Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Filling your Spiritual Toolbox




This summer, my daughter discovered The Andy Griffith Show on Netflix. As I watched a few of the black and white episodes with her, it made me nostalgic for a more simple and peaceful time. As the show progressed into color I noticed the story lines began to reveal the reality of life. There has always been and this side of heaven, there will always be, something to threaten the peace Jesus came to leave us, even in the most idyllic settings.

That does not mean we should wave our anxiety flags in defeat. A faith in Christ comes with hope, as St. Peter declared, “a living hope.” When troublesome times arise, it is easy to become frightened and worried. Jesus counsels us as to the worthlessness of worry when he says, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?”

Worry changes nothing, including the inevitable of a fixed life expectancy. Trust me on this one: I’ve tested it out one too many times! As if Jesus’ words were not clear enough for us to see the frivolousness of a life of fretting, Padre Pio advised, “Pray, hope, do not worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”

As someone who struggles daily with anxiety, I find comfort and strength in the many beautiful traditions and devotions of the Catholic faith. When I worry, I tend to be paralyzed by my thoughts. My worries, fears, and concerns can spin round and round on the hamster wheel of my thoughts for hours and days! These are just 5 of the many devotions I have found to break anxiety’s spell on me. Not only do some of these devotions give me healthy and helpful actions, but they also renew my thoughts so I can once again focus on Christ and live in hope.

Rosary

Once considered the prayer of grandmothers, old-fashioned and even a chore to pray, the Rosary is finally getting the respect it deserves.  For a worrier, the familiar prayers offer encouragement and the feel of the beads through my fingers brings comfort. Often, I use my Rosary as a “Spiritual Abacus,” praying each bead for a special intention such as a sick friend, a hope for my child, or in thanksgiving for a blessing! As my wise friend Michael once told me, “Prayer isn’t the least you can do; it is the most you can do.”

Resources:

Pray the Rosary







Sacred Heart of Jesus


This devotion won my heart with its 12 Promises. Nothing soothes a worrier’s heart like healing, protective, security-offering promises from God. Those Promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus given to us through St. Margaret Mary Alacoque are:

(1) “I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.

(2) I will establish peace in their homes.

(3) I will comfort them in all their afflictions.

(4) I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all, in death.

(5) I will bestow abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.

(6) Sinners will find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.

(7) Lukewarm souls shall become fervent.

(8) Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.

(9) I will bless every place in which an image of my Heart is exposed and honored.

(10) I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.

(11) Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in my Heart.

(12) I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in my disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments. My divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.”
Copyright (c) 1996 EWTN

Resources:


Sacred Heart of Jesus Prayer Book

Divine Mercy Chaplet

Seven years ago, our family was blessed to welcome a little girl via adoption. We were so thrilled when we received her photograph in April and were informed we’d be able to travel and bring her home in 6 to 8 weeks. That quickly expanded to 6 months! The wait was agonizing, often triggering my negative-Nelly thoughts until I would be convinced something would prevent us from becoming her forever family. This is when I discovered the calming effects of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The boys and I made it a habit to pray the Chaplet every day at 3 o’clock during our long wait and received many incredible insights and blessings. By the end of 2009, Faith became a permanent part of our family, as did this special trust-producing prayer.

Resources:

The Diary of Saint Faustina
Children's Book (honestly I learned so much from it)
                                
A Month of Mercy App

Miraculous Medal

The Miraculous Medal is what is known as a Sacramental.

“Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals. These are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy.” ~ Catechism Catholic Church 1667

A Miraculous Medal has been around my neck since 2007 and has been touched upon the relic of many a Saint. My anxiety always subsides when I reach up and feel the raised imprint of Our Blessed Mother, the Queen of Saints, and remember she along with many other friends in heaven (my Saint Posse) are bringing my prayer intentions to Jesus.

