Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Catholic Schools Week

Throughout the USA this week is Catholic Schools Week. Catholic schools, parochial, regional and private celebrate their contributions to their students, their families, and to the whole country.
My first grade teacher Sister Jean, OSU with my sister and I.
I am grateful that my parents made the sacrifice to send me to Catholic schools from grade one through high school. I only missed one year--7th grade--when there was no parochial school yet in our new parish. My first grade teacher, Sister Jeanne is still relatively active. I was privileged to have her as a guest when I celebrated 50 years in the convent. Sister made sure that we all learned our ABC's, basic writing skills, and of course lessons about God. We sat straight so our Guardian Angel could sit next to us. I still remember the colorful flip charts of Bible stories Sister used to keep our attention.
Parochial schools in the USA  began with St. John Neumann in Philadelphia. Mother Seton opened schools which were at the time more like private academies. Mother Katharine Drexel, Foundress of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament was from Philadelphia. She established schools and parishes for Native Americans and African Americans thoughout the United States. Xavier University in New Orleans is one of the jewels of Mother Katharine's efforts to raise the level of education for Black Americans.
Here in Northern Virginia Catholic parochial schools are flourishing. I am  impressed at the many, large and well equipped Catholic schools provided for young people in this part of the country. This past weekend Sister Elizabeth and I were at St. William of York parish and school in Stafford, Virginia. The school hosted an open house and a Pauline Book & Media fair as the beginning of their Catholic Schools Week. Parents visited our book display and were eager to take home reading for themselves as well as for their children.
Catholic schools sometimes are in "out-of-the-way places" such as the remote island scattered across the Pacific from Hawaii to Guam and Saipan in the Marianas Islands.The last time I visited Guam I was able to visit the island of Truk, now called Chuuk. There the Jesuits operate Xavier High School which hosts young people from all over the Pacific islands, especially Micronesia. There the students learn not only their academic lessons, but how to provide for themselves, to care for the property, and to become competent leaders. Wikipedia states that this school is called "The Harvard of Micronesia" because it has trained many of the leaders of the Federated States of Micronesia and others. Although the information page on the web says that the school was founded in 1952, it was already in existence when the Japanese invaded the islands in World War II. Part of the building has walls four feet thick to withstand bombardments. See xaviermicronesia.org/
Jesuits are spearheading the growth of Cristo Rey schools in inner city areas. These schools help young men and women to thrive academically by offering extended hours, and demanding commitment not only from the students but from their parents as well. Jesuit universities, such as Boston College, are engaged in helping to train teachers for all academic levels.
Tomorrow and Thursday two of us Sisters will be at St. Timothy School in Chantilly, Virginia with our JClub Book Fair. JClub gives an opportunity for students, teachers and parents to acquire wholesome and specifically Catholic reading and viewing (with some DVD's). I look forward to being with the young and eager students. Their minds are waiting for information and their hearts and imaginations are looking for good example.
This week let us pray for all those dedicated to Catholic education in the USA.

Where Has Civil gone?

If you think I misspelled Sybil in my title, "civil" is not a mistake.
In Sunday's Washington Post, Cardinal Donald Wuerl placed an opinion piece about Catholic dogma and its consequences: Catholic social action. As I searched for the on line format of the article, I was appalled at the remarks which showed up on the web page. Not only were the comments far from the facts of the real world, they were riddled with derogatory and vicious remarks.
I came across another article printed in the New York Times. The author wrote of Nellie Gray who started the annual March for Life to organize Americans to push for the rights of the unborn, as well as for all life from conception to natural death. Nellie died at the age of 88. Again the article in its on line version was followed by a barrage of negative comments.
 So many took a stance that the Catholic church  and all pro-lifers are forcing women to have children they don't want. Why is it that we mourn very rightly those 20 children killed in Connecticut, yet dismiss the antiseptically destroyed lives of 4,000 children lost every day through legally sanctioned abortion?
One comment today said abortions eliminate children who are not wanted in the first place. I know the head of an adoption agency who had to seek adoptive babies from other nations, since there were very few to satisfy couples who do want babies. Even if a mother would wish to terminate the life of the child within her, there are so many more prospective parents waiting to adopt.
Semantics or the manipulation of our words/our vocabulary are such effective tools for an agenda that promotes abortion. Pregnancy is not a pathology to be treated as a dread disease. Calling a pre-born child a "fetus" masks the truth that what is growing inside a mother is a real human being. When Gabriel announced to Mary the fact that she would soon be the mother of God, he did not say the fetus you are carrying, but "the child" will be the Son of God. The angel Gabriel told her, "You will conceive...and bear a son".
In some of the comments I read today, the writers decried the "over population" of our country. How can one write those words when a few days  ago newspapers said that our birthrate is declining. In some other countries the birthrate is below replacement. Perhaps these over population believers do not keep up with national and international news. Europe and parts of Asia are feeling the shortage of young people.
I veered off my topic of civility. Downton Abbey viewers are soaking up much of the high culture of once very wealthy British aristocracy. Granny Grantham played by Maggie Smith would never be uncivil. Oh that some of that civility would be absorbed by all who watch the series. Today's saint, St. Thomas Aquinas, used his talents for profound study of philosophy and theology. His technique in writing the great Summa Theologia employed the "sed contra" phrase: If this is true, but on the other hand this too is true--something seemingly or truly --the opposite is true how do we answer?
May St. Thomas intercede for us all that the Light of Christ's Truth may penetrate our minds and hearts. Amen.

