Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

To begin a New Year is a grace that is reserved to us who are on this side of eternity. I was looking at a notebook where I keep anniversaries and a few other important events to remember. My Grandfather Malone died on New Year's Eve when I was a novice. May Grandpa rest in the peace of Christ where Grandma preceded him two years earlier.
Millions may watch a crystal ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve night to usher in 2013. Many of us Daughters of St. Paul will be spending time in prayer before the Eucharistic Christ to thank God for the grace to begin a new year, and to beg for many graces for ourselves and for the whole world.
We pray for peace in Israel and Palestine, in Iran and Afghanistan, in Chad, in Nigeria, in Mali, in the Congo and other African nations where violence and anarchy reign. In our own continent we pray for an end to drug trafficing, and for a stop to human trafficing wherever it lurks.
We pray for the Church that it may be free to preach the gospel in every country and with all means available. May social media, the internet, the cell phone, Face Book and chat rooms be clear of all that is not worth printing, seeing or listening to, so these communications media will become bearers of the Good News.
Pray intentionally while we pray in actuality our special End-of-the-Year Hour of Adoration. We will be praying from 8:00 to 9:00 Eastern Standard Time. Others of our Sisters in different time zones will be praying later.
May your New Year be blessed in every way possible especially with graces, good health and good spirits.
For us Paulines, the last night of each year reminds us of the Founder, Blessed James Alberione. On the night which divided the 19th and the 20th Centuries, he  was a 16 year old seminarian of the Diocese of Alba northern Italy, The young man spent a prolonged time in adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist in the  Alba's cathedral. During the four hours Alberione spent with the Lord it became clear to him that he was to do something for the men and women of the new era with the newest media of the time. Then that meant the press. then the radio, movies and all the media of social communication. All those means were often used for anything but wholesome ends. The future Founder was inspired to consecrate media for God rather than to condemn media. From that night sprang the present day "Pauline Family" of 10 religious groups. For more information see the web sites of the Pauline Family on www.alberione.org. Of couse we Daughters of St. Paul have a site of our won www.pauline.org.
Have a very Happy New Year! May 2013 be rich in blessings for each of you my readers!

A very young Father,  now Blessed James Alberione.
Blessed Alberione in his later years.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Feast for the Family

Today, the Sunday within the week after Christmas, is the Feast of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
the gospel reading for this year;s feast is the story of an adolescent Jesus who stays behind in the temple of Jerusalem while his parents search for him, not knowing his whereabouts. Jesus was immersed in what he considered "His Father's business" discussing and studying the Law of God with the teachers in the Temple. Maybe Jesus had just celebrated his Bar Mitzvah, his becoming a "son of the Law".
However the gospel says he left Jersualem wth Mary and Joseph, and went to Nazareth "where he was subject to them." It goes on to say how Jesus grew in wisdom, grace and favor before God and men.
The tragic events of the recent past make us realize how precious each human life is, especially the lives of our children.
Our family was blessed with a new arrival in the form of a beautiful little girl named Harleigh, born December 7. May she be blessed with many graces and continued good health. I guess it is a sign of maturring when it is all too easy for me to remember my sister, the new grandmother, as a   curly topped red-headed three year old. I was supposed to be watching her when all of a sudden she was not in the house. I was a teenager who had been lost in conversation with a girl friend. I ran out to our corral and there was Rita smack under the belly of one of our mares. Neither the horse nor Rita seemed to be excited when I approached to snatch my little sister from a potentially dangerous situation. I believe in the existence f Guardian Angels. That was one of the many incidents that reinforce my belief.
As we celebrate Jesus' being part of a real flesh and blood family, we ask to put on the virtues that make our families true homes full of love, patience, humility, and all the virtues needed to live as Christians today.
Best regards to all the members of the Holy Family Imstitute who celebrate their common Feast Day today!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Guadalupe

