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.

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

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
Our week's agenda is full, so I will let you know more on Tuesday, God-willing. Have a great second week of Advent.