Wednesday, December 13, 2017

She's a Light for Us All

Today the Church celebrates a Saint of Light in the midst of winter's darkest days: St. Lucy. Her name comes from the Latin lux which means light. One of the first women venerated in the Church since the 4th century, Lucy was a Christian young woman. The story goes that her mother had a debilitating illness. Both Lucy and her mother went to the tomb of the martyr St. Agatha also from Sicily. While there, Lucy had a dream in which St. Agatha came to tell her that her mother would be cured. Lucy, however, would witness to Christ by dying a martyr. A persecution of Christians broke out. A young man who had hoped to marry Lucy turned on her and denounced her as a Christian. Attempts to put her to death failed, until finally an executioner plunged a sword into her heart. Her name is remembered each time that the Roman Canon, or First Eucharistic Prayer, is used at Mass.
I was surprised to discover that until the Reformation, St. Lucy Day was celebrated each year with great festivities in England. In Scandinavian countries, St. Lucy is celebrated each year with young women dressed in white with red sashes which represent Lucy's virginity and martyrdom. The women wear wreathes of lighted candles on their heads as they gather and process. Lucy spread the light of the Gospel with her courage and faith. So we are called to spread the light of faith through our prayers and example. Jesus said, "You are the light of the world." Today may we brush off anything that hinders others from seeking the Christ Light within us.
Many people pray to St. Lucy to be healed from ailments of the eye. Pauline Books & Media publishes a St. Lucy Novena booklet Contact or visit Pauline Books & Media to procure a St. Lucy Novena booklet for yourself or for someone praying for better eye sight. Go to www.pauline.org. Have a blessed day!

It's Already Upon Us!

The season of Advent is upon us! The first December weekend in Boston, our Daughters of St. Paul Choir performed their annual Christmas Concert. This year's title is "Love Among Us." Because the Concert would be the opening act of our Advent Season, our dining room was thoroughly decorated, Christmas tree and all! Many guests have to pass through the dining room on their way to chapel and to the book and craft fair, and lots of convent baked cookies in Cushing Hall under the chapel . Advent is just 24 days long, ending on Christmas Eve. Some folks may not even be aware of this gem of a season when in our part of the globe nights begin so early, and we long for more light. Indoor and outdoor lighted displays feature Santa and Rudolph the red nosed Reindeer. Some feature the event which is the reason for the Christmas Season, the stable of Bethlehem and the figures of Jesus, the Infant, and Mary and Joseph. The liturgical colors for Advent are purple and pink. The Third Sunday of Advent which this year falls on Sunday, December 17, is called "Gaudete Sunday, or Rejoice Sunday. The Mass vestments for Guadete Sunday may be rose (or pink) colored. This is to indicate the joy that our Savior approaches. The purple vestments used on the other Advent days indicate the time of preparation as we "make way" for the coming of the Lord. This time of getting the path of the Lord ready requires that we clear out space in our souls for his arrival. Just as when we get ready for a visit from relatives or good friends, we try to get rid of the junk that clutters our home or garage, or even our yard. So in Advent we try to be more attentive to God's advent in our lives. One practice which you might want to use--if you haven't done so yet--is the lighting of the Advent Candles. You can use a wreath with four candle holders, or use four flat candle holders arranged in a circle. You may want to arrange pine cones, evergreen, or other greenery around the wreath. If you can't find the colored purple and pink candles, you can tie purple ribbons at the base of white candles and a pink ribbon on the candle representing Gaudete Sunday. By the way, all of our Pauline Books & Media Centers in the USA and English-speaking Canada stock Advent candles. Check out our locations on our web site: www.pauline.org. The ideal is to use three purple and one pink candle to symbolize the Sundays and weeks of Advent, and the centuries during which the Jewish people awaited the coming of the Messiah. Families can use the Advent Wreath ceremony as a way to instill the idea of spiritual readiness into the minds and hearts of children. The lighting ritual give a family time to pause a bit longer to reflect on what Christmas means.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Christ the King, Christ the Homeless, the Panhandler, the Immigrant, Christ in Disguise

