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: 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:

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.