December 12, 2012 is a day of rejoicing for North American Catholic Christians. This feast day marks the day in December 1531 that a Mexican Indian Christian gathered a cloak full of roses and brought it to the Bishop of Mexico City. As the Indian, Juan Diego opened his tilma (cloak) the Bishop fell to his knees. Juan Diego was amazed too, for imprinted on his tilma was the image of the beautiful woman who had appeared to him a few days before. She told him she was the Mother of God and she wanted a church built in Tepeyec near Mexico City. The Bishop had asked for a sign to prove that the Virgin Mary was real, and not a result of Juan Diego's faith. Frost had already killed most of the flowers where Juan Diego passed on his way to the Bishop's house. That day when the Lady asked him to gather the roses, he found many fresh and beautiful Castillian roses to present to the Bishop as his sign. He was not aware that an image of a woman with native American complexion, and dressed in the finery of an Aztec royalty, but wearing a cross, the symbol of Christianity with her head slightly bowed in humility was imprinted on his cloak. Today that cloak still survives, enshrined in the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Many symbols in Mary's clothing and other details of the mysterious painting reinforce the fact that the lady who appeared to Juan Diego was and is Mary, the Mother of God.
When I was assigned to the convent we had in San Antonio, Texas I was impressed by the devotion of the people to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Almost every Catholic home had the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I remember the last time I was in San Antonio for this Feast, we woke up early to sing "Las Mananitas" to Mary (a song to awaken a person) and we processed around the block near the Cathedral of San Fernando where a young man dressed as Juan Diego acted out the apparitions and the visits to the Bishop's residence. Then we filed into the Cathedral for a festive Mass.
Both men and women are named Guadalupe or Lupe especially in Mexico and among Mexican Americans. However devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe is not limited to those of Hispanic origin. She is the Mother of all the members of her Son's Mystical Body--all of us.
In the image a ribbon tied at Mary's waist symbolized her pregnancy. She told her messenger that she was Mary, the Mother of God. She wanted a church built--the church would honor her Son Jesus.
Before Juan Diego encountered the Lady of Tepeyec, missionaries had minimal success in converting the local people in Mexico to embraced Christianity. Word soon spread that this Mary was a "Virgen Morena" (a dark skinned Virgin Mary) like them. Within a few years nine million native Americans accepted Baptism and became fervent believers.
Our Lady of Guadalupe  is also the Patroness of the Unborn.
Tonight our community will enjoy a festive Mexican meal prepared by one of our Sisters who is Mexican American. As I write the aroma is wafting into my room and giving me an appetite!
May Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Patroness of all the Americas intercede for all of us, especially you my readers.
Blessings!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Birthday Party Weekend

As Advent progresses children are exposed to a barrage of TV ads that tantalize their appetite for toys. It may happen that kids will want Mom or Dad to buy that precious toy or video game right away. They may want it "now" rather than wait for it to appear under the Christmas tree. As an antidote to the "gimme" (give it to me, now culture), we Pauline Sisters often host a Birthday Party for Baby Jesus in our Pauline Book & Media Centers throughout the USA and English-speaking Canada. Here in Alexandria, Virginia our "party" space is limited, but we make room for over 200 children from babies to about 10 years old. Our chapel is transformed into a big Nativity scene. The center piece is a manger with a large statue of Baby Jesus. Families can take pictures of their children and sometimes of themselves dressed in costumes as shepherds, or Mary And Joseph. At times the family's infant child poses as Baby Jesus. Coming for the party and having the picture-taking has become a family tradition in many Virginia households.
One of the Sisters and lady volunteers hold a story hour every hour and a half. The story telling is interactive, so the little ones stay involved. This year we had a young woman guitarist who led us all in signing Christmas carols. Then a birthday cake complete with candles was brought in and all sang Happy Birthday to Jesus. then cake, apple juice and crackers were served. The adults enjoyed coffee from our neighboring coffee shop, Misha's.
The party was held on Friday and Saturday. Thanks to the many volunteers who helped with costume fitting, traffic handling, refreshments, story telling, and so many other details.
My prayer if that the children who came will remember the main theme of the party: that Christmas is Jesus' birthday.
Later this week we will celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She is the Patroness of all the Americas. There is mote to come....

Saturday, December 08, 2012

America's Patroness

USA Catholics went to Mass in greater numbers today, December 8. It is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. The Feast commemorates the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother. She was conceived "without sin"--that is, she was free from the weakness inherited from Adam and Eve which we call original sin. Because she was to be the dwelling place of God--Jesus Christ--she was preserved from original sin.
In France in the 1850's when Bernadette Soubirous had visions of a beautiful lady, hands clasped together in prayer, with rosary beads in hand and a blue sash around her waist, she did not know what to call "the lady." When Bernadette was asked by church authorities to inquire about the lady's name, the answer given her was "The Immaculte Conception."
The Catholic Bishops of the United States of America chose the Immaculate Conception as the heavenly Patroness of the USA. The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC is an imposing church with a striking blue dome and a soaring bell tower. Inside the lower church there is a replica of the grotto whre Bernadette saw Mary, the Immaculate Conception. The Shrine is home to numerous Marian altars, each a miniature shrine, which depict Mary as she is venerated by the many ethnic groups in America. Students at CAtholic University of America often mingle with busloads of pilgrims who visit the Shrine. As big as the Shrine is, it feels like home to me. I find a comfort there perhaps because of the maternal care of our Mother Mary who is so honored there.

Today too was a big day at our Alexandria, Virginia book and media center. A few hundred young children and their parents came to our annual Birthday Party for Baby Jesus. We Sisters have a large Nativity back drop, costumes and a manger holding a large Baby Jesus statue. Families and/or children pose for photos with Baby Jesus. The children and parents can dress as shepherds, magi, Mary and Joseph. Many families in Northern Virginia look forward to this event each year.