Today we sing Happy Feast Day to Jesus Christ, King of All People and King of the entire Universe! In the Apostles' Creed we declare that Jesus "will come again to judge the living and the dead." The Church's gospel selection for this last Sunday of the Liturgical Year is the Last Judgement from the gospel of Matthew, chapter 25 verses 31--46. Many of us Christians are aware of the scene depicted in this passage. All of humanity who ever lived is standing before Jesus, King and Judge. He says all those who "saw me hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick, ill or imprisoned and helped me, and welcomed me when I was a stranger will be among the sheep". The sheep are the followers of Jesus who are welcomed into the heavenly kingdom. These men and women helped those in need wholeheartedly. They did not require an exam for the needy person to pass in order to qualify for an act of kindness from them. Those sent to the goats are those who did follow Jesus up to a certain point. Then when Jesus showed up dressed in rags that barely covered him, or asking for a sandwich or a cold or hot drink, or for a place to sleep that was too much. "That guy will only spend my dollar on alcohol," or as some say, "Let them get a job. Why should my taxes pay for such a cunning people who know how to work the system to steal our money." I just finished reading an article from the newsletter of Casa Juan Diego in Houston. The author, a member of the Catholic Worker movement founded by Servant of God Dorothy Day described some of those who hear the jibe, "Get a job." Each one of the persons he described came to the Casa for desperately needed help. Each one either had chronic illness, or was caring full-time for an invalid relative at home. Not one of them was physically capable of being hired by anyone. Yet, each of them has heard, "Get a job." Of course their job lies at home. How many of the well fed, and relatively well off accuse clients of Casa Juan Diego and other centers of catering to the lazy and those immigrants who would take unfair advantage of any kind of welfare.
If one realized that it was Jesus asking a favor, the response might be: "Let me see what I can do. Can I give away the excess clothing in my closet? Can I spare some cash today? Can I get a gift card from McDonald's or any other restaurant chain and hand it to a needy person who asks?" If I give someone a sandwich, do I slip a bottle of water or another beverage in the bag? A women near Washington, DC, once came in our book center and asked for food. I went upstairs to our convent and made a sandwich. I put that along with a bottle of water in the plastic bag with the food. She came back to thank me for the water. Anyone who has lived near D.C. in the summer can testify that the heat and humidity are grueling. Several years ago I met a secretary in Miami, Florida. She was a Christian, a Protestant. "You know," she said, "my boyfriend is Catholic. For me. my religion is like a jacket. I put it on when I am in church. When I leave church, I take it off and hang it up. My boyfriend is not like that. He's Catholic all the time! Everything he does is Catholic!" Apparently his "being Catholic" was a testimony to her, not a bother, but something she appreciated. A practicing Catholic takes the Matthew 25:31--46 to heart. After all, the real bottom line on our life, the litmus test of our behavior is this passage. Jesus the homeless, the stranger, the immigrant, the annoying panhandler is asking for help. Jesus could be in disguise at home: the parent with the memory loss; the petulant infant who can sleep hours during the day and keeps you up at night; the new cashier who makes a mistake at the grocery store; or the waiter or waitress whose English is limited...in myriad forms and in the oddest places, Jesus, our King and Shepherd is waiting for your and my allegiance, my obedience to his appeal to help him as he hides in the disguise that shows up in front of me today.
"Lord," I ask, "Help me to serve you wherever you show up and need my help or forbearance. Please give me strength and courage to behave as a real member of your holy kingdom. I trust in your mercy. Let me show mercy to all whom I meet. Amen." I like this picture of Christ, the King, still wearing his crown of thorns, because it reminds me that in the sick, the suffering the demented and the mentally ill, Christ still wears his crown of thorns. My kindness helps to alleviate the pain someone may be enduring from his or her crown of thorns.
Not to make this blog too long, but I must mention that today is the anniversary of the death of our Founder Blessed James Alberione. His last words were "Ave, Maria!" Although Father Alberione, was already unconscious, Pope Paul VI hastened to go to be with Blessed Alberione as he lay dying on November 26, 1971. I close with a quote from Blessed Pope Paul from the ceremony in 1969 when Paul bestowed a special honor on Alberione: From the address of Pope Paul VI: Here before us we see the Pious Society of St. Paul, originally from Alba in Piedmont and now with a General House here in Rome. We know well that yours is not a simple institution but a Family: the “Pauline Family,” made up of various religious Institutes, which we are pleased to welcome here today and, as it were, pass in review…. We know about your activities, all of which are characterized by an apostolic spirit and purpose. Your principal apostolate is that of the editions, but you also carry out a liturgical apostolate, a parish apostolate, a vocation apostolate, and an apostolate aimed at helping various classes of people live the Christian life more intensively. We remember well that you began your apostolate by making modern use of the stupendous instruments now used for what is called social communication and that this is one of the characteristic features of the Pauline Family…. And this blossoming of different forms of disseminating Christian thought and word goes hand in hand with the geographical spread of your work, which by now has reached every continent…. We owe the building of your monumental Institute to your Founder, our dear and venerated Fr. James Alberione, here present. In the name of Christ, we thank and bless him. Here he is, humble, silent, tireless, ever vigilant, always recollected in his thoughts, which run from prayer to work according to the traditional saying: ora et labora (pray and work), ever intent on scrutinizing the “signs of the times,” that is to say, the most inspired ways of reaching souls. Our Fr. Alberione has given the Church new ways of expressing herself, new means to invigorate and broaden her apostolate, new capacities and a new awareness of the validity and possibilities of her mission in the modern world, with modern means. Permit the Pope, dear Fr. Alberione, to rejoice in this long, faithful and tireless effort and the fruits it has produced for the glory of God and the good of the Church. Permit your children to rejoice with us and tell you today, perhaps as never before, of their affection and their promise to persevere in this work. (Cf. Paul VI, Audience of 28.06.1969)

Friday, November 03, 2017

"Lest We Forget"

