Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pauline Cooperators in Culver City, CA

On the weekend of September 20-21, a group of twelve people attended the annual retreat for Pauline Cooperators in Culver City, CA, just outside Los Angeles. In the group were promised Cooperators, Cooperators in formation, and volunteers. I guided the retreat, while Brother Aloysius (Al) Milella, SSP, gave two presentations via recorded conferences on DVD.  

At the end of the retreat, each of the attendees shared what part of the retreat inspired them the most and it was amazing to hear the unique responses. Maria Siciliano, a member of the group in formation who will make her promises on November 23, said that the hour of adoration and the time of sharing were very meaningful to her. Jovy Lim, a longtime friend of the Daughters of St. Paul, was moved by Br. Al’s firsthand account of knowing Fr. James Alberione. He was in the room when Fr. Alberione passed away and he lovingly recounts that momentous event on the DVD. Teresa Connor, another member of the group in formation, said that the time set aside for quiet prayer really helped her to focus on deepening her spiritual life. 

Carol Anne Wright is a promised Cooperator who is housebound due to illness. We sent her the materials and the DVD so that she could participate from home. Upon receiving the package, she wrote: “Dear Sr. Marie James, the retreat folder and DVD arrived this afternoon. Thank you for sending it so quickly.  I have read through all of the materials and I am looking forward to watching the DVD a couple of times tomorrow. I guess you could say that I am thirsting for this Pauline retreat!”


The Culver City chapel was designed by Sr. Mary Stella, PDDM, and is named the “Chapel of Jesus Master.” The solemnity of Jesus, the Divine Master, is always celebrated on the last Sunday of October - this year, on October 26. The novena, which can be found on page 291 of the Pauline Prayerbook, begins on October 17. May Jesus, Divine Master grant us extra special blessings in this 100th anniversary year of our Pauline Foundation!



Christin Jezak, a promised Cooperator, Regina Aaron, a Cooperator in formation, and I staffed the booth at the Anaheim Religious Education Congress.  This year there were more than 35,000 people in attendance from all over the United States and even outside the United States such as Mexico, Guam, England, and Ireland.  The Society of St. Paul and the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master also had exhibit booths at the Anaheim Congress, so the Pauline Family was well represented!
Sr. Marie James Hunt entered the Daughters of St. Paul community in 1981 from Alexandria, VA. She received her M.A. in human resources from DePaul University in 2003 and served as provincial councilor of the Daughters' US/ESC province from 2008-2011. She is missioned in California, where she is the manager of the Pauline Books and Media Centers in Culver City and San Diego. Sr. Marie James is also the West Coast Coordinator of the Pauline Cooperators.







Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Holy Families–Beacons of Hope for a Troubled World

Opening Mass of 2014 Synod on the Family
The Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on “Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization” is now underway in Rome. It's attempting to discern the most effective ways to show the world the inherent beauty and value of the family rooted in Christ’s Gospel, which dispels fear and nurtures hope. World Communications Day, 2015 is also planned to highlight the family. Clearly, the Church is focused on the family as the vital cell of all societies. We are all invited to pray for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as our bishops seek new ways to meet the challenges our families face today.
 

We McMillans have always been struck by the manner in which God chose to save our broken world: through a humble family, just like the one in which most of us entered this world. There we learned to know right from wrong, to forgive and be forgiven, to share, to sacrifice, to grow into our adult selves, and to find our way in the world.  Christ could just as easily have come out of the desert, or come down in glory in a cloud. Yet God, in his infinite wisdom, saw fit that the Redemption of all humanity should have its terrestrial roots in the family.
 

Blessed James Alberione was graced with insight about the importance of the family in God’s plan for salvation when he envisioned lay groups, such as the Cooperators and the Holy Family Institute, as vital branches of the Pauline Family.  He saw in the Holy Family of Nazareth that perfect model for all families, and realized that the family would have to play a critical role in restoring what had been lost. Our Lord spent about ninety percent of his life in that little workshop of Nazareth, learning and growing in holiness at the side of Mary and Joseph before starting his public life. Before Christ had his first disciple he had already sanctified the family. How logical, then, that we too, should look to sanctifying the family as a critical part of building God’s kingdom here on earth.
 