Resources:

Miraculous Medal Booklet
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

Time in our quiet chapel with Jesus has done more for overcoming my anxiety than any other remedy I have attempted.  No matter how wound up I arrive, Jesus always has a way of straightening me out.  Whether I spend my time in quiet contemplative prayer, engaged in spiritual reading, or engrossed in Scripture; this time apart from the busy world always brings me peace.   Some of my Adoration visits have been wrought with tears, pleas, groans, and sighs; yet Jesus never leaves me in that knotted state. This ‘foretaste of Heaven’ as St. Teresa of Avila referred to Adoration as always gives me the hope I seek in the most troubling and unsettling of circumstances.

Resources:

Prayers for Eucharistic Adoration
Dr Mary Amore Eucharistic Adoration DVD

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Allison Gingras is founder of Reconciled To You where she blogs, shares and speaks about the Catholic faith in our everyday life and the many opportunities life presents to discover the grace of God! She shares these with great enthusiasm, passion and a sense of humor. Allison is a WINE Specialist overseeing and facilitating the online aspect of the Between the WINES Book Clubs for WINE: Women in the New Evangelization.     

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Reality of Our Guardian Angels


I recently noticed that in Father Alberione’s Prayerbook, every Thursday morning is dedicated to our guardian angels. This made me curious about the existence of guardian angels and their importance in our lives. To be honest, I’ve always been a little worried about my guardian angel being able to see every sin I commit. I picture an angelic being shaking his head and covering his eyes as he sees me day after day. But I am encouraged by Father Alberione’s second of five Thursday morning prayers: “My guardian angel, you contemplate the Lord at all times and you want me as your fellow citizen in heaven. I beseech you to obtain for me pardon from the Lord because I have so often been deaf to your advice, have sinned in your presence, and recall so seldom that you are always near me.” 


An excellent source recommended to me at the Pauline Books and Media Center in St. Louis was Mike Aquilina’s book, Angels of God: The Bible, the Church, and the Heavenly Hosts (Servant Books: 2009). I knew this was a book I needed when I read in his introduction that “angels are a large part of reality and, as with other large parts of reality – speeding Mack trucks, for example, or looming brick walls – we benefit greatly from their service, and we ignore them at our peril” (Aquilina: xii). Throughout his magnificent treatise, Aquilina reminds us over and over that “angels are everywhere in Scripture. We find angels from the first pages of Genesis to the last pages of Revelation, and not just as bit players. They play crucial roles in the drama of our creation, fall and salvation” (Ibid). He goes on to explain that “angels do not merely protect the soul against the attacks of the devil; they also try to make it progress in the spiritual life” (Aquilina, 83).

But do we each have our very own guardian angel assigned to guide and protect us? St. Jerome answers this question very clearly in his Commentary on Matthew: “How great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol.7, p. 49). 

Another outstanding book that has helped me is Angels: Help from on High (Pauline Books & Media: Boston, 2010), written and compiled by Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouvé, FSP. Her rock solid research reminds us that we each have a guardian angel, even small children. Of these, Jesus warned us to “not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my father in heaven” (Mt 18:10). She also quotes St. Basil about the reality of our guardian angels: “From infancy to death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. ‘Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life’” (Trouvé, 32).

God assigns a unique guardian angel to each one of us to help us to get to heaven. Period. Our angel is a purely spiritual being who sees us and sees God at all times. Our angel knows well the indescribable love, beauty, and eternal joy that await us in heaven. Therefore, our guardian angel’s job is not to prevent or alleviate all earthly suffering, but to allow and promote any actions, words or life events that will help us get to heaven, while preventing those that might jeopardize our salvation. Considering the reality of guardian angels actually helps me better understand suffering in our lives. Aquilina sounds like he is addressing me directly when he writes of another aspect of our relationship with our guardian angel: “Maybe you're troubled by memories of sin, and this leads you to worry about God’s forgiveness. Maybe you worry whether the memory itself is an occasion of sin” (Aquilina, 99). He advises that we can pray to our guardian angel who can “stand as a sentry to the gates of your memory,… exercise a tremendous influence over our intellect, will, and other faculties,… [and] can help us let go and give our unchangeable past over to God, who heals all wounds” (Aquilina, 99). In the same way, our guardian angel can stand guard over our imagination to prevent anxieties and worries about the future. 