In the center of one of the myriad New England towns lies a granite memorial to deceased war veterans. In large letters it reminds us: "Lest we forget" the sacrifices of those who have gone before us. A compilation of our Founder's homilies on Purgatory uses this same phrase for it's title: "Lest We Forget." November is dedicated in a special way to the memory of all the souls who have died in the grace of God. We Catholics believe that in order to see God face-to-face we need to be free from any attachment to sin. When our eyes are sore, it is painful to open our them to the sunlight. Spiritual writers tell us that the "pain" of Purgatory is the longing to be fully in the presence of our Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Church teaches that we can help the Holy Souls by prayers, Masses, sacrifices and good deeds. This short prayer directed to Our Divine Lord is a sort of theme song for this Month of the Holy Souls: Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The Church gives the name Purgatory to [the] final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned." (CCC, no. 1031) As I grow older the list of relatives and friends already passed into eternity is growing. When I was on vacation, I enjoyed meeting up with about a dozen women, all of us high school classmates. One of the ladies, Bonnie, came despite having to use an oxygen tank for her lungs. Bonnie also suffered from cancer. The friend who hosted our celebration texted me that Bonnie died in mid October. All of our group have been affected by Bonnie's death. Our faith assures us that after death the friends and family we know appreciate every prayer we offer for them. Although they cannot help themselves, they can intercede for us.
Many times I have experienced almost immediate help when I pray to the Poor Souls.
The Sister who founded the Daughters of St. Paul in the USA, Mother Paula Cordero, had great devotion to the Holy Souls as she called the Souls in Purgatory. Whenever she started one of her many flights within the USA or overseas, Mother Paula would pray 100 times the "Eternal Rest..." prayer. She used her rosary beads and prayed the Eternal Rest's in groups of 10. On the Our Father beads she would pray, "My Jesus, mercy!" "The Church assists those in Purgatory through prayer and especially the Eucharist in their final process of purification." (United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, page 154) By the way, if you don't have a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or of the "United States Catechism for Adults" both published by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, you can visit one of our USA Pauline Book & Media Centers, or go to our on-line store at Pauline.org. The Catechism of the Catholic Church comes in two sizes: one is a smaller more compact edition with a hard cover (The text is complete. However some of the many indexes are eliminated.) The original larger size is complete with larger print. I wish you a blessed month of November, one that will bring you closer to God, as you go deeper and deeper into the life of grace.

What color is your Autumn?

Maybe it's climate change or just a warming trend. Whatever the cause our usual brilliant Fall colors have delayed their annual colorful appearance. Yet, there are some trees that are a golden yellow which glow whenever the sun penetrates them. Since we live on a hill, as we drive down towards the more dense areas of Boston, there is one stand-alone tree which is totally red or burgundy. Often as we approach a bend in our many parkways, I feel that "wow!" expression welling up and onto my lips. One of the Sisters with a good eye for color keeps me alert when she points out certain extra colorful trees: "Look at that!" she cries. Then "Look, on the left, wow, what a bea-u-ti-ful tree!" Fall can offer its own art style of ever changing amber, red and gold curtains of foiliage. Soon enough the "leaf curtain" will blow away and low and behold, I spy a building I never realized was hiding behind a stand of trees. I even saw a reservoir not far from us which I only noticed last summer.
I view this autumn season as a metaphor for old age. In September I had a memorable birthday, one which I never dreamed of reaching so soon! In the summer, almost all the trees are green, so not many leaves stands out.
In the Fall each leaf has its chance to shine, displaying deep reds and yellow, and shades in between. My ideal would be to shine with virtue as I age. When I was younger, some of us sisters would tease one another if we caught someone complaining: "Don't grow to be a mean old nun!" As age increases so often do aches and pains and various other jolts to our systems which may challenge our serenity. Wisdom comes with age, so they say. Experience adds a dimension to our life where we hold up events of today to the light of our past. Sometimes we can say, "History repeats itself over and over." This is so true when we read headlines glaring with the misdeeds of some, or the downright evil ways of others. When I watch TV news, it can be a downer when one crime after another is dragged before our eyes. I always perk up when newscasts end on a positive note and highlight a person who has gone the extra mile to help another. No matter what, I want to be one of those trees that glimmer with color when the sunlight dances around me. Good habits become virtues. In my spiritual view of the landscape, colors represent good thoughts and good deeds, as well as good intentions. Red is always a symbol of love and sacrifice, gold is precious and it sparkles in the light. The tan or beige leaves remind me of the value of the ordinary lived well. The bright yellows represent an upbeat attitude, faith in the Providence of our Good God. As Christians and as Catholics we can display in our own serene way faith, hope and love as we live them day-by-day.
The beloved Saint Pope John XXIII always cast a serene smile despite the pains of old age and the crosses inherent in carrying the needs of the whole world as Pope. Yet, he refused to join in any pessimistic views of our times, differing from the nay-sayer prophets of doom. Rather, Pope John trusted in the goodness of God who is the One whom St. Paul said in his Letter to the Romans makes all things work to the good for those who love him. (Romans 8:28) What are your Autumn colors?
Have a multi-colored blessed day!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Hidden Mutual Friend

Today one of our Sisters shared a few anecdotes of what people have revealed to her about their spiritual lives. One story impressed me, so I'd like to share it with you. A woman told Sister that she began to visit a Blessed Sacrament Chapel for adoration on a daily basis.
"I would pour out my heart and my complaints to Jesus. Every day I would visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and present the problems of the day. Then recently I 'heard' a word from Jesus. He said: 'Just adore.' Jesus already knows about my problems and needs. I've already told him many times. He was asking me to keep quiet and adore him." The woman noticed how the church sacristan took great care of the altar and the adoration chapel. One day she felt inspired to tell him how pleased Our Lady must be at the great care and attention he exerted. "I said: 'How she must appreciate all you do for her and her Son' The gentleman answered, 'No one has ever thanked me or told me about my work. Thank you!' We would exchange some pleasantries each day. Lately I've been asking for the gift of wisdom. The other day the sacristan said. 'Would you like a statue of the Blessed Mother? It's a bit old and nicked up but it's still good.' I was thrilled with the idea of getting a statue from a church. I answered, 'Certainly!' When I went into the sacristy to take the statue the inscription was Sedes Sapientiae, Seat of Wisdom!" Another Sister mentioned how her cousin, an entertainer in a tourist spot, makes a weekly hour of adoration on his day off. I added that when I boarded our plane to return to the USA from Ireland, the stewardess who greeted us mentioned how she frequents a Blessed Sacrament chapel in Belfast. I wasn't able to continue the conversation with the stewardess yet I was pleased to hear her greeting. All of us have this great Mutual Friend abiding in tabernacles around the world. When we go to him in adoration, we are united to him and to one another in mutual love for Jesus in the Eucharist. I hope that you too will be able to join our mutual Friend, Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I guarantee you that he will give you his peace and answer your prayers. Blessings!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Fatima's Message