Friday, January 25, 2013

January 25, 2013

Here in the Washington area it is snowing once again and the temperatures are way below freezing. Yet thousands of people marched on the Mall in Washington to show their support for life. Thousands of these marches are young adults, some college and high school students, and senior citizens as well. I saw one news clip which allowed the reported to give a non biased summary of the huge crowd and its bottom-line message to end abortion and support life from womb to tomb. However the woman commentator who allowed little time for the reporter to continue tried to quash his positive remarks with her assurance that many people who say they are against abortion aren't really 100% against it. Belief is not something everybody has. Apparently this young woman (or her editors more likely) are so afraid that maybe, just maybe, those hundreds of thousands of people of all colors and creeds braving very cold temperatures are really convinced that abortion is murder--he ending of a human life. Some people find this reality hard to believe.
Life is beautiful and a gift. I doubt if a person who is "half for life and half for abortion" would be out there today in freezing cold weather with banners, smiles and prayers marching "for life."
As St. Paul said after his conversion to Jesus, we need to preach "in season and out of season", in the cold or the heat, whether politically correct or incorrect. Pro-lifers preach the Gospel of Life. In the book of Deuteronomy the people are asked to "choose life." May God grant our nation the grace to once more choose life and honor its sacredness from conception to natural death. Amen.
Two Daughters of St. Paul on the far left side with a group of the 7 bus loads of youth from New Orleans gathered for the Pro-Life March 1/25/2013.

Sister Margaret |Michael and Sr. Maria Elizabeth at a gathering of 6,000 at George Mason Univ. Arlington, VA Diocese.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

St. Paul's Conversion

Conversion of St. Paul, Sts. Peter & Paul Church, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

January 25th is a big day of celebration for us Daughters of St. Paul. The Church commemorates the day when Jesus stopped Saul of Tarsus in his tracks. He was on the way to Damascus, in fact, very close to the city when  a blinding light surrounded him, and a voice addressed him saying, "Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?" Three times in the Acts of the Apostles St. Paul recounts the event at Damascus which changed him forever.The name of the feast is "The Conversion of St. Paul. Some writers prefer to call what happened to St. Paul at the gates of Damascus "the Damascus event." Paul did not have to "convert" to being a believer in God. He boosted of his strong attachment to the Jewish religion and to its monotheism (belief in one God alone). He did not to "convert" his attitude toward Jesus and his followers. With the question, "Why are you persecuting me?" Jesus the Lord penetrated Saul's iron will.
Christ made a direct intervention in Paul's life. Paul had set out to exterminate the Damascus Christians. Instead Paul abandoned his preconceived ideas about God and embraced Christ's divinity and humanity.
 After three days of blindness and of fasting, Saul of Tarsus was baptized. Ananias came to tell him the Lord's instructions. He who once fiercely persecuted Christians was privileged to "see the Righteous One and to hear his own voice"  and become his disciple. (See Acts of the Apostles 22:3-21; 9:1--22; 26:9--19). Saul eventually took on his Roman name, Paul, as he traveled the known world to establish communities of believers in Christ "The Righteous One."
Most of the book of the Acts of the Apostles tells of Paul's travels and tribulations as a missionary. At one point he recounts a litany of trials: being ship wrecked, beaten, imprisoned, ostracised from certain towns, lowered from the wall of Damascus in a basket, etc.
Paul may seem intellectual, cold and aloof to some who have read little of his letters. Paul had deep emotions, and great love for all his Christian converts.
I recommend that you read the three accounts of Paul's conversion story, and--a small dose of his Letters. Many are familiar with Paul's Hymn to Love, in 1 Corinthians 13:1--13. If you have never read St. Paul on your own, why not start with the Hymn to love.

