Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Confessions of a Pauline Worrier

What, me worry?
One of my greatest worries is that people will be able to tell how much I worry.
Part of the reason I worry so much may be my overactive imagination.  I cannot tell you how many catastrophic scenarios my mind produces when a son or daughter has not returned by midnight and is not answering my repeated texts and phone calls.
Part of it may be the reality that I have seen a lot of bad things.  On innumerable occasions (more than I wish to remember) I have had to give life-altering news of a dismal diagnosis or incurable illness.  I realize a single diagnosis will shatter the peace that had been their lives, and a family’s future is forever changed.  I have also been the recipient of terrible, devastating news.  The worst part is I know there will be countless more episodes where I will give and receive awful news.
Fatal diagnoses: source of worry
However, the greatest reason I worry is because I worry that my worry is a sign of a lack of faith.  The Bible is filled with verses about trust. The Old Testament tells us to “be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). So why am I so frequently afraid and sometimes discouraged?
"Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You believe in God; believe also in me."
Jesus tells us very directly, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1). When life is good and all seems right with the world, this quote is a comfort. On the days my heart is troubled and my faith is weak, I feel like a phony who would not lack trust if I were truly a good enough Christian. I sometimes wonder when I ponder Jesus telling us: “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you” (Mark 11:24). I cannot help but feel like my lack of confidence in God is preventing all my prayers from being answered.
My mom taught me one of the earliest lessons on faith and prayer. She instructed me to pray not for specifics that I thought I wanted or needed. She told me, rather, to “pray for what God knows you need and what God knows is best for you.” I am still not great at this one, because my prayer always winds up sounding like, “Dear Lord, please let me pass my next Gastroenterology Boards Recertification Exam… of course, as Mom taught me, whatever you think best, but I am sure that you must agree that what I am asking is what you know I need and what you would think is best for me. I really can’t think of any reason it would be good to fail this exam.” After all these years, I am still working on avoiding giving God advice when praying.
Eucharist: source of all good
Photo credit: Pavel Chichikov
Over my many years of worrying, I have learned that, no matter what stresses and worries come up, cling tightly and focus on Jesus. Strengthening that relationship helps to decrease stress and worries better than any antidepressant I could prescribe. The heart of Pauline Spirituality is Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life. Blessed James Alberione, founder of the Pauline Family, gave this advice to begin the day in Christ: “In the morning, let us place ourselves at His feet and say to Him: You are the Way: I want to walk in your footsteps… You are the Truth: enlighten me! You are the Life: give me grace!” Father Alberione also emphasized the Eucharist as “a source of strength, light, joy, courage, grace, holiness, and… comfort” (Alberione, Power Ideas on the Eucharist). The Pauline Charism is all about living such a Christ-centered life and communicating Jesus to others through our lives and by making good use of all instruments of social communication. As a Pauline Cooperator, I still do not understand all the nuances of every Bible verses above (obviously), and I certainly have not mastered the Seven Heavenly Virtues (as my friends and family will readily confirm). But the more I fall in love with my faith, the more I want to learn about, love, and share Christ and His One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
“The mind is always at work.
If it is kept busy in good things,
it won’t have time for bad...”
Being a Pauline means being human, but striving as best we can to live Jesus and share Jesus with others. He is the answer to the worries and anxieties and even the devastating losses of our lives. If we strengthen our relationship with the Divine Master, we will have greater peace today and the greatest joy for eternity. None of us are expected to be perfect in that relationship now, but we can work on it. Every day, we have a chance to know the Blessed Trinity even better, and share the good news with others.
Blessed Father Alberione possessed a very practical mind. One of his greatest quotes teaches us how activities such as reading Sacred Scripture, learning about the lives of the Saints, praying the Rosary, adoring our Eucharistic Lord, attending Mass, and taking advantage of the Sacraments can help reduce stress and anxiety in our lives and even help us avoid sin: “The mind is always at work. If it is kept busy in good things, it won’t have time for bad things.”
Even I can understand that.