Catholics around the world celebrate today the 100th anniversary of Mary's apparition to three shepherd children at Fatima in Portugal. "The Miracle of the Sun" served to validate the truth of Mary's appearance and of her message. That day began with thousands of people, some believers, others sceptics, who gathered in the Cova da Iria in Portugal on October 13, 1917. All the people who gathered were soaked with a driving rain. As the children and others prayed the rosary, the sun seemed to fall from the sky spinning toward the earth. As the sun sped tpward the people it dried their clothing and the ground which held them. Soon the heavens returned to their steady normal light.
Mary left the crowd and the children with her message to "pray and do penance for sins; make reparation for the offenses given to Mary's Immaculate Heart and to Jesus her Son." Mary urged the children and all of us who listened to them to "pray the rosary!"
Today, I will take time to pray my rosary with attention and by placing many intentions as I pray. For instance, a family from Dublin Ireland asked for healing for a young husband named Ed who had quit his job to care for his wife Karen suffering from terminal cancer. Karen and Ed have two young children. Ed was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. One of Ed's brothers has taken in Ed's children. Rita, Ed's mother, is suffering from cancer which reappeared after being in remission. I will pray for all those fighting the California fires; those killed by the heat and flames; those left homeless;for the people of Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands left without electrical power and clean water. These are just some of the intentions I add to my rosary. If you are not accustomed to praying the rosary, try to pray at least one decade, an Our Father, 10 Hail Mary's and a Glory be celebrating at least one of the episodes in the lives of Jesus and Mary.
Recently I returned from a quick tour of Ireland, home of my ancestors. Our guide recounted for us the history of Ireland's centuries of living through fierce persecution and famine. Daniel O'Connell was the first Catholic Irishman to gain a seat in the British Parliament. Through a great deal of trial, amazing use of the law of the land, and a constant devotion to Our Lady's rosary, in 1829 O'Connell won the right to religious freedom for Catholics (and others) to freely practice their religion in the Emerald Isle. Let us ask Our Lady of Fatima to give us courage to practice our faith no matter the difficulties we face.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

September Storms

As I write, the winds of September are howling in the Caribbean and menacing most of Florida. Hurricane Irma is dallying at the southernmost tip of Florida. Dire predictions of destruction, loss of electricity and flooding threaten not only Florida but Georgia, and the two Carolina's. In the early 1990's I was assigned to Charleston, South Carolina. That charming city endured some of the worst of the 1989 Hurricane Hugo. A year later, in 1990 I took part in my sister's wedding near Charleston. I remember the sights of boarded up homes and ripped palmetto trees at the upper end of what is now fashionable King Street. My brother-in-law grew up in Charleston. Our nephew Ben and his family live in a beautiful new Charleston subdivision. My sister lives a few miles east of Columbia, SC. She and her husband are preparing for the onslaught of Irma and the two storms trailing behind her. Though they live more than 100 miles from the Carolina Coast, they are preparing for whatever may come in the wake of these September storms. Hurricane Matthew downed 15 large trees on their land in 2016. Thanks to satellites and learned meteorologists we know how to prepare for these storms that usher in the school year. Storms bring out the worst and the best in human nature. My niece told me how she witnessed a near brawl in a grocery store as a man and a woman fought over packed water bottles. Neither of the two heeded the store manager's pleas to leave enough water for the long line of folks waiting patiently. I suspect that both parties still had clean running water in their homes. They could have used their own containers to store potable water. Others manifest the best in our human nature by going out of their way to assist others. Our Sisters from Miami are staying with a family in Orlando. My sister is welcoming her teacher friend, and possibly our nephew and his wife and one year old son. The storm triggers many works of mercy. To give shelter to the homeless is one of the seven corporal works of mercy. From New England I look at the TV satellite images and hear the near constant warnings repeatedly broadcast, it is easy to feel very much afraid.
I pray for those in the hurricane paths: a niece and her husband in Naples, cousins in the middle of Florida, our two nieces in Columbia, SC and cousins in North Carolina. What I can do now is pray for all those in danger from these destructive winds and flooding rains. I pray that God will have mercy on all the people in the storm's path. I experienced a close call with a hurricane several years ago in Miami. The eye of that storm was 40 miles east of Miami. Any minute it could have moved west and destroyed much of Miami. Another storm was trailing behind it. I woke up in the middle of the night. Wind sneaking in through jalousie windows made siren-like noises. I peeked out from one of the jalousies to see all our street's palm trees bent at right angles as though they were bowing to a monarch. Huge palm branches lie in the middle of the deserted roadway. I prayed for all of us in the path of that swirling force so close to land. The date was very much the same as this week's. The Feast of the Birthday of Mary is tomorrow. That year (I believe it was 1979) a Mass of thanksgiving celebrated the city's liberation from the hurricane. It veered a bit to the east and them struck land in a much less populated area.
People had prayed to Jesus' Mother Mary under the title of Our Lady of Charity, Nuestra Senora de la Caridad. Through her intercession Miami and all of south Florida was spared. Let us continue to pray to Mary, Our Lady of Charity, and Star of the Sea to protect us all from all storms, both weather generated or spiritual or emotional.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Happy News!

