Saturday, June 26, 2010

International Blog

This morning our novice from Poland, Sylwia, informed me that our Polish Sisters' website has a link to this blog. I am honored to be selected by our Polish Sisters. I know how to say "thank you" in Polish, but I can't spell in Polish.
As World Cup soccer fans approach the final matches, excitement grows. I am a "partial US Soccer Team" fan. (By partial I mean my soccer enthusiasm heightens during the world cup and wanes when the World Series begins.) However, I am sorry that Team USA was knocked out of the running today. At least they reached the finals!
I saw that the US played Slovenia, a much smaller country. I had the privilege back in the 1990's of presenting an eight day seminar on parish evangelization to members of two Slovenian parishes in the Cleveland area. I remember that it was a frozen week in February which turned the waves on Lake Erie into mounds of stiff whipped cream. Once inside the classroom where I presented, the atmosphere was warm, friendly and full of enthusiasm. I discovered that the majority of my audience was made up of people who had grown up under Communist rule. Since formal religious education was forbidden, many of them learned their catechism outdoors. They relied on various forms of disguises to learn the Faith. Their parish priests often dressed as farmers while they taught their students, as both the teacher and learners worked back and forth, fences between them.
One of the men experienced the terror of being lined up before a firing squad of Communist soldiers. At the last minute the commanding officer called off the execution. For that man his near death escape meant an ongoing deepening of his prayer life.
The Slovenians whom I taught loved to sing. I had some English hymns woven into my program. One of the Sisters in my community suggested that I ask them to sing their own Slovenian hymns. Allowing them to sing in their own language enabled them to participate more fully and with great gusto. When we asked for volunteers to come door-to-door with us to meet people in their homes, more answered the call then we had dreamed of. Sister Diane, one of our Sisters, followed up the seminar by carrying out a parish visitation program accompanied by an Ursuline Sister who had attended my evangelization course.
The Lord was extra good to us during that course. On the "visitation" Saturday as we went door-to-door, the temperature rose to above freezing. After sub zero weather, it was almost like a Spring day.
I will always remember the Cleveland Slovenian evangelization team. Their faith had become so much a part of them, they were willing to die for it.
It is very enriching to be part of this universal, truly "Catholic" Christan faith. As the World Cup winds down and folks go back to their own homes, may they experience not only a deeper love for their sport, but a deeper appreciation of the love of God that binds us together as one family. Let us pray too for the leaders of the G-20 nations meeting in Toronto. May they focus not only on themselves, put on those nations struggling with famine and grinding poverty.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

St. John the Baptist's Birthday

There are many Saints named John. Once I asked a visitor to our book center which St. John parish he belonged to: St. John the Baptist, or St. John the Evangelist. He answered me: "Neither one. I belong to St. John the Catholic"!
Today the Church honors the birthday of St. John the Baptist meaning the saint who baptized Jesus in the Jordan. This saint is also called Saint John the Forerunner, since his mission in life was to prepare the way for Jesus the Messiah. Today there are celebrations in Canada and Porto Rico which honor St. John the Baptist or Baptizer as their land's patron saint. We can all claim this saint as our patron because each of us can learn from his honesty: "I am not the Messiah," and his humility, "I am not worthy to unloose his sandal strap" (which he said referring to Jesus the Messiah.) Like John the Baptist who said, "He--Christ--must increase and I must decrease" we too want Christ to live more fully in us. St. Paul said it well in his letter to the Galatians, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me."
Happy Name Day to all those who bear the name John or Joan. Have a blessed day!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

To all the fathers who may read this, I send greetings for a happy and blessed Father's Day! This includes my own brothers and brothers-in-law. And, this includes all the "spiritual fathers" the priests who bring the life of God to people. This morning I will attend Mass at St. Mary's Church in Dedham, Massachusetts. The Mass will mark the official installation of the new pastor, Father William Kelly. We will pray for Father Kelly as he begins a new ministry at St. Mary's and for the people of his vibrant parish.
Yesterday two of our Sisters celebrated jubilee days. Sister Laura Rhoderica celebrated 25 years of professed life as a Daughter of St. Paul. The other, Sister Augusta, made her first vows in Italy back in 1940. She had entered our congregation 4 years earlier. Sr. Augusta is an amazing 94 year old. She loves to knit and mend clothing. Sister spent the war years in Italy, and then came to the States in the late 1950's where her parents and some of her brothers had already immegrated.
Congratulations to these Sisters and to all who celebrate annivesaries this month.
Have a blessed day!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