From experience with patients, their families, and my own family members, I can tell you that people pay much more attention to the reality of angels when they are sick, and especially as they grow closer to death. Sr. Marianne Lorraine assures us that “when we finally complete our earthly sojourn and prepare to meet God, our angel will be with us, to usher us into the joy of eternal life” (Trouvé , 50). When my dad was getting closer to dying from his long, painful battle with gallbladder cancer, he asked how he will know where to go and what to do immediately after death. I had no idea what to tell him. But in his last days on earth, Dad began to see deceased family members and an angel; I am sure it was his guardian angel. He was so comforted knowing they were with him to lead him to heaven. St. John Chrysostom wondered the same thing as my dad, and he voiced his own gratitude for our guardian angel’s presence when we enter into eternity: “If we need a guide in passing from one city to another, how much more will the soul need someone to point out the way when she breaks the bonds of flesh and passes on to the future life” (Aquilina, 96).

As I now pray with Blessed Father Alberione every Thursday: 

“I also thank you, my guardian angel, for accompanying me daily on my return journey to my heavenly Father. Your holy inspirations, your continual protection against spiritual and material dangers, and your powerful prayers to God give me great comfort and sure hope.” 

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Jeffrey E. Mathews, MD, has been a Pauline Cooperator since October 11, 2009. He currently serves as President of the Daughters of St. Paul Advisory Board in St. Louis, Missouri. Dr. Mathews leads an annual Medical Mission trip to Honduras with his Giaccardo GI Group.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Using Media Humanly: Celebrating 100 years as Pauline Cooperators. Part II

Good morning. As I begin to write, it is 6:30 am on a Wednesday in the month of September, year of 2017. Morning has broken. Blackbird has spoken (somewhere). But I have no feeling of a new day springing fresh from the Word.

I am out of sorts. And I know why.

I woke up an hour ago, and the first thing I did was grab my smart phone. Time to check my social media feeds. I felt a momentary counter-impulse: "Stop. You don't need to do that Facebook thing. There are way better ways to greet the new day. Say a prayer. Do some stretches. Drink a glass of water. Open the window. Breathe the morning air. Listen to the bird song."

Nah. Boring. I took up my iPhone. The Internet was waiting.

Ten minutes later, I felt a whole day older. It didn't feel like a fresh new day any more. The news was discouraging. The articles I scanned were snarky and argumentative. The omnipresent online battles filled me with the uneasy excitement of gossip and spectacle.

Welcome to 2017. The future is now, and it is characterized by a near-24/7 immersion in the virtual world. And the virtual world has no seasons, no fresh air, no bodily presence, and no natural rest.

"Using Media Humanly", by Sr. Helena Burns: A Summary
At the Pauline Cooperator Convention in Chicago two weekends ago, Sr. Helena Burns addressed this new state of things. She began by asking two questions:
  1. "Are you satisfied with the way you are using media?"
  2. "Are the people around you happy with the way you are using media?"
For many of us, accessing the virtual world throughout the day is a way of life. Screen time has become an extension of real time. And Ray Kurzweil, futurist and Director of Engineering of Google, wouldn't have it any other way.

Kurweil is a self-identified transhumanist*. He believes that the rapid convergence of human activity with robotics and virtual reality is a good and inevitable development in the evolution of the human species. Transhumanists believe we are transitioning into a superior form of humanity. They envision technology enhancing our abilities in every way--building us into the likeness of Steve Austin, the "Six-million Dollar Man." We will extend our abilities with bionic arms, bionic legs, and devices to enhance our vision, sound, and other senses. We will have electronic chips implanted in our systems, to monitor our health, issue medical warnings, and give us immediate access to deep repositories of digital information. We will have self-driving cars, talking homes, and surveillance devices to allow constant monitoring-- of children by parents, criminals by law enforcement, and citizens/foreigners/everybody else by homeland security.  

