript to our Pauline Books & Media publishing house editors, they saw a need for its contents. The editors asked me to enhance the contents by adding more prayers for specific needs, such as eating disorders, cutting, etc. In the meantime I had knee surgery which gave me the time to research and equip myself to write prayers that would make sense to persons who suffer from the various disorders.

When the book was edited and ready to print, it was read by two psychologists to check for any inaccuracies. I was in Toronto when the book was released. Here are some words from a mother whose young adult son was in a psychiatric ward when she gave him Tender Mercies:

Dear Sister Mary:
"My son V. was very eager for the book and was so pleasantly surprised that there were so many prayers that applied to him. He read some of them and said they helped him to gain some control. He said the voice in his head was very angry with the book. He found your dedication to him well directed at him. He also commented about your writing as "every sentence is meaningful, no marshmallow fillers".
[My son] V. took the book to his new friends, all tormented with their mental illness, and was happy to tell them about it. There are at least 6 people who talk about their God beliefs, share books, and comfort each other."

The case of Nina and her troubled son may be unusual, since many of the people who purchase Tender Mercies have no psychiatric problem. However all of us may find ourselves in stressful circumstances: a sudden illness, an unexpected expense, a loss, a sadness over the death of a loved one….As my psychology professor said: “We all walk a fine line. We don’t know what may push us over the edge.” In other words, we are all vulnerable, weak human beings.

The object of Tender Mercies is to connect you the reader with God, the source of all joy, our ultimate good. Even though real love is anything but “mushy”, it is also tender and constant. May you who read and pray with Tender Mercies be consoled and strengthened in your daily quest to draw closer to God, and to allow God to draw closer to you.

Tender Mercies is also available in French.

May this book be a source of blessing to all who read it.

Sister Mary Peter Martin, fsp

Monday, October 18, 2010

In Ben Salem

This past weekend, Sister Neville Christine and myself were at the parish of Our Lady of Fatima in Ben Salem, Pennsylvania. The church is surrounded by   lovely grounds. Immediately behind the church but far removed from it is a huge casino. It sports several huge colorful screens to attract customers to gamble. However many people preferred to gamble on the Lord rather than to visit the casino on Saturday evening and Sunday moring. The pastor is fluent in Spanish which well serves the many parishioners from various Spanish speaking countries.  Elly, one of our Pauline cooperators was a great help to us assisting me as I gave a little talk to the congregation after Communion at the Spanish Mass. Elly, whose Dad was employed by one of the big banana companies, was born and raised in Central America. She served folks at our tables and helped us to pack the remainders.
People were very welcoming to us, and interested in the good reading we had to offer. 
Elly was very attentive to our Spanish-speaking folks.

Elly's big smile is always a welcome sight to those who visit our tables.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Middle East--Let Us Pray


 
The top photo is of the interior of the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon
in North Jackson, Ohio. This Marian statue atop a spiral staircase outdoors at the Shrine resembles that in the original Lebanese Shrine.

Pope Benedict has gathered together a large group of prelates, priests, and laymen and women to support the Church in the Middle East. These people are together to plan to strengthen those Christians who live in what some call a "hot spot" or a troubled area of this planet. Many of these Christians actually use Aramaic in their liturgy. Their words are in the same language which Jesus used. Where I grew up, there were many people from Lebanon or whose parents were from there. Living with people from all different parts of the world enriched my life. Even though I did not attend Mass in their Maronite parishes, I was at least introduced to the idea that more than one language (Latin) is used in the Church's liturgy.
On my last trip to Ohio, we visiting Daughters of St. Paul were guests of the Maronite Sisters of St. Anthony of Egypt, or Antonine Sisters. The Sisters, who operate an Adult Day Care Center, are all from Lebanon. For now they pray together in Arabic, the language of their home country. Their convent in North Jackson, Ohio next to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon is their only home in the USA. The Sisters also conduct schools in their native country. Their mission to minister to the elderly is much needed today.These Sisters are a sign to the rest of the world of the vibrant faith of our Catholic brothers and sisters in the Middle East.  Together let us pray for the safety and well well being of our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Charismatic Conference





















Sunday I attended most of the final day of the Camden Diocese Charismatic Conference held at the Wildwood Convention Center in Wildwood, New Jersey.The weather was picture perfect. The speakers whom I listened to were both dynamic and faith filled women. The closing Mass was concelebrated with Father Gerard Marable as the preacher and main celebrant. Father Marable is a gifted preacher both entertaining and obviously immersed in Scripture.