Paul preaching, Sts. Peter & Paul Church, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

From St. Paul's Monastery Chapel, Canfield, Ohio.

Certain artistic renditions of Paul depict him as a saint leaning on a sword, perhaps holding a book to represent the gospel. During the Year of St. Paul, 2008--2009 the Archdiocese of Toronto, Ontario commissioned a Sister artist in the Holy Land to paint a new icon of St. Paul. Instead of a sword Paul, slighty bent from the waist, holds a book--the Bible. His gaze is contemplative and full of hope.

Toronto Icon of St. Paul (stained glass is reflected on the image from the chapel where the photo was taken.)

Let us pray today that St. Paul who saw the Risen One and heard his voice may on our behalf ask the Lord Jesus to let us see the face of Christ in all who surround us. May the Lord allow us to hear his voice in all those to whom we listen. May our voices speak for Christ as we seek today to tell all about him whom we too have seen with the eyes of faith, and heard with our ears tuned to hope. May we love each person we meet with the love and tenderness of the heart of the One who stopped Paul on the way to Damascus. We ask all this through Christ Our Lord in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
  St. Paul with St. Timothy depicted at Holy Martyrs Church, Oreland, PA., USA.

St Paul's Conversion

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

6th Day of Prayer for Christian Unity

This evening our Bishop Paul Loverde will join with Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran clergy in a joint prayer service for Christian unity. May we join with them in spirit even if we cannot be there at the Lutheran Church tonight.
For the daily Mass goers we heard the Gospel of Mark Chapter 3, verses 1--6. 
The scene works out in a synagogue where Jesus is present. It is a sabbath day. A man in the group with a withered hand comes forward expecting a healing. Jesus asked the crowd, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?"  Then he proceeded to cure the man.
There were some witnesses to this miracle who stopped their ears to what Jesus asked, and saw in him a threat rather than a prophetic healer and Messiah. Mark tells us that Jesus "looked around them with anger, he was grieved at their hardness of heart..."
May my heart be open to the truth and grace of Jesus' word and example today. And may my heart not be hardened toward Jesus who is present in those close to me and those close to you too.  Lord, deliver us from harsh and hyper critical judgements of others. Make our hearts meek and humble like your. Amen.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 22 A Sad Anniversary

I like to be upbeat in my blogs. However today the Catholic Church in America prayed for the legal protection of the unborn. Since 1973 in the infamous Roe vs. Wade decision our Supreme Court struck down laws protecting children in the womb. Abortion was made to be a legal procedure when until that day of infamy all laws against it were struck down. Millions of babies were killed "in utero" , would-be parents were denied off spring, couples hoping to adopt increased in numbers as babies were denied a chance to become loved and adopted. Women suffered physically, emotionally and spiritually and many caring the wounds of remorse deep in their souls.
God have mercy on our country, and on Canada our northern neighbor which legalized abortion.
Yet there is still hope. Many groups have organized to change the mentality of a contraceptive and abortive mentality to one of a pro-life, open to life mentality. Some work on a political level such as Americans United for Life and the Susan B. Anthony list. They work very hard, and rely on donations. Other groups, like 40 Days for Life, depend on prayer as well as on clinics set up to heal and support women who chose to bring their babies to birth.
There was much said yesterday about the Declaration of Independence which says each person has a right "to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Abortion snuffs out new lives. tonight I saw the latest picture of my newest grand niece who is now two month's old. She is a button-nose red head, with a sweet smile and peaceful look. Just looking at her picture makes me smile. Little Harleigh is the pride and joy of my sister and my brother in-law, brand new grandparents. Had Sharon and Matt decided for an abortion what sadness there would have been! Instead there is so much joy.
My 92 year old Uncle Bill came home from the hospital tonight. One of his great joys is to see his great grandson Peyton. The two have a great rapport. We love life at either end of the spectrum of life and at every stage in between.
Life is a gift, may we always treasure every single person, every baby in the womb, and every child. And, let us admire, assist and treasure those among us who belong to the generation which saw so much: the great Depression, the World War II and Korea, the dawn of TV, records and home movies. They passed on to us many great examples.
Many of our Sisters and some of my blood sisters will march for Life in Washington on Friday, January 25, Support them with prayer and with your votes whene the time comes.
Have a blessed rest of the week.

