Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Our Conversion in the Power of the Word and Eucharist

"St. Paul Evangelizing" by
Sr. Elena Alvarez, PDDM
“Paul describes the work of the gospel in terms of the divine ‘word,’ referring to the powerful divine activity both in bringing people to faith and in transforming their lives” (N.T. Wright).

Each year our Pauline community sings a novena to St. Paul from January 16th to the 25th, honoring his transformation in Christ and praying for our own ongoing conversion.

Saul, persecutor of the Christian Church began calling himself Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, after his conversion. Born and raised in the city of Tarsus (Acts 21.39), a crossroads of the world, a great trade center on the Mediterranean, and a university town filled with young scholars and philosophers, Saul was a devout Jew (Phil. 3:5). He traveled to Jerusalem for his religious studies. As a Pharisee (Acts 23:6; 26:5; Phil. 3:5) his life’s dream was to “sit at the feet of Gamaliel” (Acts 22:3) the most distinguished and revered living rabbi in his time.

This started Paul on the road to conversion. He alludes to it in Gal. 1:15-16: “When he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace....” At one point in his life, Saul resisted ongoing conversion. He became fundamentalist in his approach to followers of the Way of Jesus. He participated in the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:59) and persecuted the Church: “entering into every house, and hauling men and women out, committing them to prison” (Acts 8:3). Even though Gamaliel taught him that God is the One who judges, Saul thought he alone heard the voice of God.

Paul attributes his striking religious conversion on the road to Damascus to God: “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10; Eph. 2:8). Religious conversion always results from a divine intervention. His initial conversion (Acts 9) sowed the seeds of his “continual conversion.” Paul became attentive to the need for conversion in every area of his life testifying that “the grace he has given me had not been without result” (1 Cor. 15:10).

The Word of God is also alive and active for our continual conversion. One of the key terms Paul uses is the Greek word energeō, “to be at work.” The Word, he says, is “at work” in you. N. T. Wright tells us that Paul “speaks of the powerful divine word as a transforming energy which, though unleashed through his own announcement of the Gospel, is much greater than the sum of his own words or his rhetorical skill. ‘We know,’ he says, ‘that God has chosen you, because our gospel did not come to you in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in full conviction’ (1:4-5).” In 1 Th 2:13 Paul develops the theme further. We always thank God, he says, “that when you received the word which you heard from us you received it, not as the word of human beings, but as what it really is, the word of God which is at work in you believers.”

Our Pauline chapel in the Los Angeles
Books & Media Center.
As testimony to this, we have written on the walls of all our Pauline chapels the words, “live in continual conversion,” sometimes translated “be sorry for sin.” Actually, the original Latin “Cors poenitens tenete” means “live with a penitent heart.” The exhortation to live in continual conversion is a core charismatic principle and belief of Pauline Christian living. This exhortation does not place emphasis on our efforts to avoid sin and live in conversion as it seems to do, but as a kind of covenant, or agreement between Jesus Christ and us. Our founder, Blessed Alberione received these words through revelation in a time of particular difficulty: “While examining all of his actions anew to see if there were impediments to the work of grace on his part, it seemed that the Divine Master wanted to assure the Institute, launched just a few years earlier…. In truth Jesus Master was saying: ‘Do not be afraid; I am with you; from here (pointing to the tabernacle with great emphasis) I want to enlighten. Live with a penitent heart’ (Abundantes divitiae gratiae suae: 151-152).”

St. Paul Celebrating Liturgy
So that the grace given us will not be without result, Alberione wrote, “[T]he secret of success is to model oneself on God by living in the Church and for the Church; of being wild olives grafted onto the olive tree, the Eucharistic Lord; of reflecting and nourishing oneself with every Word of the Gospel, in accord with the spirit of St. Paul” (Abundantes divitiae gratiae suae: 94-95). His prayer, “Jesus, live in our mind, will and heart, that we live in faith…unite us to you, incarnated sanctity, in whom is the divine life” (Until Christ Be Formed in You: 60) is one of trust that God’s Word and Eucharist, at work in us, transforms us into Christ (Gal. 2:20).

Following is a suggested, 30-minute method for entering prayerfully into Paul's experience and allowing him to make it our own:

Lectio Divina 1 Corinthians 15:10

Lectio (Truth) Read 1 Corinthians 15:10, in which Paul presents us with a synopsis of his conversion and his correspondence to this grace. Pay careful attention to your inner response.