St. Paul and Sports

"Ball one, strike two!" I can still hear the radio announcer's voice calling out the scores for the Cleveland Indians' games my father listened to as he did chores outdoors or in the barn. As I grew older I also learned about soccer and American football. Once in my all girl 7th grade gym class our teacher handed out a paper with sketches of football referees and their many hand signals. Since I thought it was just "extra" information, I never studied it. Ooouch! It happened that she gave us a pop-up test on that referee sheet. That was the only "F" grade I remember receiving! Dismal as it was that grade did not dampen my interest in sports. My final high school year I rejoiced when my high school became co-champions of our city's football league. During my high school years, some Hungarian refugees in our area initiated a new sport: soccer. I remember watching soccer games on a polo field, since we had no suitable place for this game of bouncing a ball without touching it with any hands. Since then, soccer has grown into a sport much loved by American and Canadians. We are rather "later bloomers" in the soccer stands, however we play with all our hearts.
As a citizen in a sports-minded political world, St. Paul used imagery from sports when he wrote about how he felt at the end of his life. He said, "I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of rightwousness" ( 2 Tim. 4:7-8).
As we wait to see who will capture the crown at the World Cup, or the trophy for the NBA, we could imitate St. Paul and see how we are doing in our spiritual life. Am I running with Christ? Keeping my eyes on the ball, that is the "life lived in Christ"? Paul kept his eyes on the Prize, Jesus Christ. So he won the race.
May we shine as spiritual athletes as Paul did.

now I wait the crown."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

95 Years Ago...

It was 95 years ago, June 15, 1915 that a 21 year old woman named Teresa Merlo met a young priest named Father James Alberione.
Many called Alberione "The Theologian" because he taught a the diocesan seminary and he held a doctorate in theology.
Don Alberione, as he was also called, had already begun a printing school for young men aspiring to be priests who would use the press for God. His group of young men would grow into the religious order called the Society of St. Paul. The women's group Don Alberione envisioned and gathered for the first time that June morning did not have a name yet. What mattered to Alberione was that Teresa Merlo was already a person of deep faith, humility and a missionary spirit. She could not see any visible proof of Alberione' promise that one day you will be writing and printing for God. Your work will be a form of preaching the Gospel. When Teresa emerged from the sacristy of the Church of San Damiano in the town of Alba in Italy's Piedmont, her mother asked her, "What did you tell The Theologian?" She answered, "I said 'yes'." Teresa became Mother Thecla Merlo. Saint Thecla is said to have been the first woman collaborator with St. Paul. For that reason, when Teresa pronounced vows as a Daughter of St. Paul in July of 1922, she was given the name of Maestra Thecla. In Italian the word Maestra is the feminine for teacher or master. She was to be the first among the group of young Daughters of St. Paul. Among the Sisters she was called "Prima Maestra." We also called her Mother Thecla, since she was the spiritual Mother of our Congregation.
Her initial "yes" back in 1915 led to a sturdy religious family present and active in 55 countries. Wherever they are, the Daughters of St. Paul use the media of communication in its many forms to announce to the people of today the Good News of Jesus Christ.
On a personal note, today too is my anniversary of entering this congregation in Boston many years ago. The longer I am in the congregation, the faster the time flies! Together with me, thank God for the graces which have flowed to many people around the world through the cooperation of the members of the Daughters of St. Paul.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lessons from a Pizzelle Maker

Today was the one Sunday a month which we call "Free Sunday". It means that each Sister is free to attend Mass in a parish, or visit a friend, or go to a movie, or just relax. I had all the ingredients and the time to make a cookie called a "pizzelle." They are relatively easy to make, the ingredients are fairly simple: eggs, flour, sugar, baking powder and flavoring. Some recipes add nuts. Today I made pizzelle with slivered almonds and almond flavoring. Home-made pizzelle are made one-by-one on an appliance that resembles a waffle maker. Some of the pizzelle makers have space for two at a time. The one I have is made for single pizzelles. Although the end products looked similar, no two were absolutely the same. Each one had been shaped by me. I made some smaller and some larger. There is no really fast way (at least I have not discovered a fast way) to make these. The store-bought variety are thinner and darker than mine. Yet they do not have the creative style that mine have.