July is well upon us as well as its beautiful weather. Last Saturday, July 1, we at our Boston convent had the joy of welcoming three new professed Sisters into our ranks. The day before the three novices received the blessed habit of the Daughters of St. Paul at the morning Mass.
Our three novices Sisters Julie Turner, Putri Mamesah, and Danielle Lussier pronounced their first vows for one year among the Daughters of St. Paul. Relatives and guests of the Sisters were welcomed at our St. Thecla Retreat House in Billerica, Mass.
There were 13 children present under the age of 6 (including a few under the age of 2 months!) Usually I remain tear free during most of our religious celebrations. This year I found myself reaching for tissues to dry my tears of joy. Each of the three Sisters addressed the congregation in the crowded chapel telling the main reason they were consecrating themselves entirely to God. Their joy was contagious. I pray that the witness of these beautiful young women giving up promising careers and the possibility of having their own families in exchange for the closer following of Jesus will draw many to consider religious life. Their witness offers credibility to the Gospel of Joy which Pope Francis asks all of us Catholic Christians to proclaim first with our lives.
The artistic motif chosen by the three Sisters was the sunflower. The program booklet had a big sunflower on its cover, and the dining room table decorations included sunflowers even on the napkins. Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione wrote: "That like the sunflower which turns to always face the sun, so we must always follow the sun of the Will of God." After the Sisters made their vows, the three stood in the sanctuary as the Magnificat was sung in thanksgiving. Then a procession of about a dozen of the children who each carried a large sunflower. The three new Sisters gathered them and placed them in vases in front of the statue of Our Lady, Queen of Apostles.
After visiting their families for some time, each of the three Sisters will join one of our smaller communities here in the USA. Rejoice with us as these young Sisters begin their Pauline life of self donation for the sake of the gospel. Pray too that other young women will be inspired to follow Jesus as they did. By the way, about 15 young women spent tha weekend with us and witnessed the Profession ceremony. During this July we pray especially in honor of the Precious Blood of Jesus. In every Mass we are offered the Precious Body and Blood of Christ. May those who somehow abstain from the Mass return and enjoy all the benefits of this holy renewal of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Feast of the Most BlessedTrinity

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit! We are blessed to profess One God in Three Divine Persons! The God who always was, is now, and shall ever be is a Trinity! In Jesus Christ we have Jesus, the Son of the Father, God in the flesh. The Holy Spirit is the love of the Father for the Son and the Son's reciprocal love. The Trinity is not a concept we Christians, especially Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, made up. Jesus speaks of the Father in John Chapter 14. When the Apostle Philip asked Jesus to show him and the other disciples the Father, Jesus responded: "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." (John 14:9) Jesus assured the Apostles that when they would no longer see him, they would be strengthened by his Spirit, the Advocate. In John 15:26 Jesus affirmed that he would send the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth. Last week we celebrated that first visible manifestation of God the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday. The Acts of the Apostles, to me, can be subtitled, "The Astounding Power of the Holy Spirit", working through the Apostles and Evangelists of the early Church. From the second Chapter of Acts through the very end of this first History of Christianity we witness the power of the Spirit as he gave light to the minds of the first missionaries, fortitude to bear countless hardships, dangers, and opposition. Those men who preached the Good News of Jesus Christ were on fire with the love of God. Sometimes religious art can impress us so much that we might form an image in our minds of the Father as an old man with a flowing white beard. We may picture Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, seated calmly on the Mount of the Beatitudes with an utterly other worldly demeanor. Maybe we picture the Holy Spirit as a fluttering dove such as the one which pointed out Jesus at his baptism. Whenever we make the Sign of the Cross we can remind ourselves of our own Baptism and of the great Mystery of the Holy Trinity. I once heard a Bishop in the Midwest suggest adding these words once in a while to our Sign of the Cross. He put the wording this way: "In the name of the Father who created me, and the Son who redeemed me, and of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies me."
The love between and among this Divine Trinity is what enlivens us. It's their love that we share in our Christian life. This love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit sustains us and moves us to be Jesus for those whom we meet every day. Explain it all? I cannot take it all in. The famous story of St. Augustine comes to mind: Augustine was walking along the seashore when he spied a little boy trying to fill his little bucket with water from the ocean. He asked the boy, "Why are you trying to empty this vast ocean into your little bucket?" The child answered, "No more than this bucket can hold all the water of the ocean, than you can manage to comprehend the trinity, Father, Son and Holy spirit." A few months ago a film adaptation of the novel "The Shack" appeared in some theaters. A grieving father goes in search of "Papa"--his little girl's favorite name for God the Father. God the Father (and Mother), Jesus, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all depicted. the movie succeeds in letting the audience experience a tad of the love which is the communion of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. When I read the book, I found that part the most uplifting and hope filled. As a Catholic, I like to see the positive elements of movies. Although the film is not "Catholic" per se, the presentation of the Holy Trinity is creative and touching.
Happy Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. Let's spend this Trinity Sunday in joy, knowing that ours is a God of love and compassion.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Happy Easter!

