Thursday, January 27, 2011

Paul the Convert /We the Would-Be Converts

On Tuesday, January 25, the church celebrated the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The day's liturgy offers two choices for the first reading. Both selections from the Acts of the Apostles tell how Paul fell to the ground, surrounded by a blinding light. He heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" when Saul who became Paul answered, "Who are you, Sir?" The voice answered, "I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting." Paul was blinded by the light, yet his inner sight was opened to a new reality. The Christ whom he was persecuting in the Christians was and is a living reality--crucified and risen. This Christ is the "Kyrios", the Lord.
From then on, Saul the persecutor began a great change in his life. Many call it a conversion. Paul was already a God-fearing believer in all the tenents of Judaism. He was taught by the famous Rabbi Gameliel. Paul practiced all that the Jewish Torah demanded. His "conversion"--his turning about--was realizing that the Christ whom he had despised was the very same God he worshipped.
That event on the way to Damascus invites all of us to turn closer to Christ, if we are already Christians. If we are not Christian, we are invited to investigate, to see that God, the Creator and Sustainer of each of us and of all the universe is alive, he is caring for each of us. He is manifest to us in Christ Jesus.
Christ is alive in the church even though the Church is home not only to Saints, but to sinners. Some leave the church because they see some people who are "professionals" in the faith actually sin or behave in ways that look anything but Christ-like. My church history professor, the late Jesuit, Father Martin Harney, told us that the fact that the church is still afloat and alive in so many millions and throughout the world despite the scandals, the sins, the shortcomings. Yes, despite all the things which are not likeable, there is the presence of Christ. Maybe he seems to be asleep in Peter's boat, but he is still there. Paul turned toward Christ that day on the way to Damascus. Each day he turned a little more toward Christ until he could say, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ" (see the Letter to the Galatians).
So for us we can turn, we can change in increments, a little bit at a time. When someone cuts us off in traffic, we could spew out harsh words, or we could keep silent and pray a Hail Mary for the offender, as well as asking for patience for ourselves. That's converting a road block into a stepping stone. May St. Paul intercede for us so we can convert in small and big ways.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More Memories and Dreams to Fulfill

I learned of the death of a cousin, Judy Bernat-Burton, on Sunday. I was going to call her. She celebrated a birthday last Thursday, making her the same age as myself. The next day she entered eternal life. Despite much illness and difficult times, Judy was always a woman of hope and concern for others. Her five children, numerous grandchildren, nieces and nephews and we cousins attest to her being a loving person. She also spent the last years of her life researching her family history, going back to the first relatives who immigrated from Ireland in the 1800's. She left us a legacy of loving care and of detailed information on our extended family. May she be enjoying the presence of the Lord for all eternity.
I spoke with her by phone a couple of weeks ago. She was so animated in the conversation that I forgot that she was in a hospice program. She lived life to the fullest without giving in to self pity or bitterness. She prayed for all her family--another good example for the rest of us.
Today a niece of mine celebrates her birthday. She is in her early twenties and is in her last year of college. We trust in a beautiful future for her.
And, on Saturday a nephew of mine, Ben, will wed his fiance' Abby, in Kansas City. Ben and Abby give us hope that young people are ready to give their love to each other and to work hard to make that love permanent. All the best to these beautiful young people whose example shows that God is helping young men and women to have the courage to make a true commitment. May his grace accompany them through the ups and downs of life. As the letter to the Hebrews states hope is the anchor that reaches beyond what we can do into the strength of the Lord who loves us more than we can ask or imagine.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Blizzards and Memories

Last night I heard of the death of one of the persons to whom I owe much in the way of gospel living and gospel preaching: David Thorpe. David died suddenly on January 9. I offer condolences to his wife Barbara and to his children. David was a person who lived the gospel and who knew how to preach it well. I attended his classes on evangelization when the Boston Archdiocese included evangelization in its Master Teacher Program in the early 1990's. David was very active in the Charismatic Renewal program on a national and international level. Most recently he has been working with the Boston Archdiocese and its program to welcome back Catholics who have left the Church for one reason or another. I have a large ring binder notebook with all my notes and handouts from the classes I attended. Through the years I often referred to those notes and used some of the handouts in my own teachings on evangelization. David was born in Canada but spent most of his life in the USA. May he now be enjoying the presence of the Lord whom he loved and spoke of so well. I pray that Barbara be consoled and now feel her husband's help from heaven.
I ask prayers for the eternal peace of a young man named Scott who took his own life last week. Scott suffered from severe bouts of mental illness. May Jesus, our Sea of Peace, surround Scott now with eternal peace.
On a different note, anyone who lives in the US East Coastal area was back in Narnia Land today. the much predicted blizzard which spread blankets of snow on our roads, trees and buildings indeed reminded many of us of C.S. Lewis' Narnia. Here are a few pictures of the outdoors. It was not easy to take photos since snow was packed against most of the doors, and snow threatened to get my camera wet!
This picture looks black and white. The conditions were "whiteout."

Snow covered all of our convent property in Boston's Jamaica Plain hills. If you have seen the Narnia films, you can imagine yourself there!

Monday, January 10, 2011


2011 is well on its way to being packed with action, snow storms, and all kinds of events. yet in the Church Year today we began the first week of ordinary time. Christmas decorations are slowly being put away, the holidays are over and we are back to work. Yet God is still working 24/7, and he is still giving us grace upon grace. that's his "ordinary" way of doing things!
May your Ordinary Time be filled with extraordinary graces.