Another Niece with Lots of Energy!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Day 4 For Christian Unity

In the USA today we celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the inauguration of President Barack Obama who begins a second term of office as the 46th President of the United States of America. Americans of every political party unite under one president in a peaceful transition of office. We rejoice in this form of government which sees to it that elected officials take office in a peaceful, lawful way. Our currency still says, "One nation, under God." It was comforting to note that the Obamas attended a brief prayer service this morning. May God help our President and Congress to make decisions for the common good and in accord with God's laws.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached justice, non-violence and love. He could well have chosen a violent and vindictive reaction to the many bigots who hurled accusations and bombs at him and his colleagues. By his actions even more than by his words King showed us how to work for change with persistence, patience and love. This excerpt from King's Letter from  Birmingham Jail of |April 16, 1963 continues to remind us of the power of love:
But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ..." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

We need to pray for all our leaders as St. Peter and St. Paul both remind us.
If you have never read King's entire Letter from Birmingham Jail take the time to do so. In it, Dr. King is responding to some clergymen who thought his efforts were untimely and extreme. In clear and logical order, Dr. King answered all their questions. He quotes both St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas among others. May he be with them and the other saints in the heavenly courts. Amen.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Day Three for Unity

In today's Gospel reading John narrates the story of Jesus first miracle at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. There his mother Mary was informed that the wine was running low. Mary was concerned that the new couple be saved from embarrassment. She told Jesus, "They have no one." Jesus seemed to put her off. He answered, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?" In our modern way of looking at this conversation, it seems Jesus is almost rude with his mother by calling her "woman." In Jesus. time it was a title of honor to address a lady with the title "woman." As one priest said Mary, as a mother, must have given him the look--that expression that said a thousand words! Then Mary said the last words recorded of her in the Bible: "Do whatever he tells you."
The servants filled six enormous water jars with water. The water when tasted had turned into wine.  That as John said was the first sign Jesus gave to show his divine power.
There are many lessons from this Gospel passage for our spiritual lives. One is that when we present our daily lives, our routine, our prayers and good intentions to God that seemingly banal work day, that task which  may irk us, that joy we feel in meeting a friend or receiving a welcome email, the pleasure a loved one brings--all that "water" of our daily life is turned into the wine of love for God. And God love is poured out for us. One commentator said that the jars which each held twenty or thirty gallons symbolize the unlimited generosity of God's grace.
As we conclude this third day of prayer for Christian Unity we ask through the intercession of Mary whose request Jesus answered to present our prayers for unity to her /Son. Amen.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Today's gospel reading was the "Call of Matthew." He was a tax collector near the Sea of Galilee. Jesus passed by his tax booth, stopped and said: "Follow me." And he got up and followed him (Mark 2:13).
Tax collectors were among the least favorite people in Israel in Jesus' day. They collected taxes for the oppressors, the Romans, from their own people. To turn a profit, most tax collectors added a "surcharge" to the government tax to line their own pockets. Caravaggio painted a colorful picture of Jesus calling Levi or Matthew. In the painting a youthful Matthew stands up to follow Jesus. At the same time an older greedy looking fellow reaches to help himself to the coins Matthew leaves behind. Matthew chose the "better part" of following Jesus. Jesus must have had a truly magnetic personality to draw hard-working fishermen Andrew, Peter, James and John to follow him. Matthew  was so delighted to be one of Jesus followers that he threw a party. (See Mark 2:15--17). Matthew's social life was probably spent with other tax collectors, and sure enough at the party he threw for Jesus there were tax collectors and other "sinners" who to varying degrees did not follow the stricter observances of Mosaic Law. Some of the folks who were more observant of the Law and the many accretions added to the official Law of Moses questioned why Jesus was even associating with tax-collectors and other such ilk.
Jesus who seems to have been enjoying his festive meal at Matthew's house, answered his critics directly: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have come to call not the righteous but sinners." (Mark 2:17).
In times of quiet reflection we can take an honest look at ourself, good points and flaws. St. Ignatius of Loyola is famous for many things. One is that he is founder of the world-wide men's order called The Jesuits. Another feat that Ignatius accomplished was a plan for "Spiritual Exercises." The Exercises can last up till 30 days. One exercise which Ignatius perfected was the Examen Prayer. Many books explain this type of prayer. One of these is a Pauline edition written by a Jesuit Father Rupnik, titled The Examen Prayer.
Looking over the past 24 hours we acknowledge the good thoughts, our good deeds and movements of grace we received especially from yesterday to today. Some of those thoughts or inspirations urged us to do a particular good deed, to do someone a favor, or to refrain from a particular comment. We make a mental note of these graces and say "thank you" to the /Divine Master. Then we ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us to see how we welcomed those graces and insights. Or, did we flick them away quicker than we swat a fly?
We take note of our failures and downright sins. It can be hard to look at our true self, but St. Teresa of Avila tells us that we should keep our focus on Jesus and his mercy, not on our miseries. Jesus lifts us out of those miseries. We humbly admit our failings or negligences to the Lord, ask his pardon and resolve to do better. Then we pray for light and strength to keep on following Jesus in our daily life. Matthew's call changed him from a tax collector to a disciple and apostle of Jesus. Our call may not be so dramatic, but it is just as demanding: to follow Jesus example in my daily life. As St. Paul said, "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ."
Father Rupnik, a Jesuit spiritual director as well as an accomplished artist gives excellent pointers in his book: Human Frailty, Divine Redemption from Pauline Books & Media. Father Tim Gallagher a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary has a whole series on Ignatian Prayer including one called: The Examen Prayer. That title is also available at the Pauline Books & Media web store, and at our various Pauline Book & Media centers. Until tomorrow may the Lord enlighten you and give you peace.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Week of Christian Unity Day One