Meditatio (Way) Meditate on how St. Paul has captured the eternal struggle that we all go through in our call to conversion. “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate.” “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:15; 24-25). Blessed Alberione tells us of himself, “Here is a half-blind man, who is being led; and in moving along he is enlightened from time to time, so that he can proceed further: God is the light” (AD, 202).

Contemplatio (Life) Contemplate in the light of this passage. Christ’s redemptive death inaugurates the new creation: “By new creation, Paul means that God in Christ has created humanity anew, giving it newness of life” (Romans 6:4), a life in union with the risen Christ, “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20), a life destined to share in the glory of God.  After encountering the risen Christ on the road to Damascus Paul uses the expression “to be,” or “to live in” Christ 164 times. Through baptism the resurrected, glorified Christ truly dwells within us (Galatians 2:20). Through the Holy Spirit, Christ brings about our ongoing conversion that we might live in him (Colossians 3:10).

Actio (Live) Act on God’s invitation. Paul admitted that he was still on the road to conversion: “I do not consider that I have made it my own, I strain forward to what lies ahead, pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Oratio (Pray) Live in us, Jesus, with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so that we may love you with our whole heart, love you with our whole mind, love you with our whole will, and love our neighbor as ourselves. Make us faithful witnesses to your Word.  May your grace in us be fruitful! (Cf. Blessed James Alberione)
Sr. Margaret Kerry 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

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I Said “No” to God

Dr. Mathews with Sr. M. Joan & best bud, Fr. Giaccardo
After finishing my Monday morning rounds at Alexian Brothers Hospital, I genuflected toward the tabernacle and slid into the back pew of the otherwise empty hospital chapel. I thanked God for my new job with an established gastroenterology group in St. Louis, Missouri. Carolyn and I had a beautiful son and daughter at home, and we just learned that we were expecting our third baby.

In my gratitude, I sincerely asked God how I could give back for all the tremendous blessings in my life. I offered suggestions such as volunteering at the local Casa de Salud Free Clinic one day a week, helping out at our local food pantry, serving meals at the Missionaries of Charity Soup Kitchen, answering calls at our local Birthright crisis pregnancy center, or even traveling once a year on a medical mission to an underserved country.

In the silence, I heard the word, “Evangelize!” Startled, I looked behind me at the Stations of the Cross and the snow falling heavily behind the stained glass windows, but I felt certain the voice had come from the tabernacle. Scared, I blurted aloud, “No!”  I quickly tried to explain to God that I was in no way capable of evangelizing, but as a newly trained physician, he could feel free to use me in my comfort zones of medical care and public health.

Uncomfortable after this awkward encounter, I visited the chapel every morning for the rest of that week, hoping God would give me new and clear instructions to volunteer in some pro-life activity or at some medical clinic. The tabernacle was disappointingly silent.

The following weekend our family attended the children’s “Birthday Party for Jesus” at the Pauline Books & Media Center in Crestwood, a section of St. Louis. As the kids sat on the floor with the sisters’ postulants, eating cake and singing songs, I read through a pamphlet of the Daughters of St. Paul. Father James Alberione had begun ten branches of the Pauline Family, which included priests, brothers, sisters, and lay members, whose central mission was to use any and all means available to bring Jesus to the world – in other words, to evangelize!

The St. Louis (Crestwood) FSP sisters & postulants
I understood that priests and religious evangelized, but I was sure I would never be able to teach others the rich treasures of our Catholic faith. As I looked over at my three-year-old son tearing the Christmas wrapping off “A Coloring Book of the Saints” and my two-year-old daughter clutching her Holy Family wooden ornament, I realized that these beautiful blue nuns were sharing Christ’s love with my children seemingly without effort. In that moment I also realized that I had already been evangelizing, at least to my children, when I would take them to Mass and pray with them at bedtime.

Over the years, we visited the Daughters of St. Paul and their bookstore and chapel much more frequently. My wife and I attended many lectures, movie nights, and prayer events, and often stopped just to visit. We loved telling people about the sisters and sending them to the bookstore to discover for themselves the grace-filled riches we found there every time we visited. I began to think that supporting the sisters in their mission and letting them evangelize those we directed there was sufficiently fulfilling my role in evangelization.

But the Pauline spirituality was much more infectious than I had anticipated. Before I knew it, I found myself sharing my faith, especially my ever deepening love for Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life whom we all seek in our daily lives to bring us fulfillment, joy, and loving peace. I was surprised to find myself sharing with friends, co-workers, and patients the love that the Blessed Trinity wants us to know—and usually in normal conversation, not with a Master’s level explanation I would expect from a professional evangelist.