Sister Neville Christine who is a "junior professed" Sister, and Sister Emily a novice, attended the youth track and joined me for the closing Mass. (A junior professed Sister is one who has made vows for one year at a time.)
People were very welcoming and enthusiastic. The photo shows me with Father Bakey and Sr. Neville Christine. I am including some photos to give an idea of how many attended. It was great to be with people who want to listen to the Lord God and imitate his goodness in their lives. The theme of their three day convention was: "If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart." May our hearts be open to God every day so he may fill us with his wisdom and grace.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Pope and a German Woman

Sometimes when we look back in history, it seems women only stood out if they were involved in scandals or intrigues. Yet there are some brilliant feminine voices still calling to us from history. Pope Benedict recalled a German woman whose writings exist only partially today. Yet, Gertrude of Helfta remains a "light" of intellectual and spiritual maturity. She is considered a mystic, someone who attained a profound relationship with Christ; an expert in prayer; a master of theology; a model for men and women.
In Church terminology, Gertrude is called "The Great," a rare distinction for any saint--and the only German woman to attain the title "Great." If you find any of her writings, delve into them. She will lead you to a deeper friendship with the Lord Jesus.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Here and There

Please pray for the eternal repose of the soul of a good neighbor of my family's, Mr. Myron Young. Myron was a member of the Presbyterian church in our small rural community. He was a hard working and kind person. His restaurant was the kind you see in movies: folks had their favorite spots to sit and enjoy their meals; a cork board holds business cards and notices; the waitresses greet regulars by name; news gets around the little eatery way before it gets into a newspaper; the floor boards and carpet are worn from years of hard service. Myron served as head of the local VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) post. He made sure that young people were encouraged to hone their writing skills by the yearly essay contests and scholarship offers. It may be that someone may buyout the old place and put in a fancy drive-thru or some other attraction. As St. Teresa of Avila said, "All things are passing, only God is lasting." The good done by Myron and his family are a legacy that will last whether or not his restaurant survives or disappears.

On another topic, you who read this may want to follow our Philadelphia blog: http://paulinephiladelphia.blogspot.com/. Or you may see what Sister Margaret Joseph is doing as she works with generous folks who help provide funds for our mission to continue: http://www.paulinefaithways.blogspot.com/.

Many people prayed the rosary today to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and to intercede for the needs of us all. This weekend in New Jersey, Camden Diocese' Catholic Charismatics will convene in Wildwood for their annual conference. I count on the prayers of these good and enthusiastic people to help us in our special work. Even though so much negativity is reported in the media, it is consoling to know that there are thousands of people commited to living the gospel and willing to be people of prayer and good action. The Catholic Charismatics are among these "praying people." As Jesus said, "Where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Back in Ohio






















I just realized that I blogged only once in September! The reason: I was "on the road" and without Internet access for about two weeks. One of the highlights of September was attending the Holy Family Institute's Triduum (or three day) annual retreat and gathering. We Daughters of St. Paul usually attend this get-together and help by leading prayers and giving talks, as well as holding a book and media display. This year I was in charge of the book display. Generous HFI members (short for Holy Family Institute) drove the books from Boston to Ohio. They even carried the boxes of books into the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon for us. This year a special feature of the meeting was the day of filming for the movie "Alberione"--a film depicting the life of our founder, Blessed James Alberione. Filming began about 8:00 AM at the studio of the Society of St. Paul in Canfield, Ohio. Pauline priests and sister Disciples of the Divine Master were interviewed n the studio. Then the film crew moved its van about 4 miles away to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in North Jackson, Ohio. One after another HFI members spoke into the camera as they answered queries from Sister Helena Burns about their impression of Alberione. It was well after dark when the Chicago-based crew packed up with hours of film to edit and insert into this movie-in-the-making. Look for more about the Alberione film. The pictures on this blog are various shots of activities at the HFI gathering. I was privileged to be a sponsor for Cathy from Toronto who made her first vows in the Institute along with several others.

