Monday, December 22, 2014

Three Days

It struck me this morning that there are only three days left until Christmas. Most of my Christmas cards are already mailed. I actually found some moments to breathe and reflect. What can I do to celebrate the best Christmas ever, to make sure that I welcome Jesus better than I ever have before? My mission as a Daughter of St. Paul is to evangelize through the media. Through our book fairs at parish weekend Masses, through our website and digital newsletters, in our book center, and through our phone calls the message of Jesus is touching many hearts this Christmas. At our morning Mass, and during our daily Eucharistic adoration, we Sisters pray for everyone who is touched by a Pauline edition be it a broadcast on TV or radio, a book, lyrics of our music, a DVD, or even a religious gift item such as a Miraculous Medal or a crucifix, or a handmade rosary. In our book centers and at book displays, people confide their needs to us so that we may pray for them. At our Dedham, Massachusetts Pauline Book and Media Center on Saturday a grieving father confided his sorrow to me. His son Brendan died of a heroin overdose. I was touched because I knew of another Brendan, who died last year from heroin addiction. Both of these young men left parents and brothers and sisters who loved them dearly. I pray for the victims of heroin, as well as for the families who in their lose experience deep suffering and grief. When I meet people face-to-face in our Centers, or when I speak with them on the phone, then suffering has a face, or at least a voice. It is hard not to be moved to compassion when I learn of their sorrows. May Jesus who came to take all the sins of the world on his shoulders, console these families. May Christmas bring them hope in the mercy of our God who came to save each one of us. May they experience the peace that comes from being rooted in faith, hope and love of God and of their neighbor. I pray for a friend named Mary Ann in her early 60's, who died yesterday morning from a brain tumor. She had been a career Navy officer. In her retirement she was very active in her parish in Alexandria, Virginia. She attended Mass every day that she was able to drive. When she was in remission, she often visited our Pauline Book & Media Center in Old Town Alexandria. Her passing saddens us who knew her and enjoyed her cheerful company. Yet, I am happy that her Advent, her time of waiting for the Lord's arrival, is now over. The Lord came to bring her into the eternal banquet, the eternal celebration of everlasting life. As St. Paul said in Romans 8:28, "For those who love God, all things work together for the good." Only God can bring good out of evil. May those suffering from armed conflicts be delivered soon from danger. May those who perpetrate violence, hatred and war turn from evil and do good. In case you have young people in your family (kinder to about 3rd grade), you may want to get a copy of our newest DVD, "From Saint to Santa", the Story of St. Nicholas. It is a delightful presentation with kids from the Boston area. For more information visit our website: Good reading, especially the Bible, the writings of the Saints, and the words of our Holy Father Pope Francis help us to "put on the mind of Christ." May you find time in this Christmas season to withdraw from the noise and let God speak to your mind and heart through a good book or an inspirational movie. Have a blessed Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The 4th Candle

Today we who use the Advent Wreath light all four candles to usher in the Fourth Week of Advent. Today is the first day of Winter in our northern hemisphere. As I write the sky is gray as little fits of snow flurry about. The fourth light of the Advent Wreath adds needed light to our world. Yet, we Christians have hope as we await the coming of the True Light of the World, Jesus Christ, born in a Bethlehem stable. One of our Mass hymns today was "People Look East" the time is near of the coming of the Lord. I remember the sense of heightened expectation I felt as a little girl waiting for Baby Jesus as well as Santa to come. Now as a religious Sister, I feel an even greater sense of expectation, waiting for Christmas to arrive. I look forward to the Mass on Christmas Eve night with its telling in word and song of the Christmas story. Then I love Christmas morning Mass which is such a joyful way to begin the day of celebration and gift giving and receiving. Jesus is "the" Gift par excellence sent by the Father to save us, to teach us, to give us a Way to follow, and to enliven us with his grace. This past week I was struck by the huge difference that believing in the coming of Jesus as God makes for us Christians. I wrote about that in our on-line newsletter/blog published on Saturday. I invite you to read the article Winter offers a respite from noise which helps us reflect more deeply on Christmas. Snow usually falls without making a sound. It is pervasive and covers all in its path, sometimes just leaving a dusting, at other times smothering and reshaping all in its path. All the while the frozen flakes land every where in perfect silence. So the coming of the Savior was silent. Christ, our God, came as a Baby--silent and cueing little sounds that any baby would utter. The Angels provided the choir voices. "Gloria", Glory to God in the highest. This week can mean a crush of stress, rushing to get things done: presents wrapped and delivered, cooking, calling, and so much else. Take some time, if possible before the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, to be silent before him, to ask him to calm you, to center you, to recall the Love who lies in a manger.
As a media Sister, I welcome this season with its lights, its cheer and its message of real hope. I promise you my reader my prayers for you as you make room in your life for the One who is our Light, and our Life, the Reason for this season of peace and joy. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 08, 2014