As we strive to follow Christ’s Gospel, we share in the Church’s mission of sanctifying the world with a special emphasis on the family as a path to holiness. Many Cooperators and HFI members are fully in the world both as spouses and promised or consecrated lay persons, praying and working for the sanctification of all families and for the world through all families. It is precisely from this vantage point that we can be most effective by working to evangelize–through our lives and our actions.
 

There's something truly special about the family as a school, a path, of holiness, especially when founded in obedience to the urgings God places in our hearts, clothed in the grace of the sacrament of Matrimony. We personally could not have fully understood the importance of that grace in our marriage before facing the challenges of leaving our individual selves behind to create a new family together, or facing the sorrows and difficulties of life together. This is where we taught our daughters to go outside themselves and seek what is good for others, as our parents once gently urged us. This is where Luisa and I learned as spouses to set aside our selfish interests and to desire what is best for our beloved. This is where we all learn to practice patience, forgiveness, and sacrifice, and to be faithful and obedient to God, to our spouse, to our parents.
 

All these aspects of family life are immediately recognizable to everyone, yet it can be difficult to see them as tools of sanctification when we are in the midst of living the challenges of family life, with all the familiar drama, pain, and regrets that make up our human baggage. Yet the virtues we learn to practice are unmistakable if we take a moment to reflect on them: We see now the faith and hope God strengthened in us after we suffered multiple miscarriages and were still able to remain eager and open to the precious grace of co-creation to which God invited us. What parent’s heart doesn’t melt upon seeing their children practice true Christian charity, not because we told them to, but out of love? We don’t know how we could have faced some of life’s challenges without the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, strengthened in communion around the dinner table, in bedside prayers, and by loving each another despite our individual failings.

Consider that, each time you step out of your own self-interest to do the smallest service for your spouse or child, you are sanctifying yourself, your family and the world. We families evangelize by striving to live the Gospel, and although we all do it imperfectly to some extent, it is in the striving that we are sanctified, and the world we touch is also sanctified. Let us pray that all families may recognize this awesome grace and fulfill their role as cradles of sanctification in our world. May God’s restoration flow through our families and shine brightly as a beacon of hope and love in a world plagued by shadows and fear.


Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod 
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate the splendor of true love; to you we turn with trust. Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families, too may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic Churches. Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection and division; may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing. Holy Family of Nazareth, may the Synod of Bishops make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God’s plan. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer. Amen. (http://bit.ly/1nYLGqX)
_______________________
Jim and Luisa McMillan are members of the Holy Family Institute, which they entered in Colombia in 2000. They currently reside in Colorado with their youngest daughter, Maria, where they work as translators and interpreters. Their oldest daughter, Gabriela, is married and lives in New York with her husband, Fidel. Sara is currently attending graduate school in Michigan.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Opening Gifts of Pauline Spirituality

Holiness is living in Christ
as St. Paul lived Christ.
One of my favorite authors is Walker Percy. In his novels Percy presents flawed heroes that face crises of the human spirit and walk through the land of faith and despair on a search. Percy invites his readers to “wake up” to this search that breaks through everydayness: “Now in these dread latter days of the old violent beloved U.S.A. and of the Christ-forgetting Christ-haunted death-dealing Western world I came to myself in a grove of young pines.”[1] The search leads Percy’s characters to relationships that were there all the time. His protagonists experience coming fully to themselves. They awaken to the water that does not run dry, the food and drink that alone can satisfy. As a convert to Catholicism Percy struggled with questions post-modern Catholics are beginning to ask. His search led him to his own “place of nowhere” in Covington, Louisiana. This metaphor recalls losing ourselves in God to be true to our center (the mystical center or our inner bell [2]) and includes the reality that we are sent back into the community where God dwells[3]. 