October in Pennsylvania









A week ago I traveled with a friend to our convent in Philadelphia. I am in the "City of Brotherly Love" to help for a few months. In a sense, ours is an itinerant community, since we are often on the road to bring our Pauline books and media to folks in Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. At the moment, we do not have a Pauline Book & Media center (store) in Philadelphia. We are searching for an appropriate site. In the meantime, we bring Pauline books and media to parishes, meetings, schools and other events. On Saturday I will bring the book I authored, Tender Mercies, Prayers for Healing and Coping, to a workshop on mental health which will take place in our local parish. I will also bring along "Surviving Depression, A Catholic Approach" and other titles that will be of help to those assisting the mentally ill, or who may have a mental disorder. There are saints whose mental health was over the border of borderline, such as St. Benedict Joseph Labre'. Even though he suffered much from dark depression, he thought of others while he lived a life of deep prayer. Many gifted people suffer from depression or from bi-polar disorders. The church welcomes all and is seeking to alleviate this suffering which can cause heartache to individuals and families.


During my first days in Philadelphia, I traveled to the Jersey shore. I have been on the Atlantic coast many times before, but never on the sands of the New Jersey beaches. The day I walked on the beach looking for sea shells as well as for photo opportunities I met a challenge in the form of high tides and strong winds. Clusters of sea gulls and plovers ignored me as they hunkered down waiting for kinder winds. I did find a few nice sea shells to add to my collection. Anne Morrow Lindbergh's "Gift from the Sea" begins each chapter by comparing sea shells to stages in our adult life. Having a variety of shells helps me appreciate her reflections even more. A Jesuit priest once recommended reading "Gift from the Sea." He called it a "book for women." Although men can read and learn from it also, Mrs. Lindberg seems to be conversing woman-to-woman. I find the book a real gift that invites the reader to a more contemplative stance towards others and the events of our daily lives.


For us Catholics, October is the month of the Rosary. Tomorrow, Oct. 7th is the Feast of the Holy Rosary. Pope John Paul called the rosary his favorite prayer. Pope Benedict XVI said, "This popular Marian prayer is a precious spiritual means to grow in intimacy with Jesus, and to learn at the school of the blessed Virgin Mary always to fulfill the divine will. It is contemplation of the mysteries of Christ in spiritual union with Mary....To be apostles of the Rosary, however, it is necessary to let the Blessed Virgin to take one by the hand to contemplate the Face of Christ: a joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious Face. Those who, like Mary and with her, cherish and ponder the mysteries of Jesus assiduously, increasingly assimilate his sentiments and are conformed to him." (From Pope Benedict's addess at Pompeii, Oct. 19, 2008) Best regards for a great month of the Holy rosary.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Holidays and Hurricanes

Tonight we in New England await for Hurricane Earl to pass by us, or brush the shoreline, or veer off to the east and leave us. It is muggy, misty and "close" as the day's heat is slow to dissipate and the humidity hugs our hallways.

This is the beginning of the last legal holiday which we Americans and Canadians celebrate before Thanksgiving. We Sisters at our Boston convent plan on an "All American" cookout on Monday to celebrate and to wish the best for one of our Sisters who is leaving to serve in our Rome Generalate Community. Of course the very name of the holiday means that it honors workers. This term covers all kinds of work. And, we Catholics have a Saint who is the Patron of Workers--St. Joseph. One of our best selling book titles is "St. Joseph, Help for Life's Emergencies." It is available at Catholic bookstores and at http://www.pauline.org/. Even though the Church honors St. Joseph as "The Worker" on May 1st, we can always remember him on Labor Day. He labored in the carpenter shop at Nazareth. There were no Home Depots or Lowes stores selling electric saws or lathes. He experienced what it meant to pour his sweat and strength into fashioning wooden objects for all sorts of needs.

On another note, the anticipation of a hurricane with all the potential it carries for damage, floods, and high winds reminds me of the awesomeness of God the Creator. I beg to differ with the scientist Stephen Hawking who recently was quoted as saying that God did not create the universe. Hawking's expertise lies in gravitational singularities and black holes. The "law" of gravity holds an important place in his theory. I may be misreading him, but it seems to me that Hawking does not recognize an ultimate "Law Giver" who set the law of gravity in motion. Astronauts in space experience what it is to be without gravity. I once had a science professor who pointed out the delicate balance of life on planet earth. Just a few molecules off of carbon or hydrogen or other vital elements and we along with the rest of animate beings would cease to breathe. The same professor was fascinated by the Black Hole theory. He was convinced that creation of this universe began when that "hole" in space began to expand rather than contract and disappear. The professor whom I refer to is a fervent Catholic who saw many signs in nature of a loving Creator. Where did that first black hole come from? As St. Thomas Aquinas said, we look to the "Uncaused Cause" who is the same as the first Law Giver, God the Creator.