In my own family we try to practice Christian unity. How? Since I have two brothers-in-law who are Protestant, we accept them as true brothers in Christ. The same attitude is practiced toward our sister-in-law who is also Protestant. All three are Christian believers. We build on the solid rock foundation of our belief in Jesus Christ, true God and true man. We read the Bible as the Word of God. We pray the Lord's Prayer, the Our Father obeying Jesus' instruction to "pray like this."
As Catholic Christians we believe that in the Eucharistic bread and wine Jesus Christ is truly present. In fact we believe in what we call transubstantiation. That is a very long word which says that the very substance of bread and wine contain the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults explains this doctrine in these words:
Since the Middle Ages, the change of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ has been called "transubstantiation." This means that the substance of the bread and wine is changed into the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ. The appearance of bread and wine remain (color, shape, weight, chemical composition), but the underlying reality--that is, the substance--is now the Body and Blood of Christ. (page 223)
At the Last Supper Jesus "took bread...and said 'This is my body.... Then he took the wine saying, 'This is my blood..' " This is the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, the sacrament of unity. We pray this week that all Christians may one day be united in their faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In John Chapter 6 Jesus promised he would give "his flesh as food, his blood as drink." At the Last Supper he fulfilled his promise. There is a saying about the birth of Jesus, "He whom the whole world could not contain is hidden in the womb of the Virgin Mary."
If God could do this, he is certainly capable of transforming bread and wine into his divine Body and Blood.
We pray that one day all Christians will be able to approach the table of the Eucharistic Bread and be united in the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Christian Unity

January 18 marks the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Jesus prayerd "that all may be one." We join in prayer that this year's week may be truly a week of intercessory prayer for all of us who bear the name Christian. Faith in Jesus and in the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit unite us.
The theme for this year is "What Does God Require of Us?" (Cf. Micah 6:6-8).
The Vatica's website vatican.va  has a wealth of ideas and suggestions for prayers and activities during this week.
Here is just one of the paragraphs from the Vatican's page of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity:

Micah’s strong call to justice and peace is concentrated in chapters 6:1 – 7:7, part of which forms the theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (WPCU). He sets justice and peace within the history of the relationship between God and humanity but insists that this history necessitates and demands a strong ethical reference. Like other prophets who lived in the period of the Israel monarchy, Micah reminds the people that God has saved them from slavery in Egypt and called them through the covenant to live in a society built on dignity, equality and justice. Thus, true faith in God is inseparable from personal holiness and the search for social justice. More than just worship, sacrifices and burnt offerings (6:7), God's salvation from slavery and daily humiliation rather demands that we should “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God” (cf. 6:8).