I hope everyone of my readers enjoyed a Happy Easter! In the Catholic Church we celebrate the Easter liturgy for a full week, and then for 50 days! This year Eastertide or the Easter Season which lasts until the Feast of Pentecost will last all through the month of June. After the 40 days of Lent, Easter brings joy and hope. The gospel for Easter was taken from Chapter 28 of Matthew's gospel. He tells us of Mary Magdalene who was determined to give Jesus a fitting burial. Since Jesus had died on Friday, no work could be done on the Sabbath, Saturday. Early on that Sunday morning Mary arrived at the tomb dismayed that
there was no body to be found. She and the other Mary's who had carried spies to complete the embalming process found an angel seated in the tomb. He told them that Jesus was no longer there, he had risen. Where was he? As the gospel continues, Jesus called "Mary." Instantly she responded "Rabboni", Master. As one author recently pointed out, Jesus had said, "I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep and I call them by name." Mary's heart must have leapt when she heard, "Mary." Mary had followed Jesus to the cross, and with his Mother Mary, she stayed to the end to witness his sacrifice for all of us. Tradition calls Mary "The Apostle to the Apostles." Jesus told her to "Go, tell my brethren" the Good News. Mary did that to the best of her ability. She evangelized the Evangelizers. Certain icons of the Magdalene show her holding an egg. Apparently Mary evangelized in Rome too. One legend says that Mary traveled there and spoke with the Emperor. When she told the Emperor of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the Roman leader scoffed at her and said, "No more can a man rise from the dead than that egg in your hand turn scarlet!" He no sooner finished speaking than the egg turned a bright scarlet color.
We do not need to see miracles like the Emperor saw because we witness a miracle every time we attend Mass. There are two times when a Catholic priest speaks in the place of Christ: one is in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance/Confession, when he says: "I absolve you from your sins...". The other instance when the priest speaks for Christ directly is when he says at the consecration in each Mass, "This is my Body given up for you....This is my blood shed for you and for many." The Risen Christ, who suffered crucifixion and died for us, offers himself to us each day in every Mass. He chose to remain with us in Communion and in the Blessed Sacrament.
May the Risen Christ be your hope and your joy, your Source of happiness and serenity. May Easter Peace permeate your life!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

One of the Top Ten

A Boston Globe column writer recently described a firestorm of digital accusations and unkind remarks about a female public servant from a small town in the Boston area. Accusations of wrong doing, insults and other negativity filled the lady's hometown Facebook page. Without fact-checking their postings, several people assumed the worst and defamed their town's hard-working councilwoman. Writers assumed the worst instead of fact-checking the event. The lady in question was near another small town which had just suffered a destructive tornado. Since that town's administrator was out of state, this lady stepped in and helped organize rescue and rebuilding efforts. The lady in question did what she did at the cost of sacrifice without receiving pay. She called her boss and asked to make the day she spent helping another town as a "sick day" not a paid work day. People who sent nasty messages to the town's Facebook page implied that the council woman was spending their town's money on another town which in their opinion was an unpardonable offense. Without informing themselves of the realities of the woman's motives and her communications with her own boss, she was being painted as a quasi-criminal stealing from her fellow citizens. To me it sounded like a bit much. Yet in today's volatile social climate it is a sad reality that one of the Top Ten, The Ten Commandments, Number 8 has been transgressed. This is how the 8th Commandment is worded: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." (Exodus 20:16) In ordinary parlance it is translated, "Don't lie about your neighbor. Rather, tell the truth." How many times have I blurted out something which I soon later regretted! From my own experience as well as what others have said, mistakes such as white lies, or blatant big lies, come from not thinking enough. For Lent I one of my resolves is to think about what I am going to say, and how I say it, write it, or record it, or send it out on the Internet. A Maryknoll priest stationed in China shared his homily online. Here is part of it:
In ancient Greece, Socrates [470-399 BC] said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” He said that when he was on trial, facing the death penalty. He could have kept his mouth shut and lived longer, but he wanted people to live better. He kept asking his fellow citizens in Athens what they were doing and why. It is annoying when people challenge us to think. Thinking is hard work. People prefer to speak without thinking and to act without thinking. Socrates. believed in an afterlife. He did not know much about the One God, but at least he knew that death is not the end of everything.(From the Sunday Homily of Father Michael Sloboda, MM, 3/12/17)
Thinking before we speak can indeed be a penance. It's far easier to speak spontaneously and passionately. But, then we may have to symbolically "pick up the pieces" left by our unscripted speech or writing. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a great statement about truth telling:
Truth or truthfulness is the virtue which consists in showing oneself true in deeds and truthful in words, and guarding against duplicity; dissimulation, and hypocrisy... Respect for the reputation and honor of persons forbids all detraction and calumny in words or attitude. (CCC, nos, 2505 and 2507)
When I read the Globe article I reflected about my own social media use. At times my Facebook page gets filled with various rants against elected officials, or Hollywood personalities, or Bishops, and even against the Holy Father. Thankfully, there is an "X" option. I do not forward nastiness or lies. For every "You shall not" commandment, there is a "a shall do" element. If I do not lie about someone, I speak well of them. Or, I remain silent. Lawyers unfortunately are often judged as sly and even dishonest. However lawyers deal with the law, and with truth. They need to defend what is true. Often gathering evidence to prove the truthfulness of their case requires hours of research and reams of paper, and expensive copy maker use. Pope Saint John Paul II referred to St. Thomas More as a Patron Saint of those who defend the truth, especially Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers.
When we make our daily examination of conscience, a quick review of The Top Ten/The Ten Commandments and how we observe them helps to clear our hearts of daily spiritual debris. And, if we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Top Ten help us to find some material to bring to our Confession. I pray that your Lent is progressing well. God bless you!