Psalm 136 sings the praises of God the Creator "whose steadfast love endures forever." The late singer Rich Mullins made the Christian praise and worship song, "Awesome God", a very popular song among young people. Some of the lyrics go like this: "Our God is an aweome God. He reigns from heaven above with wisdom, power and love. Our God is an awesome God...". At one time I actually mastered hand gestures to accompany this song.

Our closest neighbors, across the street from us, have the Clayton Observatory, which helps us to see some of the awesome parts of the universe through its powerful telescope. I always enjoy our visits to the Observatory and the good neighbors we have at the Dexter and Southfield Schools. The few classes I attended in astronomy were eye openers which truly led me to a deeper awe at the immensity of our universe.
Scientists, physicists, astronomers and folks of higher learning of all stripes may yet discover when our universe came to be, or when that first exploding black hole began the millennial process of creation. God has infinite patience, and he is the Lord of time and eternity. May we honor him in our resting and in our labors and "give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever" (Psalm 136:26) Enjoy the holiday!

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Night Out at Gillette Stadium





Yesterday evening four of us Sisters left our house about 6:00 PM headed to a New England Patriots ball game. I had not seen a "live" football game since my last year in high school, so I was happy for the offer from friends of ours who had some tickets available.



Linda, our customer service person, provided us with great

directions to the correct parking lot, and she gave us football necklaces to show our loyalty to the Patriots.



We even had hot dogs and pasta for dinner at our fiends' tailgate dinner party.



The weather was very pleasant, the moon was rising and very full. The players were working hard. It was all fun except seeing our team lose by one point! However, it was an exhibition game, so it was good practice for them all.



At the end of the game as we were preparing to descend the stairs, one of the women in our group pointed to a large circle of the players kneeling in the middle of the field. She pointed out "You never see this on television. Yet they do this at every game. Players from both teams kneel and pray together at the end of every game here." I wish I had not packed my camera away. That would have been a great shot



I was pleased to learn about this good habit--seeing these expert, well paid players kneel before thousands of fans is a great tribute to God as well as to these men who are not afraid to express their gratitude to God.

(In the photo Randy Moss faces off a Rams player.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thinking and Reflecting


This morning I read an article in the New York times which resonated with me. The writer's literal "bottom line" was that we do not think enough.

In the play, The Man for All Seasons, about St. Sir Thomas More, Lord Cromwell tells Sir Richard Rich, "You haven't thought enough!" Cromwell as well as The Times' David Brooks both were pin pointing mental laziness. Brooks calls it a "metacognition deficit." Brooks may have been referring to celebrities and politicians whose selective memories force them to make public statements about pronouncements they had made which were false and/or faulty.

In every Catholic spiritual tradition there is time set aside daily for an examination of conscience. Some call it a "verification" of the day. St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, called it a consciousness exam. Actually rewinding the video tape of our previous 24 hours, and pausing at our own behavioral mishaps, helps to prevent metacognition deficit and mental laziness.

Ignatius recommends beginning this daily examen with a prayer for enlightenment. Then he tells us to thank God for the many graces which God gave us since the last examen. Then we are invited to look and see how we responded to the graces, or if we just ignored them, or, if we even acted contrary to what our good judgment told us.

If we discover lapses, mistakes, and sins, then we tell God how we are sorry. Then we resolve to do better tomorrow, or from now on. Then we pray again to be more Christ-like.

St. Paul told his readers, including us, to "put on the mind of Christ."

I consider this advice to mean that I use a new set of lens to see the world, and especially my own particular circumstances. These lens are the criteria of Christ. In Philippians Chapter 4, Paul spells about his view of Christian criteria:

"Whatever is true,
whatever is honorable,
whatever is just,
whatever is pure,
whatever is commendable,
whatever is pleasing,
if there is any excellence and
if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things. "(Philippians 4:8)


Today I think of two good persons who died in this week: Brother James Mann, a Brother of the Society of St. Paul, and Sister Maria Rosa Ballini of the Daughters of St. Paul. Both gave their lives to God in the Pauline family, and both spent all their energies for God.