That, I believe, is the key. Evangelization is not about doctoral dissertations and Scripture memorization. It is all about relationships, primarily about the relationship that the God who created us and suffered and died for us wants to have with each of us. Often the most effective evangelization comes from those we encounter in our daily lives. Many people may never read the Bible, attend Mass, or even pray, so you may be the only version of the Gospel some people ever hear.

After learning all that I could about the Pauline Family, I decided to take back my original “No” to God. Like St. Paul (whose conversion we celebrate this coming Sunday), I gave him an unambiguous, emphatic, and loving “Yes” when I made my Promise as a Pauline Cooperator on October 11, 2009. As a Cooperator in St. Louis, I am able to assist the local Daughters of St. Paul in many ways, such as making our community aware of their awesome presence and offering daily prayers for the health, happiness, and success of the sisters as they carry out their mission. Most directly, though, I bring what they have shared with me into my ordinary life, attempting to give the gift I have received as a gift to my part of the world that is waiting for it (cf. Mt. 10:8).
“I wish to speak not only to consecrated persons, but also to the laity, who share with them the same ideals, spirit and mission…. Live this Year for Consecrated Life as a grace which can make you more aware of the gift you yourselves have received. Celebrate it with your entire ‘family,’ so that you can grow and respond together to the promptings of the Spirit in society today” (Pope Francis, To All Consecrated People, III:1).
Click here for more information about the Pauline Cooperators.

Photos: Jeffrey E. Mathews, MD

Jeffrey E. Mathews, MD, has been a Pauline Cooperator since October 11, 2009. He and his wife, Carolyn, live in St. Louis, MO, and consider themselves blessed to have three sons and two daughters, two of whom still live at home. Dr. Mathews has a love for languages. He has studied French and Chinese in the past and he is currently studying to become more fluent in Spanish.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Charlie Hebdo and the Pauline Mission

For the record, I am not Charlie.

Like everyone else, I was horrified by the events of these past several days. I don’t know how many times I’ve prayed for those who lost their lives, for their loved ones, and for those whose values, so different from mine, led them to kill in the name of God.

In its aftermath, I’ve also prayed about two phenomena—Charlie Hebdo’s hubris, that goads the targets of its satire to strike back, and the massive global outpouring of support for the magazine, mutating the tragedy into a cause that licenses media professionals to communicate, unfettered, whatever they will.

The international reading of the event: Someone directed me to a blog last week that suggested, in Charlie Hebdo’s defense, that the magazine should not be turned into an icon of journalistic freedom. In reality, the article stated, the company is not keen on championing the rights of media professionals. Charlie Hebdo is interested only in Charlie Hebdo. Could it be that the dark side of the media culture is exploiting this on its own behalf?

The hubris: Nothing could ever justify such a massacre of human beings. From his eternal vantage point, the prophet Muhammad needs no one to defend his honor. Doing so was and is nothing more than a smokescreen for small egos. Still, I marvel at the magazine’s indignation, especially since key players there were protected by armed guards. Violence begets violence, and Charlie’s journalistic bullying was in every sense violent.

Nevertheless, allow me to submit a caveat here: I do not advocate censorship. Our Pauline Center for Media Studies puts it this way: “Control is for the moment; communication is for a lifetime.” Bl. James Alberione’s own thought on this developed over the years. Initially a book burner, after St. Paul’s example in Ephesus (Acts 19:17-19), he later recommended “turning on the light” instead of  running around wailing about the dark. “We need to put down the scissors of censorship, and pick up the camera and microphone. We need to speak in the language of our own time, because God is so beautiful.”

There’s another perspective, perhaps more fundamental, that bypasses arbitrary judgments about what’s appropriate, who gets to decide, and even the role of religion in that process: what makes activity art, indeed what makes it human.

The tasks of any living being are directed toward its preservation and propagation, that is, its own survival and the continuation of its species. For us human beings, the habitual activities needed for these tasks, the arts, involve more than biology. Human art is more than technical execution or skill. A bird building a nest can do as much. We humans engage all our powers to achieve our aims. That is, we understand, desire, and will what we’re doing, and then organize our activities. When this activity serves what is truly human and becomes a habit, or virtue in the broadest sense of the word—physical, material, intellectual, or moral—it becomes art.

Our actions are genuinely human when they’re infused with meaning consistent with the ultimate meaning of human existence. In short, they make us more of who we already are—human beings within human society. For an action—in this case, communication—to be truly human, or art, it must contribute to the primary task of making us what we are: rational, willing, and loving beings in relationship.