Of course there were many live babies. Some of them role-played the Baby Jesus part in the pictures. At intervals story tellers entertained the children with various stories centered on Christmas. Today a young guitarist lent us her talents and enlivened the story time with music.  The children became involved in the story telling by making the sounds of the animals who may have entertained Jesus: they baaa-baaaed and moo-mooed on cue, and some even hee-hawed like donkeys. A birthday cake with candles was the signal to sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, and then to blow out the candles. Volunteers passed out slices of birthday cake, apple juice and fish crackers. The grown-ups were treated to hot coffee from Misha's a neighboring coffee shop famouse for its tantalizing coffee. We thank the many volunteers, all the parents and grandparents who brought their little ones, and Misha's for their generosity in donating their delicious product.
Several parents came up to us Sisters and thanked us for havng this event which stresses the true story of Christmas. I admire those Dad's who gave up watching and for some even actually being preent at the annual Army-Navy football game in order to attend our Birthday Party for Baby Jesus with their children.
May we all prepare ourselves well for the coming Feast of Christmas, Jesus' Birthday celebration as well as our perhaps long-range preparation for the final coming of Jesus. May we be aware ever more of Jesus' presence in our own lives even today.
Blessings on us all as we begin the second week of Advent!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

What is Advent?

Once the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade is over many North Americans seem to think that the Christmas Season is upon us. Certainly the advertising world is in full gear with ads for diamonds, toys, new cars and much more. Liturgically speaking the first week of December this year is the beginning of a new church year. It is also the beginning of a short liturgical season: Advent.
Advent reminds us of Jesus' first coming in history. Pope Benedict XVI's latest book "Jesus of Nazareth the Infancy Narratives" delves into this coming or advent of Jesus. I have already read much of this little volume. I recommend it for mediation and reflection during this season.

Pope Benedict's new book is a handy $20.00. It makes an attractive Christmas gift! See our website for easy access to our center: www.pauline.org

Advent, we know is not Lent in the middle of winter. No, even though the priests wear purple vestments, it is entirely different as a time of joyful expectancy.

The gospel many times tells us to focus our attention on children and to “become as little children.” This of course means as little children, not childish. A child’s sense of expectation brings him or her great enthusiasm.

John Updike is quoted as saying, “Be careful of people who are not on friendly terms with children.”

Those of you who have children, grand children or little nieces and nephews have experienced this kind of expectancy. When my grandmother came over to our house, we always had a sense of expectancy to see if grandma had any special goodies for us. When my brother-in-law would return from a long business trip, my niece would look up eagerly to see her special gift from Daddy’s trip.

All of us probably experienced this same kind of longing, and eager awaiting when we expected Santa Claus to come down our chimney and bring us our skates or wagon or sled, or whatever else we dreamed of.  Today ipads, and smart phones, and digital gadgets of all sorts may replace dreams of skates and candy!

Our dreams make us expectant. They make us enthusiastic, often they fill us with energy. A priest told us that as a little boy, he couldn’t sleep because he was so excited that Santa was coming. How many times have we tried to sleep, but couldn’t because we were filled with a sort of energy on the prospect of meeting someone special, or getting a new job, etc.

When there is no “expectancy”, enthusiasm withers. In a homily a chaplain gave us an example of withered enthusiasm in a marriage. He had dinner with a couple who had been married about 15 years. As the evening progressed, the wife announced, “I’m going to bed, since there’s nothing to stay up for....”. Apparently the couple had lost their enthusiasm for one another, to the point where the wife ignored her guest too.

We need to awaken in ourselves the necessity of expectancy, of “waiting on” the Lord’s coming. One theologian said we desperately need Advent. Why? Because people aren’t expecting much of anything. They may be bored, or sated with life’s good things, and they are clueless about something much better – life on high with Christ—waiting for them.

Advent is a time when we look back at the prophets who told us to be watchful and ready for the coming of the Lord. Prophets kept the people of God expectant for the right person. Sometimes, the Israelites, the Chosen People, became complacent and lost in the gods around them--in the pursuit of earthly pleasures.
We come from a long line of expectant pilgrims. Abraham “waited” on God to fulfill his promise of an heir. Abraham’s descendants were reminded over and over again by the prophets to look for God, and wait on him (wait for Him).

The Bible calls the simple, lowly people who longed for, and expected the Messiah, the anawim. The gospels tell us of the anawim who waited for the Savior: Anna, the prophetess; Simeon whose Nunc Demittis (now Lord, you can let your servant go in peace) is said every night in the Office; Zacharia; Elizabeth; John the Baptist, and last of all, but not least--Mary, the Virgin Mother of Jesus.

The prayer we use in the Liturgy after the Our Father says, they “lived in joyful hope”, waiting for the Holy One of Israel. These people, the anawim, had their trust in God--not in worldly leaders or politicians. They were not asleep to the Lord.

People with diminished expectations are asleep, or sluggish. People who long deeply for the Lord are not asleep. During the rest of this first week of Advent, we can raise our expectations. We are awaiting God to break into our lives. He comes to us every day in disguise. One day he will come and bring us to his holy presence. We want to be ready to meet him both in disguise and face-to-face!


First Week of Advent

On Monday of this week, our Singing Sisters, Daughters of St. Paul, gave a very uplifting Christmas Concert at Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria, Virginia. The audience was multi-generational, ranging in ages from babies in their strollers to grandparents and many in-betweens.
The Sisters returned to Boston on Tuesday to prepare for another concert in Massachusetts, plus two final concerts at the Provincialate Chapel this coming Saturday and Sunday.

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