Brother James died in Ohio of pancreatic cancer. Sister Maria Rosa died at our clinic in Albano, Italy, about an hour's drive from Rome. Brother James worked in the CD and DVD duplicating department of the Society of St. Paul in Canfield, Ohio. He was also active in keeping the extensive grounds very well groomed. Brother James was known for his serene smile. Sister Maria Rosa too was one who smiled often. She spent many years in Africa, especially in Nairobi. However, like our Patron, St. Paul, she often ventured to many parts of Africa to bring the Word of God to people who were not able to "come and get it" at one of our book centers. She arranged "Bible Days" where easy to purchase Bibles were made available to the people. Sister herself would speak to the people and explain the Bible with clarity and enthusiasm. Like a farmer who sowed the seed, she "sowed" the seed of the Word of God in Ethiopia, Swaziland, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania and several other African nations. May these Paulines, Brother James and Sister Maria Rosa, reap an eternal reward for their years of service and loving fidelity.

Check out news and activites of the Pauline Family on http://www.stpaulstube.com/.






Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin

Today in Boston we had the joy of celebrating Mass with our Archbishop, Cardinal Sean O'Malley. Cardinal Sean prefers to wear his brown Capuchin Friar habit and sandals when he can. After Mass we all enjoyed a brunch together.
The cardinal concelebrated with Fr. Robert Kickham, his secretary, and Father Michael Harrington. Father Michael is the first American member of the Pauline institute for diocesan priests: The Institute of Jesus the Priest.
The Mass was one of thanksgiving to God in a special way for 50 years of vowed life for our Sister Mary Philomena Mattuzzi. Sr. Philomena grew up in Italy in a small town near Verona.
Shortly after her first vows, she was sent was sent as a missionary to the USA.
In the Eastern rite Catholic Churches, and I believe in the Orthodox Churches as well, this day of the Assumption of Mary is also celebrated. In the East it is called the Feast of the Dormition of Mary. Cardinal Sean reminded us this morning that among Mary's first recorded words, was the phrase, "Be it done to me as you say", in response to the angel's invitation to be mother of the Redeemer. Her last words in the gospel are "Do as he (Jesus) tells you" when Jesus turned water into wine. Mary gives us a path to follow.
May you have a blessed week.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cinema Divina Retreat




From August 2nd until Monday noon august 9th, I was part of a small group of Daughters of St. Paul who participated in a "Cinema Divina" Retreat. The priest chaplain is a Jesuit Father who hails from Munich, Germany, Fr. Christof Wolf, sj. Sister Suzanne Mayer,IHM, a Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from Philadelphia, was also a director for the retreat.
Almost everyday we began by viewing a film at 9:00 AM. Each film was chosen because it somehow incarnated the gospel reading for the day's Mass. At 5:15 pm there was a sharing on the day's film. A person was free to share, or free even not to attend the sharing but to pray more.
In the group photo Sr. Suzanne is second from the left, Father Christof is on the right.
Each Sister had a retreat "director" whom she saw for about a half hour each day. The director would suggest a reading, usually from the Scripture. Then we each would pray with that Scripture at least three times throughout the day.
Father Christof offered Mass each day. His homilies were very focused, practical and Christ centered.
The last film we viewed,"The Lives of Others" (Das Leben der Anderen) made in 2006, depicts life in Communist East Germany. A career Secret Police interrogator has a change of heart when he bugs a a playwright's apartment. Because of his change of heart the policeman is demoted while the writer is eventually freed from surveillance. The silent and beautiful surprise ending is very moving. This film had particular significance for Fr. Christof who lived 19 years in Communist East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In almost every movie at least one person chose to change for the better. Both their behavior and their perspectives changed. God's grace is powerful. Grace even permeates movies when they are seen from a Faith-filled perspective.
One of the first movies which we saw, "The End of the Spear" takes place in the Amazon jungle in 1956. This true story of five American Protestant missionaries' efforts to evangelize the Waodani people is very moving. The widows of the five men became a missionary presence among the people who killed their husbands. The unassuming heroism of these good people won over the hearts of a tribe that was literally dying because of its ruthless violence.
In one of Fr. Christof's homilies he quoted a contemporary author who said that (wasting our minds) with trivia is sinful. Father noted how so much of television fare is trivia. Father is a TV and film producer in Munich.
In our Pauline Family Prayerbook there is a prayer called The Pauline Offertory. It has nine petitions in which we ask God to increase the ranks of those who produce quality Christian media. May God increase and multiply Father Christof's productions for Loyola Productions in Germany. And, may God bless and multiply the efforts of Christian film and TV producers in the USA and Canada.
May you too have the grace of one day spending time in prayer on a Cinema Divina retreat.