Blessed Alberione tells us that all is gift of God.
Through the writings of Blessed James Alberione,[4] I have come to a deeper understanding of balance in the spiritual life. Alberione considered everything a gift of God that invited our unwrapping and response. The Gospel of John influenced Alberione’s spirituality: “We all live off his generous bounty, gift after gift after gift” (John 1:16).[5]  A Pauline charismatic element is to “know the gift of God.” Alberione opened all the gifts available to him: Scripture, great religious traditions in the Church, church documents, theology, the Eucharist, press, radio, television, etc. hoping to create a great synthesis in Jesus Master as he defined himself “way, truth and life” (John 14:6). Holiness consists, he wrote, in living in Christ as St. Paul lived Christ until we say it is no longer I who live, Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20).[6] Alberione sought and solicited the reunification of all sciences around theology, proclaiming the dignity of all branches of knowledge. According to him, whatever the subject studied, ultimately it was to study God, the author of all things, and of all the sciences which are the interpreters of created reality.[7]

Living our Pauline Spirituality
is a response to grace.
Spirituality integrates all that makes up our human reality that we may live in Christ and through Christ in the Trinitarian relationship for fullness of life. “The final reality with which we must all deal,” writes David Tracy, “is neither our own pathetic attempts at self-salvation, nor the horror of life in all its masks, nor even the frightening reality of sin in our constant attempts to delude ourselves and others; rather that final reality is the hard, unyielding reality of the Pure unbounded Love disclosed to us in God’s revelation of who God is and who we are commended and empowered to be in Christ Jesus.”[8] Grace is pure gift that transforms our everyday life. The Pauline spirituality is our response to this gift.


Sr. Margaret C. Kerry, FSP, celebrates 40 years of life and mission as a Daughter of St. Paul. She completed a Masters at Boston College School of Theology & Ministry. Sr. Margaret gives presentations on the vocation and mission of the laity, media literacy, and evangelization. She directed the Association of Pauline Cooperators for 15 years and was creative editor of The Pauline Cooperator magazine. An author, (St. Anthony of Padua: Fire & Light; Strength in Darkness: John of the Cross) Sister is presently working on a young adult book. You can reach her at mkerry@paulinemedia.com.


[1] Percy, Walker, Love in the Ruins, N.Y. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999, p. 3
[2] Rolheiser, Ronald, O.M.I., Course notes Boston College School of Theology and Ministry,
   Summer Institute, 2009.
[3] Ibid: “Christianity is by definition ecclesial.”  Also reference the chapter "A Spirituality of Ecclesiology,"
   The Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser, N.Y. Random House, 1999, p. 135 ff.
[4] Blessed James Alberione (1884-1971) Founder of the Pauline Family of Religious Institutes
[5] The Message Bible, John 1:16
[6] Alberione, James, S.S.P., Thoughts, St. Paul Editions, 1972, p. 49.
[7] Kaitholil, George, S.S.P., Jesus Way, Truth, Life, St. Paul Editions, 1984, p. 104.
[8] Tracy, David, On Naming the Present, N.Y. Orbis Books, 1994, p. 101.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Correction

There is no new post this week, but there is a correction on last week’s “Lifting High the Cross.” The quote on the Creed was mistakenly attributed to journalist James Foley. It is by Elizabeth Scalia (“The Anchoress” http://bit.ly/1Ca0TIm). The quote on prayer that follows in the same paragraph is Foley’s.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lifting High the Cross

One summer my sister and I decided to tour Washington National Cathedral in D.C., a stupendous Episcopal church and, as it happens, dedicated to the honor of Sts. Peter and Paul. We drove around, looking for a parking space. Finally spying one, I offered to stand guard over it while she inched up alongside the car in front, preparing to parallel park.

Good move. As I planted myself possessively over our precious find, a mini-van halted directly behind her and in front of me. The passenger window slid open, and the driver called out, “That’s our space; we got here first!” “I’m sorry,” I pointed out, “we are in front of you.” “But we had our blinker on,” she barked.” We did too. I shook my head and stood my ground. She sputtered, “And you call yourself a Christian!” That was low. I snapped back, “‘Christian’ does not equal ‘doormat’!” She left.