Saturday, March 04, 2017

How to Handle Temptation

The gospel of this First Sunday of Lent shows us Jesus alone in the desert being tempted by Satan. Re-reading the passage from Saint Matthew's gospel, I am reminded of watching a sword fight. Satan's first thrust is the temptation for Jesus to use his powers to satisfy his hunger by changing stones into bread. Certainly after 40 days fasting, Jesus was hungry for bread. Jesus would not bow to Satan by using his divine nature to do a sort of magic trick to turn inanimate matter like stones into bread. Jesus thrusts back at Satan with the Word of God: "Not on bread alone is man to live, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." The Devil could not trick Jesus by playing on his physical appeptites, so he tried a second time to tempt. This temptation told Jesus to jump off the highest part of the Temple and be unharmed, since, if Jesus wished it to be, no harm would come to him. Satan was clueless about Jesus' resolute iron will: no, Jesus would not tempt God by showing off, by being a first century stunt man. Jesus counters the Devil with another Word from God: "You shall not put the Lord God to the test." I can imagine the passion with which Jesus hurled his answer back to the Tempter. Yet Satan did not give up: he tried a third time: He offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world with all their pomp and vanity on the condition that Jesus of Nazareth would bow down in homage to Satan. Jesus gave Satan a final tuche': "Away with you, Satan! Scrpture says: "You shall do homage to the Lord your God; him alone shall you adore." And, Matthew wrote: "At that the Devil left him, and angels came and ministered to him."
I try to visualize the gospels when I read them. It helps when a passage evokes a movie clip so I can imagine what Jesus may have looked like. In the just released movie "The Shack" the Jesus character is a middle-eastern Israeli. Who knows, since Jesus was a Palestinian Jew, he may well have had raven black hair, big brown eyes and bronze/brown skin. The Jesus we know from the gospel never gave in to the Devil's wiles. He used Scripture to drive out The Evil One. Jesus was rock solid in adhering to the Father's Will. Our temptations may be scaled down a bit, since we are the small fry in the huge ocean of humanity. Yet in our Creed we say that we believe in God the "Almighty." This means God can do all things. The Devil tries to trip us and knock us over the edge of our weakness into a pool of discouragement, or frozen half-heartedness. What to do? All spiritual people I know of never gave Satan the time of day, nor do they "hang around" literally asking for trouble. Satan may be trying to rope you into his clutches by all sorts of mean tricks. Yet praying with the actual words of Scripture gives us a powerful weapon against Satan and his many legions. Our chaplain at Mass this morning noted that the responsorial Psalm yesterday and the day before, and for today the First Sunday of Lent remains the same: Psalm 51. (In older translations it may appear as Psalm 50). After King David fell miserably into adultery and even murder the grace of repentance permeated this Psalm of David. David's pours out his soul as he tells of his sincere repentance and sorrow: "Against you only have I sinned, and have done what is evil in your sight." Yet David did not wallow in his sorrow, he asks for strength to get up and do better: He asks God for the grace to stick to the right path, he says, "and a steadfast spirit renew within me." Father Charlie suggested praying Psalm 51 and slowly meditating on it. I leave you with words from Psalm 51: "Give me back the joy of your salvation and a willing spirit sustain in me." Have a prayerful First Full Week of Lent.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Nuns at the Movies

If you were fasting from food yesterday, how did you do? I was surprised that I did not feel faint or super hungry. At breakfast this morning, I had a real appetite. Our two cooks make a substantial meal for breakfast, so I admit it was hard to say "no" to all the muffins and sweet breads. On another topic, our Founder, Blessed James Alberione wanted to see the gospel message communicated through movies both sacred and those more secular. This evening some of us Sisters will view the new movie "The Shack." Having read the book, I can only imagine the scenes right now. After a few hours I will have seen it. Only then can I comment on it. Some of our USA/Canada Daughters of St. Paul are film critics. Sister Helena Burns,(Tweet @SrHelenaBurns)
Sister Rose Pacatte (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sisterrosemovies/),
and Sister Nancy Usselman.
Sister Marie Paul Curley also includes film reviews in her blog Windows to the Soul: https://windowstothesoul.wordpress.com.
Sister Hosea Marie Rupprecht, FSP appears regularly on Catholic TV along with Father Chip Hines as a film reviewer. (bemediamindful.org/reviews)
Since movies are part and parcel of our North American and even global culture, part of our mission is to evangelize the culture of film today. Let us include Hollywood and independent film makers in our prayers that they may be instruments of evangelization in our world. Have a blessed end of this first partial week of March.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Live with a Penitent Heart