We human beings reject bullying in the media, because it destroys the purpose of communication, which is more than just to convey thoughts and feelings. Thanks perhaps to social media this purpose is clear: to build relationships. Vitriol precludes that possibility. If I ridicule you and all that you hold dear, you’re not likely to say, “Thank you very much for enlightening me.” When satire is inclusive, when the satirist says in effect, “We’re all in the same boat,” it can make us ask important questions of ourselves. Stephen Colbert’s “Report” persona poked fun at his own real-life foibles even as it playfully skewered others, and with all its bawdy humor, plenty of people, guests and viewers alike, loved him for it. On the other hand, when satire makes a caricature of us or our societies, when it derides us and does not respect the integrity even of satirists, but strokes their egos, it does not build relationships. It ceases to be human.

We decry verbal or “artistic” abuse not because it’s offensive. “Nice” varies from culture to culture, age to age. Fear of offending others never stopped Jesus from saying what people needed for their salvation. But he said it with respect for the person and in mercy, because he sought not his own glory, but that of the Father. If people still chose to take offense, that was their doing.

All of nature, including the human person and human activity, glorifies God by being and doing what God created it to be and do. When we say, “Glory to God, peace to humanity” (the Pauline motto), we are praying to be what God wants us to be: truly human. We Christians know that this “project” is directed to the fullness of eternal life, and as such, tells us something about our freedom and responsibility. John Paul II said, “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” This is the glory of God. Whose glory is Charlie Hebdo after? Whose glory do I seek?

Photo: LeJC, Wikimedia Commons, January 7, 2015
Sr. 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, January 7, 2015

Christmas Present

Despite even what many believers think, it’s still Christmas—until January 11, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Mentioning this to a cashier in a store, I added, “So we can still party!” She answered, “We’ll celebrate. Let the kids party.” Somebody’s tired.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, this week’s Pauline blogger was unable to submit an article in time, so if you’ll bear with an older post from Pauline Faithways, a kind of “Ghost from Christmas Past,” you’ll find it at The video I included has been removed by YouTube, so you can find another version of this “divine work of art,” as one commenter put it, at, courtesy of the Nordic Chamber Choir.

Christmas blessings all throughout 2015!

Photo: Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP
Sr. 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, December 31, 2014

Can We, Too, Have a "Night Between the Centuries"?

Detail, monstrance, Alba Cathedral, where Alberione prayed as a seminarian.
Whenever I draw close to a night between two calendar years, I reflect upon what it might have been like on “that” Night Between the Centuries. It was then the young seminarian James Alberione spent four hours on his knees before Jesus in the Eucharist praying for the new century as Pope Leo XIII had asked for.

I’m sure what Pope Leo XIII hoped for by issuing his encyclical, Tametsi futura prospicientibus (November 1, 1900), was a new awakening to the potential opportunities and dangers facing mankind on the threshold of the 20th century. He strongly encouraged a return to Jesus Christ The Redeemer, the Way, the Truth and the Life. One year prior, Pope Leo XIII had invited the faithful to pray before Jesus in the Eucharist during the night of December 31, 1900 into January 1, 1901, beginning with a Solemn Mass at midnight. It should be no surprise, then, that the Pauline Family was to be “born” of the Eucharist when, before the Eucharist that early morning in the Cathedral of Alba, Blessed James responded to this request for prayer. From his own testimony decades later, we know that during those inspired hours he contemplated the call of Pope Leo XIII and the mystical invitation of Jesus himself, “Come to me all of you…” (Mt 11:28).*

Blessed James carried in his heart the need to “respond” to the great evil playing out at the end of the 19th century. A studious young man, who eagerly read about history, Blessed James soon became a “maker” of history in many ways by accepting the LORD’s call to “do something great,” by eventually evangelizing the whole world through modern media. What was a proclamation to the early Apostles by the risen LORD had now inspired Blessed James some two millennia later!

Though little is written about the deep interior experience Blessed James had during that night, fair to say we can intuit what might have happened and what might bring new life to us in our Eucharistic Visits. To intuit what he experienced is to appreciate that the young James fell more deeply in love with Jesus Christ, offering himself to the Lord in such away that his whole life would become a gift. This offering to Jesus Master was (eventually) abundantly fruitful through the future foundations: Five religious congregations, four lay institutes and the Association of Cooperators now make up what the world now popularly calls the Pauline Family. Already a young man of deep interior life and Eucharistic piety, Blessed James encountered the Lord in an invitation to “not be afraid,” but rather to let himself be “enlightened” by Jesus in the Eucharist. Which he did!

Sister Disciples of the Divine Master at prayer, for themselves, for the world, and especially for the whole Pauline Family.