Kurzweil believes that all of this is inevitable; we are involved in the participatory evolution of the human race. By
 deliberately participating in the integration of technology into every aspect of our lives, we are becoming human plus something else.**  Soon, Kurzweil believes, everyone will be chipped electronically.

Does this sound unlikely or scary?  Not to Ray Kurzweil. People are already doing this, he maintains, by the way they choose to use media.

In this last observation Ray Kurzweil is correct, suggested Sr. Helena Burns in her talk at the Pauline Convention. The future is already upon us, in the way we choose to use media here and now. As Paulines, we have a mandate to master the human use of media. 


The way we use media personally will speak the Gospel--or not--louder than the way we preach or 
the way we use it professionally. This is because the first media evangelization that people receive from us is the observation of how we use it in our personal lives. Let us take steps, proactively, not to lose our human presence when we are using media. We need to use media like saints.***

When our children and our grandchildren come to visit us, do they find us at the computer or on our smart phones busy with the virtual world? Do we put our devices down, turn from our screens, and give them our undivided attention? That is what we should be doing! Start observing the social interactions that you are a part of every day, with family, friends, and co-workers. How often do you see a majority of participants looking downward at and scrolling on their smart phones?

We need to make communicating with one another a blessing once again. What is the difference between virtual reality and real reality? The difference is, that in real reality,


Bodies are not optional!
We are bodily creatures. It is sinful to detach reality from bodily existence and to immerse ourselves completely in the virtual world. And how close do we come to doing that already, when we are only partially present to the other bodies around us?   

Here are three places, in particular, where we don't need screens:

  • meals
  • Mass
  • the master bedroom
We don't need screens at meals.
Meal time is sacred time that we spend with one another. Families need to carve out time in busy lives to eat meals together, at the same time, face to face without participating in the virtual world. Ban all electronics from the table.

We don't need screens at Mass.

Mass is a supreme act of real reality, not virtual reality.  We cannot phone or text our confessions in to the priest to receive Reconciliation. Likewise we need to put our smartphones down at Mass.

This gets tricky, because we are not prohibited from using print missals, are we? Then why not a Mass app? While the jury is out on the use of missal apps by the people in the pews, the Church has ruled that only by dispensation may a priest substitute an electronic sacramentary for a physical one. A print sacramentary is a sacred object, blessed and dedicated to one purpose only: worship.

Consider the problem of distraction if  we do use our smart phone in the pews. We will need to turn off all notifications and sounds, to avoid interrupting others by noise and to avoid distracting ourselves by reacting to the constant flow of messages coming in. Maybe better not to use them at all?

We don't need screens in the master bedroom.

This last caution has to do with the presence of spouses to one another within the special bond of marriage. Whether engaged in marital intimacy or simply retiring to the master bedroom for sleep, a couple in the bedroom ought to be present to each other bodily, without distraction. Not every couple sleeps in the same room. But every couple retires to a bedroom for moments of intimacy. Why not ban electronics from the bedroom altogether?

If I had not had my iPhone in my room with me this morning, it wouldn't have been there for me to grab and clutter my day with fresh out of the gate. A new dawn deserves a new you. I began writing this article on a Wednesday. It is now Monday of the next week. I have banished my iPhone from the bedroom, and what a difference it has made! 


In conclusion
The virtual world is real in appearance and real in its effects. The people of the 21st century are increasingly born into a world unaware of life before the internet. But we are not angels, communicating by spirit alone. We have the gift of bodily existence. The Son of God became incarnate to share that bodily existence. Don't stay silent about how we can--and need to--live in one another's presence, the way we used to live. 

Be present, body and soul, day by day to the bodies around you. Commit to the habit of using media humanly--for the sake of the kingdom, for the sake of Jesus Master. Blessed Alberione, Venerable Mother Thecla, Blessed Timothy and the other Pauline saints will be Cooperating with us, from that kingdom of heaven. 