Blessed Father James Alberione, Founder of the Pauline Family, pray for us, especially in our times of worry.
Photo credit for photos 1-3: Rae Stabosz
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Jeffrey E. Mathews, MD, has been a Pauline Cooperator since October 11, 2009. He and his wife, Carolyn, live in St. Louis, MO, and are blessed with three sons and two daughters (two out of college, two in college, and one in high school). Dr. Mathews, a gastroenterologist, is trying really hard to improve his Spanish for his annual medical mission trip to Honduras.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Mother's Journey with The Way, the Truth, and the Life


"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.  (Isaiah 55:8)


Fernando  Monica  Daniel  David
Christina

My journey towards becoming a member of the Pauline family began about 4 years ago.  Before I ever even interacted with the Paulines, my life of faith was pretty good.  I grew up in a Catholic family.  My family practiced a devotion to the Miraculous Medal, and I attended Catholic school.  I married Fernando, a good Catholic man, and we have raised our three children to know and to honor our Lord.  The Lord and His mother have always been a part of my life.  Life was good, and I was finding my way.

Finding my way

In October 2012 I attended an Emmaus retreat in Florida. My mind and my heart were opened in an incredible way, and for the first time, I realized what a relationship with God and our Lady really meant.  I felt like St. Paul, that I had been so blind to the reality of how good God had been to me, how blessed I really was, and how God's presence in my life had been so constant and so true.  I was on fire!  Like St. Paul, I wanted everyone to experience what I had experienced on this retreat.  My heart was indeed burning within me.  I had a strong desire to be a part of the Emmaus retreats, to bring the Lord and His love to the hearts of everyone that I could.  I wanted to be involved.  It appeared that I had found my way.

Just two months later, in December 2012, on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, my daughter Christina was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.  She was 6 years old. 

Finding The Way


A friend of mine introduced me to Fr. Michael Harrington, a Pauline Jesus priest, in January 2013.  Fr. Michael encouraged us, praying with us and with Christina, and remembering her in his masses and prayers.  This was our first interaction with the Pauline Family.  Christina was going through intense chemotherapy for 12 months, and Fr. Michael was there for us, coming to our home to pray, minister, guide, and support us.  Our lives had changed dramatically, and it was becoming clear to me that my ways were not the Lord's ways.

Fr. Michael invited us to attend a Mass he said every few months at the Daughters of St. Paul convent in Jamaica Plain, MA.  Here we met and interacted with the Daughters, with another Jesus Priest, and with the Pauline Cooperators.  I was struck by the Pauline devotion to Jesus Master, Way, Truth, and Life.  I needed Jesus with me, now, more than ever, to guide my way, to be my truth, and my life.  As I prayed with the Paulines, I began to relate in an intimate way with our Blessed Mother.  When I struggled to move forward and to face my trials, I remembered her Yes to the angel Gabriel.  I asked her to accompany me through my doubts and trials, with her humble confidence in God's loving care.  I asked her to teach me how to be a mother of a suffering child, and to stay close to me on this journey, as she did Jesus on his journey to the cross. 

Fr. Michael invited Fernando and I, and our children, to consider becoming members of the Pauline Holy Family Group.  At that time there was not an active group in the area, but Fr. Michael wanted to begin formation with us and with some other families he had met in his ministry.  In January 2014, the Holy Family group started meeting, and soon after, with the support of my new Pauline community, my eyes were again opened like St. Paul's.  A new journey of evangelization had now begun.

Thomas said to him, "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?"  Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life....If you know me, then you will also know my Father.  From now on you do know him..."  (John 14)


To support Christina's healing, Fernando and I created a Facebook page, encouraging prayers for Christina, and a prayer board, where people could post their prayer requests.  We were evangelizing and we didn't even realize that was what we were doing!  We began a Monday morning rosary-making group.  We did this in an effort to pray the rosary together with our community.  A few months into the group, we saw a video about a priest in South America who was trying to raise funds to build a church.  We wanted to support him, but we wanted to find a way to do this other than just sending a one-time check.  We decided to use the rosaries we were making to help raise funds, and we have made more than 4,000 rosaries, which we sell for donations to help build this church.  After we sent our first donation, I discovered that the church was being built in my hometown in Colombia, and is named after Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast day was the date of Christina's diagnosis.