Best wishes and prayers for all my readers as we begin the Church's longest penitential period: Lent. A title out a number of years ago described Lent as "The Tough 40!" Sometimes I think Lent gets a bad rap, looked upon with dread and annoyance, a yearly time of spiritual and physical belt tightening. As Christians we aim to follow Jesus. He told us: "Come follow me...Take up your cross daily and follow after me....Learn of me, for I am gentle and humble of heart...". In a world that encourages us to say "yes" to every urge, and to retaliate every big or little challenge to our opinions or our preferences, Jesus' words offer us a challenge. He tells us, "Without me, you can do nothing." He metes out straight unadulterated truth. Anyone who has tried to imitate Christ in his meekness and self control, or who has tried to refrain from indulging in some favorite food may attest to what I have experienced. My will at times is as weak as a wet kitty! When we receive the ashes on our foreheads we will hear one of these two formulas spoken to us: "Repent and believe in the Gospel." Or, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Personally I think that the first word: Repent gives me a key to what to do and to be this Lent. Repent! I can remember hearing a street evangelist in Buffalo many years ago. In the heart of downtown on Main Street he shouted: "Repent! You are on the way to Hell if you don't repent right now!" A few blocks away, people who were ready to repent could slip into a confessional in St. Michael's Church and receive forgiveness and grace to do better. They could stay for the noon Mass and have a real encounter with Jesus Christ in Holy Communion. They would receive the spiritual nourishment that would fortify them against temptations. The church is not alwys standing on street corners and bellowing the Gospel to us. Yet the Church is appealing to us to take this precious season of Lent as a gift from God who loves us. It is an invitation to open our hearts to God who is knocking on our inner doors and asking to come in. If you ever visit a Pauline Family chapel you will see the words in the sanctuary: "Do not fear. I am with you. From here (the Tabernacle) I will cast light. Be sorry for sin." Or, "Live with a penitent heart." Back in 1924 Blessed James Alberione Founder of the Pauline Family experienced grave difficulties as he worked with his three new religious orders: the Society of St. Paul, the Daughters of St. Paul, and the Sisters, Disciples of the Divine Master. In a dream or a vision, Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life appeared to Alberione. The Master stood near the tabernacle in a Catholic Church. Pointing towards the tabernacle, Christ Jesus said: "Do not fear! I am with you! From here I will cast light. Live with a penitent heart." Some translations say "Be sorry for sin." Soon after the vision, Father James Alberione renewed his efforts to organize his new Pauline Family. Always tenacious in following his inspirations, Alberione found even more courage after that encounter with Jesus. Since the words Blessed Alberione heard were in Latin, there can be slight variations in their English translations. This is the way I like to see the final phrase, "Live with a penitent heart." As we begin Lent, I want to ask for the grace to live with a penitent heart. Does this mean going around all day saying "mea culpa", "I'm sorry," or wearing ashes on my forehead for all of 40 days of Lent? No. We can hold our head high because we trust in a God who promises help. A penitent heart is one aware of its weaknesses and tendencies to stray from our good resolutions. Our pentitent hearts know that our strength lies not in us, but in Jesus. He says in the 11th Chapter of Matthew: "Come to me all of you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28) Besides burdens of a job, of family duties, of personal health issues, or financial worries, we can be carrying heavy burdens of sinful behavior, or bad habits that keep us from letting Christ shine through us. A penitent heart wants to truly be sorry for sin and desires wholeheartedly to be Christ-like. As one spiritual director told me: "We know well that the one thing that counts is always and everywhere to remember that it is Jesus who wants to live in you; he wants to think in you; he desires to will in you; he wants to love in you; and to give of himself through you." This advice echoes what St. Paul told the Galatians: "It is now no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." (Gal. 2:20)
Somebody might say, "All that sounds too goody goody, too "holy" for my place in life." Yet, if we strive to do our best in studies, work and at home, why not make the effort to do the same for God in our spiritual life? Father Ron Rolhiser in his book "The Holy Longing" tells us that there are certain non-negotiables in the spiritual life. One of these is the daily spiritual check-point, the examination of conscience. This practice is a sure fire way to acquire a "penitent heart." Father James Martin, SJ, has printed a handy post card size outline of what to do. He lists five steps to making an exam that could last as long as 20 minutes or less. First, the exam time usually begins with placing ourselves intentionally in the presence of God. Then we express gratitude for "two or three things for which you are especially grateful. Savor them....thank God for them." Then we look back or review our "day from start to finish, noticing where we experienced God's presence. Notice everything from large to small: from an enjoyable interaction with a friend to the feel of the sun on your face. When did you love? When were you loved?" As we look over the past day we can see that we "may have sinned today or done something you regret. Express your sorrow to God and ask for forgiveness. If it's a grave sin, pray about seeking forgiveness from the person offended, or (in) the sacrament of reconciliation." Grace is what we ask as we conclude the Daily Examen: "You may want to turn to a meaningful part of your prayer and speak to God about how you felt. At the close of the prayer, ask for God's grace for the following day."
It may be that your night hours are taken up with infant care, or other obligations. You may even use your daily commute to work as exam time. Or, you might do the exam while taking a coffee or tea break between laundry loads, or between clients at your office... Soon enough the daily exam becomes part and parcel of your spiritual life. After awhile you can recognize a pattern in your actions, your omissions, your habitual failings. Having a penitent heart is being very honest when it's time to make an examination of conscience. A good way to steer ourselves into a "Lenten State of Mind" is to do some daily spiritual reading. Pauline Books & Media offers a compact edition called "Lent with Pope Francis" for folks with limited time to read.
Another title from Pauline is "When the Lord Speaks to the Heart" by the French priest Father Courtois. Our website offers many other titles to help you follow Jesus in this season. The Lenten/Easter volume of "Everyday Grace" offers reflections on the Gospel of each day in the Lenten season. Check our website wwww.pauline.org for details on how to purchase these titles. Let us pray for one another that this time we are given to draw closer to Christ by having penitent hearts will be truly a Springtime for our spiritual lives! Happy Lent!