Let's make communication a blessing again.

*C.f. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. September 23, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism for a fuller discussion.
** The symbol for transhumanism is H+ or h+.
*** Canning, Josh. April 27, 2016, How to Use Social Media Like a Saint, https://canadiancatholic.net/how-use-social-media-saint
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Rae Stabosz has been a member of the Association of Pauline Cooperators since 2003. She and Bill Stabosz, her husband of 48 years, have six sons, three daughters, ten grandsons and eight granddaughters. They eagerly await the birth of grands #19 & #20 in October. Rae retired in 2007 from the University of Delaware, where she was a technology and media specialist for 27 years. She is co-founder and past president of The Society of Catholic Scholars of Delaware and proprietor, since 2004, of the Pious Ladies Bookmobile. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Ten Verbs Dear to the Heart of Blessed Alberione

Next week, we will conclude our summary of the 2017 Pauline Cooperator Convention. This week, we let the Founder, Blessed James Alberione, speak for himself about the Pauline apostolate. Ten verbs jump out at his Pauline Family from his writings, used over and over again to describe the carrying out of his vision. The quotations below are taken from the writings of Blessed James Alberione.
Alberione and St Thecla's Retreat House
Composite photo by Sr Margaret Charles
TO MOVE AHEAD
Onward! The word is an adverb, used as an imperative, with the verb "to move" implied. Blessed Alberione used it often. "Onward! Blessed are the footsteps of those who bring the Gospel, who bring peace. Blessed are the walkers of God! Today the world has changed, and to travel the paths of this world we must update ourselves, using all the means that can serve to communicate the Gospel."

TO COMMUNICATE
"St. Paul carried out the work of communicating Jesus Christ. Our Family was raised up to continue this work, to be Paul alive today. The first thing our apostolate requires is standard knowledge and then a knowledge of communications. The pastoral spirit is to communicate Jesus Christ as he defined himself: 'I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.' "

TO DIFFUSE
"Diffusion is evangelization. It is a continuation of the public ministry of Jesus: 'I came into the world to bear witness to the truth' (Jn. 18:37). Without diffusion, the apostolate of the press is like a light under a basket."

TO PUBLISH
"The Liturgy of the Blessed Virgin Mary says: Edidit Salvatorem 'She has given us the Savior'.The glory of God and the salvation of all people: this is the purpose of the apostolate of the editions."

TO FORM
"In order to form people, one must have knowledge, will power and common sense. Jesus formed his apostles by giving them a heavenly doctrine accompanied by the example of a holy life, and by praying incessantly for them."

TO WORK
"God works on behalf of those who work for him. Thus we must always work as if everything depended on us, pray and hope in the Lord as if everything depended on him."

TO ORGANIZE
Be a tree, not a twig! "Organize the good. Organizations have great power. Even if a person is holy, alone he/she is just a twig. Everyone should harmonize with the others, like the members of a beautiful opera."

TO PREACH
"To preach is to communicate Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life. Our machines are pulpits; our apostolate rooms are like churches; our workers are preachers: all these realities should be understood in this new and unique way."

TO PRAY  
"Those who do not pray abundantly do not make much progress. Until we reach the point of believing that prayer is as necessary to life as bread and air, we will be inadequate, empty and inconstant. Prayer is the soul of every apostolate."

TO WRITE
"Transform yourselves into the pens and mouths of God, through Jesus Christ our Master. To write is a spiritual work of mercy toward 'our' poor: those who do not know God. It is the apostolate of the pen."

Verbs are action words. What verbs inspire you to action in the Apostolate?
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Sr. Margaret Kerry, FSP, celebrates 40 years of life and mission as a Daughter of St. Paul. With a Masters from Boston College School of Theology & Ministry, she 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), Sr. Margaret is working on a young adult book. You can reach her at mkerry@paulinemedia.com.