Jesus did not allow himself to be bested when the integrity of his message was at stake. A Temple, moneychangers, and a whip come to mind. There came a time, though, when losing himself out of love was his message. He had already “emptied himself” by becoming human; then he “humbled himself, becoming obedient to death” (Phil. 2:6-7). His faithfulness to the truth of his identity and his mission led him to choose death, on a cross no less, and by doing so, save the world.

I’m afraid to be vulnerable. It leaves me open to possible abuse and exploitation. Even with an infinitely good God, it makes me feel powerless. That’s why I need the cross of Christ. I need a reminder of where vulnerability will surely take me and of the fact that it was a God, my God, who went there before me…and lives to tell the tale. This is where the Good News becomes Great News. He didn’t stop being vulnerable when he rose from the dead (think Eucharist), but his openness became undying life.

As for Christ, so for Christians. If the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, that Spirit will give life to our mortal bodies, also (See Rom. 8:11). As we celebrated the Exaltation of the Cross a few days ago, we were reminded that the cross is triumphant because of the Resurrection, and it triumphs in those who believe: “This is the victory that has overcome the world: your faith” (1Jn. 5:4).

One day journalist James Foley made a decision to pray the Apostles’ Creed “mindfully” every day. “A remarkable thing happened,” he wrote. “I could feel my connection to Christ Jesus and His church strengthening. With my every assent I realized I was connecting with, and conforming to, God’s giant and ongoing “YES,” which formed and sustains all of creation.” This yes gave him wings. Commenting on his Libyan captivity in Tripoli, he wrote in the Marquette Magazine: “If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released….”

“No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily” (Jn. 10:18). This is said in a unique way about the God-Man, but also in an ordinary sort of way about each of us. Could my sister and I have relinquished that coveted parking spot? Of course. Did the other driver need to hear what Christianity is and is not? Yes. It was unjust for her to demand—and in the name of Christ—what we had a right to. Likewise, for us to give it up out of coercion, even in the name of Christ, would have been dysfunctional. Only freedom makes love possible. Paul wrote that Christ was his law (See 1Cor. 9:21). So, love leads me to imitate Jesus Christ, not just conform to a law. My course of action may be the same. My decision will be made, however, not out of indignation, but in love.


M. Thecla once encouraged the Daughters of St. Paul at the Queen of Apostles Clinic, saying:

M. Thecla with Fr. Alberione & FSP, Albano, 1959
“To love God is to do his will, and to do the will of God and love God is sanctity. In these days, at the end of the Divine Office, this antiphon is always sung: ‘The Lord Jesus was obedient unto death and to death on a cross’ (cf. Phil. 2:8). And for this obedience ‘God…gave him the name which is above all other names… (Phil. 2:9). Behold the obedience of Jesus! Let us follow Jesus!
“May we have this holy ambition of ascending high in heaven, right there where we hope they’ve written our names. We have sought only the Lord. And we continue to seek him, even if we sometimes deviate a little. Let’s go straight ahead, seeking the Lord, his will, sanctity and the love of God” (April 1, 1961).
How do you feel drawn to exalt the cross of Christ in your “ordinary sort of way”?
________________
Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP, originally from San Francisco, has been a Pauline evangelizer since 1973 and has worked in various phases of the mission of the Daughters of St. Paul. Since attending the nine-month Charism Course in Rome in 2012-2013, she is now based in Boston, where she serves on the provincial Cooperator Team in the area of ongoing formation.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I Thirst

Perhaps it is because we are entering the last few weeks of summer and the forecast calls for the highest temperatures of the season in the next few days. Or, because many sections of our country are experiencing unprecedented drought. Or because I keep thinking of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East, being forced from their homes and villages, fleeing into mountains and deserts with barely the clothes on their backs.

All of these images keep bringing to mind the words of Jesus on the cross: “I thirst.” (Jn. 19:28).
 

The human body is 60% water. Our bodies thirst for water to sustain life, to grow, to prosper. When we don’t get enough water, our bodies begin to shut down.