With all the talk of weapons and arms of varying degrees or types, the one sure weapon we have is prayer. Let us make all the possible use which we can of this unbeatable weapon

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ongoing Vocations Awareness

There is a corrigenda for yesterday's blog. The web site for the Institute of Our Lady of the Annunciaiton ends in .org, not in .com. Thanks for your patience. I was able to access the site by using the correct address.
I mentioned that our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, also started the Institute of Saint Gabriel the Archangel for single men. Like the Annunciationists, the Gabrielites are called to live their vocation "in the world" but not "of" it. When I attended the Course of the Charism of the Pauline Family in Rome, one of my classmates was Francisco from Mexico City. Paco, as he is called, is a lawyer. He took time off from his work to attend the beatification of Blessed James Alberione in April of 2003. Then he stayed in Rome to hone his Italian skills. In late September of that year he joined 27 of us Sisters and priests of the Pauline Family to begin an intense academic year of study. We began our Cpurse at the retreat house of the Society of St. Paul in Tor San Lorenzo along the Mediterranean. There our group had time to pray, eat and share with one another. We were from 14 different countries, representing five of the ten branches of the Pauline Family. France, Korea, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, the USA and the Philippines were some of the countries represented.
After the first week at the shore, we moved back to Rome where we atended class every morning at the Church of the Divine Master on Via Portuense. The Sister Disciples of the Divine Master have a large community at that location. There they have The Divine Master Conference Center built in the same complex as the church. Our classroom was state of the art with white boards, projectors and a computer for our use. When we began our day with prayer, we used Power Point presentations to project prayers or songs rather than use paper.
Paco was the first member of our secular institutes to complete the Charism Course. He told us that he did not tell many people that he was a professed secular institute member. His style was more of silent preaching by good example. However when others wondered why he was not dating, then he would let them in on the fact that he is a consecrated lay man. Paco and each member of the Pauline secular institutes have a solid prayer life which includes regular sacramental reception, the rosary and the Liturgy of the Hours.
If you know of a single lay man who desires a deeper spiritual life, and the support of others who desire to evangelize with their lives and as much as possible with media, contact the Institute at: www.instituteofsaintgabrielthearchangel.org.
If that link does not work go to alberione.org.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Possbility

In the USA this week is National Vocations Awareness Week. We ask Jesus the Divine Master and Shepherd to inspire many more young men and women to follow Christ more closely as priests, religious brothers, religious sisters and as members of the consecrated life.
This is a Prayer for Vocations from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

God Our Father, we thank you for calling men and women to serve
in your Son's Kingdom as priests, deacons, and consecrated persons.
Send your Holy Spirit to help us respond generously and courageously
to your call.
May our community of faith support vocations of sacrificial love in our youth
and young adults. Through our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Saturday evening I touched base with a friend who is part of our Pauline Family. She is a single woman who has vowed her life to Christ as a consecrated person. She has taken the vows of obedience, chastity and poverty in the Institute of Our Lady of the Annunciation. She lives and works in the Boston area.
Single Catholic women who want to live in closer union with Christ in the midst of the every day work world may want to check out the possibility of becoming a member of the IOLA group. Each vowed woman lives in the midst of the secular world, but she is not "of" it. Unlike women religious who live a "community" life with other like-minded women, the Institute members live at home or by themselves. They share in the same spirituality as the other members, they make an annual retreat together and follow the same Rule of Life. The Institute has a web site for all who may want to know more: www.instituteofourladyoftheannunciation.com.
If you have trouble accessing that site, check out www.alberione.org to find out about all the groups which form the Pauline Family founded by Blessed James Alberione of the Society of St. Paul.
O Jesus Eternal Shepherd of our souls, send good laborers into your vineyard!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Baptism of Jesus