To find out more about Build the Faith, Inc, click here.

In June of 2016, my family began our postulancy in the Holy Family Institute.  When this journey began, I did not know the way.  How could anyone?  I did, however, know The Way, and with Jesus and his mother by my side, I can trust that He will never abandon us.  The Holy Spirit tells us to trust him, and that every single struggle and trial will bring the best out of ourselves if we let it.  I have learned to trust Him, because I know Him.  The Holy Family Institute formation has taught me that the best way to teach our children our faith is to lead by example.  We need to put God first and devote ourselves to honoring Our Lady, growing our own faith, and then our families can grow along with us.  I now feel like I am in a position to teach my children how to love and grow closer to God.


When this journey all began 4 years ago, I had wanted so much to be a part of the Emmaus retreats, but God's ways were not my ways.  His ways brought me to where I am today, with the support of a community that continues to grow and to thrive.  The Holy Family Institute has planned and held two successful annual Holy Family Retreats, we have helped with the YHOPE retreat (Young Heralds of Pauline Evangelization), and have also held Women and Men's retreats.


When we started Formation nights months ago, Fr. Michael taught us about Fr. Alberione's life.  The Holy Spirit moved me to seek Fr. Alberione's intercession for the healing of Christina.  It was a unique situation - my daughter needed a miracle to be cured, and Fr. Alberione needed a miracle to be canonized.  This sparked the creation of the following prayer, and I invite you to pray with us and all our fellow Paulines.  Jesus Master, be our Way, our Truth, and our Life!




Monica with her daughter Christina

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Monica Lacouture is a loving wife and mother.  She is a member of St. Julia's Parish in Weston, Ma.  She and her husband are currently in the postulancy stage of entering the Holy Family Institute.  Part of her mission within the Pauline Family is helping coordinate meetings and retreats for her fellow Holy Family Institute Postulants as well as other families.  She is the president and founder of a non profit, Build the Faith Inc., whose mission is to help religious organizations and churches to find funding to complete their faith building efforts.  





Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Church in Hawai'i Celebrates Our Lady of Fatima

On May 13, 1917 Mary our Mother appeared to three children named Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta in the small town of Fatima in Portugal. She appeared to them five more times, on the 13th of every month from May until October of that year. On the last month of her appearance she revealed herself as the “Lady of the Rosary.” She was described as a beautiful lady whose central message is prayer and sacrifice for peace and conversion.


In 1922, Bishop José Alves Correia da Silva, Ordinary of the diocese in which Fatima is located, declared the authenticity of the Marian visions and messages in a pastoral letter. "The visions of the children in the Cova da Iria are worthy of belief," Bishop Correia declared.

What does this mean for us? In an approved apparition like Our Lady of Fatima, no Catholic must believe in the message reported by the visionaries, but all are invited to. By virtue of faith, we have the joy and privilege of sharing with others the basics of the Fatima message.

The Message of Fatima: prayer and sacrifice, for peace and conversion


Our Lady spoke of many things to the three children, but most especially about the importance of prayer and sacrifice—for peace and conversion. These are the basics of the Fatima message. The message of Our Lady of Fatima continues to resonate throughout the years, turning into decades, and in our lifetime reaching its centennial anniversary this year 2017.


The author at prayer before the
International Pilgrim Virgin Statue

What is the importance of prayer and sacrifice? Do they bring conversion of souls, and do they bring peace? Looking back to the first appearance of the Lady of the Rosary, many educated and well-known people in Fatima were troubled by the unusual appearances and visions of the children. God performed miracles through Mary, bringing to many an increase of faith that led to fervent prayer and conversion of countless souls. Prayer always brings us to conversion and to a deeper intimacy with God. Sacrifice--particularly the patient endurance of the suffering that God permits in our lives-- effects three qualities: 1) it purges the repentant soul (purgative), 2) it redeems the soul from sins (redemptive), and 3) it unites it with Jesus and his body (unitive). This configuring of the person to Christ who suffered, died and resurrected helps us persevere "until Christ be formed in us" as both St. Paul and Blessed James Alberione instruct.