I thought that although each person shares common human traits, not one of us is exactly the same. Even twins are not absolutely alike. God thought of me when he made me. He thought of you when you came into being. He still loves us into existence each moment.

We are not store-bought, but we are priceless because God loved me and you into existence. There is a Christian song that says we were "formed in the fire of human passion." Before that fire existed, the fire of God's love for each of us was already burning, waiting to give individual life to you and me. May this week be one of joy and gratitude for the gift of life.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sacred Heart of Jesus Feast pt. 2

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus has always appealed to me. When I was a little girl, the bedroom I shared with my younger sisters had two diamond shaped images on the wall. The frames were like mirrors drawing attention to the figures on the glass: the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate heart of Mary. These fixtures helped assure me that God was watching over us.

In our Pauline communities every Friday is dedicated in a special way to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, our Divine Master. The Founder, Blessed James Alberione, was accustomed to praying to the Sacred Heart of Jesus from his seminary days. He put a long prayer, called the Chaplet of the Sacred Heart into our Pauline Family's prayer book. In the prayer we thank Jesus for having given us the gospel, the priesthood, Mary as our Mother, the gift of religious--vowed--life, the Holy Eucharist and his very life on the cross.

Our publishing house, Pauline Books & Media, has published and republished countless times a Novena to the Sacred Heart. You may want to get a copy for yourself and for friends. Just go to and under Store you will find the Novena to the Sacred Heart. Years ago I heard the story of a young man in Buffalo who was searching for a suitable wife. He was looking for a woman who was devout, and hard working as he was. The young man tried to go to daily weekday Mass. At each Mass he was asking God to inspire him to find the woman the Lord wanted him to marry. After a while he noticed a young lady who always seemed to attend the same noontime Mass. One day instead of rushing back to work, he followed the young woman. And, the rest is history. They were happily married, thanks to the Sacred Heart of Jesus who is the fount of all love. I remember a lady in Philadelphia whose son had married a lady who seemed to have no faith, least of all the Catholic faith. The dear mother-in-law kept praying for her son and daughter-in-law and their children. She would cry as she prayed thinking that the children were not even baptized. Although she did not give up praying, the woman was almost resigned that nothing could be done to change their hearts. Then one Sunday her son and his family came to visit. She was surprised that they offered to go to Mass with her. To her even greater surprise, when it was time to receive Holy Communion her son and his wife, and the older children approached the altar. The Sacred Heart had touched their hearts and brought them closer to him in the sacramental life of the church. The lady showed us Sisters the booklet she used for her devotion to the Sacred Heart. It was printed, I think, in the 1940's with simple illustrations and stories to enhance the text. In my home, we had the same booklet printed by the Society of St. Paul. I remembered the pictures which intrigued me, even though I did not know how to read at the time it first entered our home.

When we feel hard hearted toward someone, or if someone exhibits hardness of heart toward us, I suggest praying to the Sacred heart of Jesus. In the Bible Ezechiel tells of God's promise to give us a new heart, to exchange our stony hearts for hearts of flesh. The Gospel of John tells us that the heart of Jesus is a fountain of water springing up to life eternal. Jesus in Matthew's gospel said "Come to me, all of you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will refresh you." On the Feast of the Sacred Heart go to Jesus: if you cannot go physically to receive him in the Eucharist or in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, go to him with a simple prayer such as, "Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto yours;" or, "Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me;" or "Sacred Heart of Jesus, make me love you, more and more."

May the Heart of Jesus enfold you and your loved ones in his love.