With tomorrow's feast of the Baptism of Jesus the Church begins what we call Ordinary Time. It is ordinary in the sense that there are no huge festivities, just the "ordinary" daily worship of God through Christ in the Holy Spirit. The church offers this worship through the Mass and the prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours. Morning and Evening Prayer are the two "hinges" of the Liturgy of the Hours. These two "hours" are prayed using two psalms and a "canticle" which is a prayer of praise from different books of the Bible. Sometimes there are canticles from Exodus, or from the letters of St. Paul. Then there is a short Scripture reading, and an antiphon. The antipon is usually one sentence related to the gospel reading of the day. For Morning Prayer the Canticle of Zechariah is prayed. It begins with the words: "Blessed be the Lord, the God, of Israel. He has come to his people and set them free...". (See the Luke 1:68--79). The antipon and canticle are followed by a prayer of petition, and the Lord's Prayer. A closing prayer ends the "hour." Generally the person leading the prayer concludes the prayers with these words: "May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen."
 In the evening, the Canticle of Mary, "The Magnificat" from Luke's gospel (Luke 1: 47--55) is prayed after the reading. Then evening prayer ends in a similar way to Morning Prayer.
Since God keeps us in existence every moment of our lives, it is natural to turn to him at certain times of the day to offer him prayer and praise or  liturgy. Thus "ordinary time" can be a time of continual grace when we use it well.
In January we Americans celebrate the right to life. Thousands of people come by car, bus or other means of transportation to bear witness to their belief in the sanctity and preciousness of life to Washington, DC.
These people of every age and walk of life, and of various faith denominations join the March for Life.
  This year because of the presidential inauguration, the March for Life will be on Friday, January 25. If you are able to join the thousands  on the Mall, please do so. You will be a voice for the voiceless unborn who are denied their right to life. Unfortunately 40 years ago, January 22,with the Roe vs. Wade decision, the  Supreme Court allowed abortion to be legal in the USA. Until then it was legally a criminal act.
This year will mark the 40th anniversary of a decision which unleashed an evil which deprives unborn babies of life, and it deprives our nation of potential productive and loving citizens. The lives that never saw the light of day number in the millions.
In Philadelphia at a July gathering on the Mall in front of Independence Hall a number of medical doctors reminded us that "pregnancy is not a pathology." And, they added that they had taken the Hippocratic oath "to do no hearm." Abortion is the ultimate harm.
Read the book "Unplanned" by and about a young woman who had abortions herself, but never realized the import of her actions until she saw an ultrasound of an abortion.At that moment she was assisting a doctor during an abortion at a Planned Parenthood facility. We need to pray to end abortion and to support life from conception to natural death. That is the "seamless garment" of the Catholic teaching about life issues. The book Unplanned and a DVD Unplanned are available from Ignatius Press, aswell as at all USA Pauline locations and from the Pauline webstore at www.pauline.org.

A company called Blackstone Films had produced a video promoting the March for Life. Here is a link to the video: http://youtu.be/Opl0jnKbn5Y

If you cannot see the video, find it on my Facebook page Sister Mary Peter Martin.

In the gospel passage used for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord for Year C the voice of God the Father declares "You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased." (Luke 3:22) Because Jesus came to save us we too can remind ourselves this day that "I too am beloved. God was pleased to bring me into existence. He is glad to have me." Let us live as beloved sons and daughters of  our loving God.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Book for Tweens and Up

A few months ago we Daughters of St. Paul published a novel for young people titled Mission Libertad. True to history, Mission Libertad traces the exploits of a teenage Luis Ramirez who ecapes Communist Cuba on a raft with his mother and father. Set in 1979-1980, the story came alive for me towards the end when it describes the mass exodus of Cubans in 1980. I was assigned to our Miami convent and book center at the time. Whole neighborhoods in Miami seemed deserted during the Mariel Boat event.
Mission Libertad inserts the reader into the life of a teen who is encouraged by his grandmother, abuela, to trust in the Lord and to carry a secret message to a priest in Miami. The writer describes Luis' delight and almost disbelief as he takes in all that the USA and freedom offers him. The book paints an inviting picture of a closenit and supportive extended Latino family.
If you have young readers in your family, or if you want a good read for yourself, I recommend Mission Libertad by Lizette M. Lantigua and published by Pauline Books & Media in Boston. This 215 page paperback sells for $9.95. You can find the title on this website: www.pauline.org.

Saturday, January 05, 2013


The Epiphany from the ceiling of Sts. Peter & Paul Cathedral Philadelphia.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,

in the days of King Herod,

behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?

We saw his star at its rising

and have come to do him homage.”

When King Herod heard this,

he was greatly troubled,

and all Jerusalem with him.

Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,

He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,

for thus it has been written through the prophet:

And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

since from you shall come a ruler,

who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod called the magi secretly

and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.

He sent them to Bethlehem and said,

“Go and search diligently for the child.

When you have found him, bring me word,

that I too may go and do him homage.”

After their audience with the king they set out.

And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,

until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.

They were overjoyed at seeing the star,

and on entering the house

they saw the child with Mary his mother.