St. Paul experienced the immense forgiveness and love of God, and then in turn preached conversion of soul. Just as he went through many sacrifices in bringing the good news to many, we too have to accept the reality that sacrifice is part of the calling. The three shepherd children of Fatima were fearful and troubled by the visions until Our Lady told them kindly that their sacrifices and prayers would help bring about the conversion of many souls. We too look to the resurrected Christ and ask how we might be creative in bringing the message of prayer and sacrifice--for peace and conversion-- to the people of today. We know full well that grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), so even though we suffer as we proclaim the message, suffering will never be futile when all of it is offered for the conversion of souls.


The International Pilgrim Virgin Statue Comes to Hawai'i


On the plane with the Virgin Statue!
Patrick Sabat, Custodian of the statue



The World Apostolate of Fatima does an excellent job of continuously spreading the message of Our Lady of Fatima throughout the world. In celebration of the centennial apparitions to the three Fatima children, it has been on a mission of bringing the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima to 100 dioceses here in the United States. Early this year, from January 29 to February 6, through the Office of Worship of the Diocese of Honolulu where I work, I had the privilege of coordinating the visit of the Pilgrim Statue to Hawai'i. I travelled to all the parishes with the custodian Patrick Sabat and his assistant Michael Whitcraft.


The "Living Rosary",St. Joseph Church
 in Hilo, East Hawai'i






The statue went to nine parishes on four islands, making a 9-day Fatima pilgrimage.  Holy Mass was celebrated at the parishes and exposition of the Holy Eucharist commenced with more prayers and music. Three of these parishes had a 24-hour continuous prayer of the Holy Rosary, reflections, and other Marian devotions. Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace had a 24-hour adoration of Our Lord and veneration of Our Lady. Countless people came with their petitions; bus loads of people from different parishes occupied the parking spaces of St. Benedict Parish on the Big lsland. St. Joseph Church on East Hawai'i prayed the “living rosary” where each individual prayed the bead within the formation of a rosary.


The Vietnamese Community processes during Mass
 at the 
Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus


The Pauline Family, lay and consecrated.
The Pauline Cooperators in Hawai'i Monica Cobb-Adams, Preston Medeiros, David Suzuki and myself with Sr. Joane Caritas and Sr. Diane Kraus took the 11-12:00 midnight hour of adoration and veneration at the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace. It was late, but the Pauline spirit filled the church as prayers were said.


There is much to ponder for me as I look back on the visit of the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima here in Hawai'i. The devotion of the people, their willingness to come at the late hours of the night to visit and pray, the sacrifices made by those who bring the statue to God’s people, all of these and many more renew my faith. Mary brings me to her 100-year-old message of prayer and sacrifice, that having experienced her “presence” in Hawai'i in a more out-of-the-ordinary experience of event, I now pass on her message not just through this writing, but by internalizing her message and incorporating it with the gospel message of Christ’s love that St. Paul so tirelessly proclaimed.


I stopped wearing the brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel years ago, but just as the custodian of the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima was putting the statue back to its case at the very end of the visit, he called me and said as he was placing in my hand a scapular, “Mary wants you to have the scapular she wore at the nine parishes she visited here in Hawai'i.”

Crew of the Hawai'i Fatima Visit: Michael Whitcraft, Patrick Sabat, Valerie Elefante and Easter Almuena


Sources:
“The Story of Fatima.” World Apostolate of Fatima, https://wafusa.org/the-story-of-fatima/. Accessed 1 May 2017.


Gefroh, Eshter. “World Apostolate of Fatima bringing pilgrim statue to Hawaii.” Hawaii Catholic Herald, http://www.hawaiicatholicherald.com/2016/11/03/world-apostolate-of-fatima-bringing-pilgrim-statue-to-hawaii/. Accessed 1 May 2017.