But is not only the body that thirsts. Our souls thirst, too. Often we don’t know what it is we are thirsting for, or how to quench the thirst of a soul in turmoil, in despair, in doubt, in darkness, and in search of the joy that can only be found in Jesus.

“My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord, my God” (Ps. 63).

Recently we observed the feast of St. Augustine.  For those unfamiliar with this great saint, well, let’s just say he led a very colorful life, including fathering a child outside of marriage, before becoming a bishop and Doctor of the Church. In his acclaimed autobiography, The Confessions (Chapter 9), he states, “Whatever way the soul of man turns, it is fixed upon sorrows any place except in You.”

How many times do we find ourselves empty, searching, unhappy, only to pursue a course that, while perhaps providing momentary pleasure or escape, leaves us even more thirsty? “I looked for love and I found none” (Ps. 69:20).

As St. Augustine began the process of his conversion, he wrote in Book 6, Chapter 11, “I loved the happy life, I feared to find it in Your abode, and I fled from it even as I sought it.” We were made for God. Deep within us is an innate desire to go back to him, to become holy, to be the saints. He is waiting for us to be, but with sin and temptation all around us and the weakness of original sin, we fall, we get discouraged, and we lose our thirst for God. Another great saint, also a Doctor of the Church, Catherine of Siena, talks about thirst in The Dialogue, her guide to a deeper spiritual life. She states, “One who is not thirsty will not persevere.”

And how do we become thirsty? St. Catherine talks of the three powers of the soul: the memory, the intellect, and the will: 

  • "The memory retains the remembrance of My benefits and My goodness.
  • The intellect gazes into the inexpressible love that I have shown you by means of My only begotten Son.
  • The will drives you to love and desire Me, who am your end.
"It is then that the appetite of the soul is disposed to thirst; for virtue, the honor of My name, and the salvation of souls.” 

Our Lord Thirsts for Us

As our hearts and souls thirst for God (even when we don’t realize it), so, too, does our Lord wait for us, thirst for us. Blessed Mother Teresa, who died 17 years ago, September 5, has a beautiful meditation on the Lord’s thirst for us, entitled, “I Thirst for You”: “…No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget Me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life, there is one thing I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change.  I THIRST FOR YOU…”

Blessed James Alberione, SSP, founder of the Pauline Family, writes that the thirst of Jesus is both material and spiritual. He highlights the apostolic dimension of that spiritual thirst:

Anyone with an apostolic spirit feels the thirst for souls. The apostle has two aspirations: souls and the sanctification of souls. He desires the salvation of all, that the kingdom of God may be established over the entire earth.

“Therefore, in the Masses at which he assists, in his Communions and visits to the most Blessed Sacrament, the apostle always asks the salvation of everyone; he carries all in his heart."

St. Columbkille, Adoration Chapel
Be the One
 
In her private writings published as Come Be My Light, Blessed Mother Teresa encouraged her sisters to “be the one who will satiate His thirst…Instead of saying I Thirst, say be the one…do whatever you believe God is asking you to do to be the one to satiate him.”
 
So, how can we “be the one” who quenches the thirst of Jesus?
  • Unite our will to the will of the Father, in all things, in small things, in the everyday challenges of life. In being patient when things don’t go as we planned.
  • Spend time with our Lord, in prayer, at home, or in adoration in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.  Our parish (St. Columbkille) opened a perpetual adoration chapel in June 2012. It has been one of the greatest blessings to our parish and to my husband and me. That hour of peace and serenity when we can just ‘be’ with Jesus.
  • Bring others to Jesus. St. Francis of Assisi is quoted as saying, “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.”
We thirst for God. God thirsts for us.
 “If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink” (Jn 7:37).
___________________


Bernadette Boguski has been a Pauline Cooperator for over 20 years. She is a member of St. Columbkille Parish in Parma, OH, where she serves as a Eucharistic Minister, cantor, and member of the music ministry. Bernadette holds a degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and currently serves as the development director for Womankind, a nonprofit agency providing free prenatal care and support services for pregnant women in need.