They prostrated themselves and did him homage.

Then they opened their treasures

and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,

they departed for their country by another way. (From Chapter 2 of the Gospel of Matthew, verses 1--12)   This Scriptural glance at the three Wise Men is tantalizing. Many images come to mind: dark skinned regal personages; camels and their drivers; glistening gold, scented frankincense, myrrh. Many commentators on this passage tell us that there may have been four Wise Men. The Gospel gives no exact number, Tradition calls the Kings or Wise Men: Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar. Certain Christian cultures invite the priest to come into their homes on the Eiphany and bestow a blessing. With chalk or another marker, the priest places a symbol of each of the three Kings above the doorway of the house. On this feast of the Epiphany let us bring to Jesus the precious gold of our loving recognition of Jesus as King and Savior; the incense of our prayer; and the myrrh of our daily loving sacrifices. On this day of "manifestation" we pray too for all missionaries who strive to make Christ known by their own witness, their works, their prayers and their preaching.    

A Saintly Philadelphian

The USA's first male citizen to be canonized a Saint is John Neumann the fourth bishop of Philadelphia. Neumann was born in Bohemia. He studied there for the priesthood and was ordained in New York City. He was a gifted linguist and became a missionary to the far flung areas of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and possibly Virginia. He trugged on foot to bring the consolation of the sacraments to immigrants and native born Americans in farming and mining communities, besides in the larger cities such as New York and Philadelphia.
Neumann joined a religious order, the Redemptorists, to help his own spiritual life and to have the support of a like-minded community. Even though the notorious "Know Nothing" Party tried to hinder his work, Neumann established the practice of the "40 Hours" devotion throughout the Philadelphia diocese. That Eucharistic devotion endures today not only in Philadelphia but thoughout the USA. Mother Seton began private Catholic schools. To reinforce catechetical learning and provide solid education to young Catholics, Neumann organized the parochial Catholic school system in his vast diocese. Millions of young people benefited from the schools Neumann and his successors founded in Pennsylvania and beyond.
The long-lasting famous Baltimore Catechism owed much to the contributions of Neumann.
Neumann was a man of deep prayer, self discipline and great kindness.
The Church of St. Peter at 5th and Girard in Philadelphia houses the Shrine of St. John Neumann. http://www.stjohnneumann.org/saint.html
There is a small museum with articles used by the Saint, and even a picture of him as a young boy. His remains are in the lower church encased in glass under the altar. His example and intercession are available to all Catholics throughout the world, but especially to the people of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. St. John Neumann pray for us!

Friday, January 04, 2013

Elizabeth Seton Wife, Mother, Sister, Saint

Today we American Catholics celebrate the feast of the first US born person to be canonized a Saint. Elizabeth Ann Bailey Seton was born in New York City at the time our Republic was just getting underway. Born and raised a devout Episcopalian Elizabeth enjoyed her life as a young mother of five, and as the wife of a wealthy shipping erchant. Events in her life changed drastically when her husband's business ventures failed, leaving her without income, and her husband died of tuberculosis in Italy. Elizabeth had accompanied him to Italy where the more mild climate was to have helped restore his health. However poor conditions in a quarantine area aggravated his poor health. Thanks to the generosity of a Catholic Italian couple, Elizabeth was able to stay in Italy until she was able to return to America.
In Italy her host family's devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist drew her to investigate and then to embrace the Catholic faith. When in New York she became a Roman Catholic, her non-Catholic friends abandoned her. She then moved to Baltimore and eventually to Emmitsburg, Maryland. There she began an American branch of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Her first work was to run a school staffed by herself and like-minded women who formed the first core of Sisters of Charity in the US.
Years later her group became the American counterpart of the French foundation. In the beginning the French Revolution prevented the Sisters from contact with the Sisters in Europe.
Mother Seton's original "habit" or uniform closely resembled  a widow's bonnet and black dress. Elizabeth's deep prayer life coupled with her hard work and perseverance formed an ever growing religious community, and sowed the seeds of Catholic religious education in the USA. Elizabeth's sanctity was rooted in living with and for God in the day-to-day, minute-by-minute practicalities of life. Rather than one getting upset with the water too hot or too cold, or "flyng and driving" about the stove, the kitchen or the classroom, Elizabeth advocated living calmly with the Lord.
Let us pray for her intercession for all mothers, wives and school teachers.