Monday, August 02, 2010

Retreat


Today, Monday, August 2, I am beginning my annual week long silent retreat. I am at our St. Thecla Retreat house in Billerica, Massachuetts north of Boston. I promise to pray for all of you who read my blog. God bless you! Sister Mary Peter
This photo shows the bell tower and front of St. Thecla's.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Young Sisters




On July 5, a young Daughter of St. Paul pronounced her vows as a Sister "for life" in Samoa. Sister Fey Josephine Pele was in the second grade when I and Sister Cynthia visited her classroom as part of a Catholic book fair. When she entered our Boston community, Fay told me she remembered me coming to her classroom. Sister Fey's final profession ceremony was held in the area where she grew up so more of her family and friends could attend. Because Samoan culture is distinct and colorful, the ceremony was replete with local flavor. Instead of church bells ringing, drums announced the Mass time. I was not able to attend, however with the eye witness account of one of the Sisters who attended, and with pictures on the Internet I felt that I was there--at least virtually.
The photo on your right is that of Sr. Fey and I after her first profession of vows, five years ago. The photo on the right is of Sr. Christina Miiam and myself on the same day.
Sister Christina Wengendt who is from my hometown will be traveling to Youngstown, Ohio to pronounce her final vows in her home parish. Since Youngstown is reached by car in about 10 hours, a good number of our Boston community will attend her profession. Sister Christina wrote an article about the upcoming event which is published in the Youngstown Diocese's weekly paper, The Catholic Exponent. Here is a link to her article: http://www.cathexpo.org/articledetails.aspx?articleid=657
Congratulations to these two young Sisters who have already spent at least ten years in formation and activity as Daughters of St. Paul.
Our USA/English Speaking Canada Province is blessed to have three young women joining our postulancy program in St. Louis. There are already two postulants in formation. For those unfamiliar with thse terms, postulant comes from the Latin term "postulare" which means to petion or to ask (to be admitted to the congregation.) On the Daughters of St. Paul website, http://www.pauline.org/ you can find more information about my order. We are also called Paulines in the English-speaking world. In Italian we are "Le Paoline" while in Spanish we are "Las Paulinas." But, whatever you call us, we appreciate all the prayers sent our way, as well as the chance to serve the Lord and his people with the media of communications. God bless you! Sister Mary Peter

Saturday, July 24, 2010

50 Years in the Convent













On Sunday, July 18, with most of my family present, a Mass of thanksgiving was offered for the grace of my 50 years in the convent. The Mass was celebrated at the Society of St. Paul's St. Paul Monastery in Canfield, Ohio. The main celebrant of the Mass was Father Jeffrey Mickler, SSP. Father Jeffrey also entered religious life 50 years ago in September. He entered the high school program which was then offered for aspiring members of the Society of St. Paul. Father and I both entered from the same parish. Music for the Mass was provided by two members of the Pauline secular institute of Our Lady of the Annunciation: single consecrated women who live in the world "but not of it." One of them brought her two nieces who added an extra guitar and vocalist to the music.


I was honored to have three additional priests concelebrate: Fr. Anthony Warren, SSP, and Father Joseph Blasko from Michigan, and Fr. Robert Stolinski of Buffalo, NY.
Most of my siblings were present as well as many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

Some of my former classmates also joined the celebration.

A week before, my graduation class of 1960 from Youngstown Ohio's Ursuline High School held a three-event reunion. With their spouses, our group numbered about 230. Fifty-two have already gone to their eternal reward, a very sobering fact. I was pleased to be able to re-connect with some of my grade school classmates.

At my Mass on Sunday, July 18, I was privileged to have my first grade teacher present. She is still active in ministry. Sister Jeanne, OSU certainly got me off to a good start!

Rather than reading about the Mass, you are welcome to view the entire Mass on http://www.youtube.com/user/FatherJeffrey#p/a/u/2/ASRG-7QKCvg, or on StPaulsTube.com, hhttp://www.stpaulstube.com/video-liturgy-125339-50th_anniversary_mass_16th_sunday?n=1. Thanks to all who sent me good wishes for this occasion. I am not retired, since my health is good enough to keep on contributing to our mission of media evangelization. Pray that my energy keeps up so I too can give God the best of each day which he gives to me.


I am very grateful to God for having given me the grace to be among the Daughters of St. Paul for all these years. Our founding Sister in the USA, Mother Paula Cordero, used to say, "If I had a 100 lives, I would give them all to God as a Daughter of St. Paul." I can truly say the same as Mother Paula did.