The Feast of the Heart

Tomorrow is the Feast in the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. "Have a heart" was once a common phrase pleading that someone show mercy, kindness or openness to someone else. Jesus' whole life was a window to the Heart of God.

The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is based in Scripture, especially in Matthew 11:28 where Jesus invites us to "come" to him, and learn from him, because he is meek and gentle (or humble) of heart. Again in the story of the call of Matthew (in chapter 9 verse 13) the tax collector, Jesus answered his critics with these words: "Go and learn the meaning of these words, 'It is mercy that I desire and not sacrifice.' " Jesus echoes the prophet Hosea who tells us that God asks this of us: "I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6). Certain Saints worked hard to make devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus a "household" phrase in Catholic communities. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque reported to her chaplain that Jesus had appeared to her and had asked people to pray to him with the title, Sacred Heart. Since she lived in a cloister with limited contact with any outsiders, Margaret needed to trust the chaplain with the task of letting others know about Jesus' requests. A Jesuit Father, Claude de la Colombiere was assigned to be confessor of Margaret's community. After discerning that what Sister Margaret asked for was the will of God, Father Claude got the word out. Thanks to Claude and his fellow Jesuits, more and more people were made aware of the love and mercy of the Heart of Jesus for them. Before St. Margaret Mary, St. John Eudes who lived from 1601 to 1680 preached devotion to the Sacred Heart.
Back in 1929 Pope Pius XI said this about devotion to the Sacred Heart: "From the Heart of Christ men and women learn to know the true and only meaning of their life and destiny...they unite a filial love for God with love for neighbor. This is true reparation asked for by our Savior. Then we can build the civilization of love, the kingdom of the heart of Christ."
Last year on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Pope Benedict said, "The very core of Christianity is expressed in the Sacred Heart of Jesus....God's heart calls to our hearts, inviting us to come out of ourselves, to forsake our human certainties, to trust in him and, by following his example, to make ourselves a gift of unbounded love." This year, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, will mark the close of the year for Priests. Let us pray for all priests that they each may reflect the love of the Heart of Jesus for those whom they are called to serve.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

For the Spanish Speaking

Oe of my Daughter of St. Paul friends is in Spain. She has a blog in Spanish that anyone who reads Spanish may be interested in. Check it out:

A Movie, Solidarity and a Commandment

A few months ago I saw "Up in the Air" starring George Clooney. It had some humorous elements. However, there were a couple of very serious themes in that movie: an obvious one was the disillusionment which came from a relationship between Clooney's character and a woman whom he discovers is married; the other theme which I found all too realistic was that of hard nosed business owners terminating the employment of long-time workers. Clooney's character has the dubious honor of showing the ropes to a promising young woman. He shows her not only how to pack light so as to board planes more easily. The special skill he was charged to impart to her was that of being an expert terminator of people's jobs. The movie shows how employees of a vast corporation are told by these two experts that they no longer are needed, their job are terminated. Since the man whom Clooney portrays has to be quick about his business, not much time is spent dwelling on the heartbreak that is left in his wake. I know someone who has spent most of his adult life working as a trusted bank employee. He is often on call 24/7. His bank is under new management. A few people have already been fired because they dared to speak out about the ruthlessness of the new takeover. My friend never blows his own horn, so he may not be fired. Yet, after more than 30 years of working conscientiously and in many inconvenient environments, he was demoted. He does not have a college degree for what he does. Yet, his work is fine. Of course, he will have to re-work his budget. Car and insurance payments as well as medical bills will mightily stretch his lower paycheck.
His story brought to mind the lessons we were taught in American history about entrepreneurs who earned their money by depriving wages from steel workers and miners. In our religious classes, those stories were part of the application of the commandment, "Thou shalt not steal." In the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, wages, adequate or less, are covered in the section under the seventh Commandment. The new catechism adds a topic called "solidarity." It means our being united with the poor and marginalized. When men and women are deprived of a job, or given lesser pay for what they do, we are to be in solidarity with them. I have been praying for my friend, the bank employee. And, I have been praying for his employers that they may allow the ideas of solidarity, just wages and justice to penetrate their minds, hearts, and actions. May the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have done unto you" be a light to guide their decisions.