Pizzalato, Brian. “St. Paul explains the meaning of suffering.” Catholic News Agency, http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/sacraments/anointing-of-the-sick/st-paul-explains-the-meaning-of-suffering/. Accessed 3 May 2017.



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Easter Almuena has been tagged as a Pauline Cooperator for ten years now, but she formally she took her promise last year along three other individuals who also live in Hawai’i. She holds a master’s in pastoral theology through the cohort program of Chaminade University and the Diocese of Honolulu under its diaconate formation. An author and publisher, what she takes pride in is being a wife to Joe and a home school mom to five.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Our Daily Pilgrimage to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)


Road to Emmaus, Duccio di Buoninsegna
Faithful photographic reproduction of a
two-dimensional,public work of art
.
One never knows! One can’t ever really know how much the LORD truly does walk among us, beside us, and guide us in HIS very tender way. Though He may have been a little less gentle with St. Paul, our patron — it was quite the fall and long walk in blindness—He often is much more kind in walking alongside us. There He gently points out to us His Divine Plan, His Providence, and His desire for us, and He listens to our life travails. This likely was much like the "Road to Emmaus" which we heard about this past Sunday when the Resurrected Christ began to walk alongside the two disciples traveling to Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, on that first Easter morning.

It was there that the two disciples, downtrodden and sad, began to have their hearts lifted when this "Stranger" begins to open up for them the history of salvation through the Scriptures, ultimately revealing Himself in the Breaking of the Bread. "Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)

For we who are Paulines, our Emmaus experiences are always deepest when we are probing the WORD and making our Visit to the LORD! Like the two disciples, there often are times in our lives that we likely think the LORD has left us, abandoned us to our own devices or to figure it all out on our own. But that can’t be! It can’t be that HE would undergo His Passion & Crucifixion for us and then leave us to find our own way home. It is rather that He is with us now until the end of the age … where He and the Father and the Holy Spirit dwell in blessedness!

So, how is it that we might begin to make sense of our situations? How is it that we can "see Him" two millennium later? We do it just like those first two disciples—in opening up the Scripture and “in the Breaking of the Bread!” When we bring our troubles and concerns to Him in our Eucharistic Visit, it is as if He sits beside us in that quiet moment of Adoration, speaking, pointing, reassuring, affirming that “I AM with you!” as He opens up for us the Scriptures in our daily Lectio Divina.

Road to Emmaus, unknown, Nat. Library of Wales
This file is made available under the CC0 1.0
universal public domain dedication.

In resting with this Gospel passage in my meditation, having heard it several times during the celebrations of the Mass this weekend, I continually dwelt upon the words “and they were downcast.” It became noticeable to me more and more that the more they (and we) "look down" too much or turn into ourselves too much in grief, sadness, worry, or fear, the more we turn away from the "Other" or from the very One who can turn our darkness into Light. Our "turning in" is really a turning away that is a reliance too much on ourselves or on our own resolve, which is never sufficient. Instead, we should quickly turn to the One who give us strength, wisdom, and the perseverance necessary to carry our burden when it is necessary to do so. He grants us the grace to "set out at once" to return to the "Jerusalem" of our home, our work places, the very situations we abandoned because by ourselves it seemed too much to handle, too much to endure.

Let us begin again our Easter walk with the LORD, recommitted to "seeing" Him in our midst and listening to Him speak to us in His Word each day. In this way we might not only "see" Him in the Eucharist, but take Him in our heart to those around us who are still "looking downcast," so that they too can join us in the forever Easter proclamation that “the Lord has truly been raised!”
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Fr. Ed Riley was ordained to the priesthood in May 2000 for the Archdiocese of Boston. He was assigned to three different parishes in the Archdiocese from 2000-2010, when he was appointed to the Faculty of Saint John's Seminary, Boston, where he is Dean of Men and Director of Pastoral Formation. He is also the Spiritual Director & Liaison in the Archdiocese to Homeschooling Families as well as the Spiritual Director for the World Apostolate of Fatima (Boston Division). Two years ago, he made his First Profession in the Pauline Family Institute of Jesus the Priest.