Mary's Immaculate Conception

Today the Church around the world celebrates Mary's Immaculate Conception. For us Americans this day holds more meaning, since Mary, the Immaculate Conception, is the special Patroness of these United States of America. The Church teaches that Mary was conceived by her parents, Joachim and Anna, without original sin. So the first moment of her existence, Mary's souls was spotless, free of any sin. In view of her coming role as Mother of the Savior, God preserved Mary from the effects of original sin. The gospel which the Church offers us today is from St. Luke's narrative. The Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with the good news that she was to be the Mother of the Messiah, the Redeemer of Israel--and of all humanity.
Sister Marianne Lorraine, fsp led our morning prayer earlier today. As a special addition sister read an excerpt from a homily of Pope Benedict XVI especially for today. I was touched by the warmth of Pope Benedict's words about Mary. Here is an excerpt that you may enjoy:
In her [Mary], God has impressed his own image, the image of the One who follows the lost sheep even up into the mountains and among the briars and thornbushes of the sins of this world, letting himself be spiked by the crown of thorns of these sins in order to take the sheep on his shoulders and bring it home. ...[Mary's] heart was enlarged by being and feeling together with God. In her, God's goodness came very close to us. Mary thus stands before us as a sign of comfort, encouragement and hope. She turns to us, saying: "Have the courage to dare with God! Try it! Do not be afraid of him! Have the courage to risk with faith! Have the courage to risk with goodness! Have the courage to risk with a pure heart! Commit yourselves to God, then you will see it is precisely by doing so that your life will become broad and light, not boring but filled with infinite surprises, for God's infinite goodness is never depleted!
On this Feast Day, let us thank the Lord for the great sign of his goodness which he has given us in Mary, his Mother and Mother of the Church. Let us pray to him to put Mary on our path like a light that also helps us become a light to carry this light into the nights of history. Amen.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Advent Week Two

The first week of Advent flew by. I was able to go to Staten Island, New York on Thursday with 17 other Sisters. We traveled on a small bus to be present at our 20th Annual Daughters of St. Paul Benefit Dinner and Concert. Our singing choir Sisters offered 18 numbers selected from very upbeat Christmas-centered songs. Over 900 people were present. Our guest of honor was Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York. He received a great welcome. It took him a long time to reach his place at table because of the folks who went to greet him and stopped to pose for selfies with the Cardinal. We Sisters are very grateful to Richard and Lois Nicotra and their hard working staff who host and manage this dinner/concert every year. The venue is their Hilton Garden Inn on Staten Island. In his opening remarks, Cardinal Dolan said that the New Testament story of the First Christmas gives inn keepers a bad name. They had said "no room" to Joseph and Mary. The Nicotras have restored the image of a good inn keeper! This morning I attended the 7:30 Mass at a nearby parish. For the following Mass, I stayed at the side entrance which is a large circular, glass encased room. There we had ample space for many tables and display units for our books and media which we were offering the parishioners this morning. During the second Mass, while Sister Susan attended the liturgy, I stayed in the entrance area. A young mother with a 2 year old and a 4 year old boy was trying to pay attention to the Mass, even though her boys were too young to keep still. Much later on a middle aged couple came in with a perky two-year old girl, a child in a cradle-car seat, and two boys all under two years old. The couple were white and three of the children were African American. Only the child in the car seat was still. All three wanted to see everything, inspect all our books and DVD's, run up and down the handicapped ramp, and socialize with the first two boys. When I told the little girl that behind the tables was "Only for big girls," she responded firmly: "I am a big girl!" She was a miniature "big girl" in her bright pink winter outfit, white flower headband, and lamb's wool vest. In Advent we await the coming of Christ at the end of time, and we commemorate Jesus' birthday in Bethlehem of Judea. Jesus was a real baby, who, if he were born in our day, would ride in a car seat rather than a donkey, wear jeans and not a robe, and still keep landing on his bottom as he made baby steps to catch up with the older boys. I was edified when I asked "Mom" and "Dad" if the children were foster children or adopted. The children were both: two, a boy and girl, were already their adopted son and daughter; the other two were still in their care as foster children. I reflected that these parents were nearing retirement age. They could look forward to a restful sunset of life. Yet they had taken on the care of four children who otherwise might be on the street or in a shelter, if not in worse conditions. I thought of Matthew Chapter 25 where Jesus describes the final judgement: "I was hungery and you gave me to eat; naked and you clothed me; sick and you visited me...". What a Christmas gift those two are with their lives. May we learn from them, and pray that those who can do the same will emulate their example and give more children a loving, warm home. Have a blessed second week of Advent.