So, how might we humbly experience such an “encounter” so to deeply desire to give ourselves wholly to Jesus Master and do something great for the LORD in our time? Might it take as long for us to see such fruits in our own lives? Well, yes, it would be quite demanding for most of us to kneel before the Eucharist for four hours in absolute silence! It is rather the work of Lord that draws us into a personal encounter that touches our hearts as it did the young James that Night Between the Centuries. Although our experiences might not found a Family such as ours, it will begin rather the same: gazing upon him who is the source of all that is good.  Maybe we can bring “something” for reading and reflection, and simply place it before Jesus Master asking him to open up for us what he wants us to know and do.

As a help to us, the Pauline Eucharistic Visit consists of three movements when we meditate on Sacred Scripture: Part I, honoring Jesus Master, Truth—listening to the Word; Part II, Jesus Master, Way—confrontation with the Word; Part III, Jesus Master, Life—acting upon the Word. These three movements help us drink more fully from the font of the Word and assure us that our Visit will have lasting fruit over time. We needn't go looking for an amazing experience or an experience of sensation. Rather, a transformation will simply take place in us over time, in fact, throughout our lives. Blessed James kept his daily Eucharistic Visit throughout his life until his death on November 26, 1971. Often when trials arose or he felt God was calling him or wanting to reveal something more to him, he would spend days or even a week absolutely alone in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord! We may not have the luxury of so much time, but such a desire can still well up in us. A retreat can also provide opportunities for extended adoration.

Each day, the Lord yearns to speak a Word of Truth into us, to show us how to utilize it on our Way that day, and to fill us with his Life of happiness.** Truth be told, every day the Night Between the Centuries still “carries” us who are Pauline. It remains the foundation of every Pauline’s own building-up of this great co-mission, doing something great for our times! When we also humbly let the LORD begin something great with our lives during our adoration, it becomes exponentially more fruitful (just like the Secret of Success). As we look forward to great things in this “new” century of Pauline history that is being written with each of us, we can only begin to imagine the far greater things he will accomplish during the third millennium in Christendom and beyond!
* Luigi Rolfo, SSP, James Alberione, Apostle for Our Times, Alba House, 1987. p. 38.
** See for daily reflections on the Lectionary readings.

Photos: Phivan Ngoc Nguyen—monstrance; Br. Xavier, SSP—Sister Disciples in adoration
Fr. Edward M. Riley, a priest with the archdiocese of Boston, is a novice with the Institute of Jesus the Priest. He serves as Dean of Men at St. John's Seminary, Boston.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It’s All in the Family

As we celebrate God Incarnate at Christmas and honor Mary, the Mother of God, at the beginning of the New Year, the Pauline Family can count its blessings in a spirit of deep gratitude.  In its universal mission to spread the Gospel by all modern means, Paulines are granted a very worthy share in the New Evangelization.  In that spirit, as a member of the Holy Family Institute, I would like to briefly, yet deeply, muse with you on our institute’s part in our common Pauline vocation: to remind the world of the beauty of Christian family life.

There has been much talk, not all of it accurate, on the Church’s response to the challenges of modern families.  There is no need to list all the ways that marriage has been redefined, its permanent nature questioned, and fruitful and large families marginalized or frankly ignored.  The Extraordinary Synod on the family held in Rome this last October was the flash point for the current controversial state of affairs.  Despite some turbulent miscommunication, though, the Synod offered many helpful guides for the family.  The final document, rich in proclaiming eternal truth, emphasizes that the family is a small domestic church and is the fundamental building block of a civilization of love. It is in the family that human love is first expressed and received, and ultimately, divine Love tasted.  Therefore, the Holy Family Institute, with its consecrated married life, plays a unique role in the Pauline Family.  Even if not directly involved in publication and distribution, its lay married members, are essential to the media apostolate, which they serve in an integral way through their witness and prayers.  Prayer and example are the tools of their trade.

As I reflect on the many spiritual friendships, holy witnesses, and the solid formation found in the Holy Family Institute, my heart is very thankful and filled with Pauline joy.  The charism of the Pauline Family animates much of my life’s work.

However, gratitude must, in the end, lead to action!  How is my consecrated life building up the Body of Christ, the holy Church?  Have I accompanied the doubtful, properly informed the poorly catechized, offered spiritual solace to the suffering?  An honest examination more than often finds that failures abound, with a hint of hypocrisy along the way. (Ask my family!)  Yet, the ideals of our Pauline life, coupled with a desire to imitate the Holy Family more consistently, are a constant encouragement on life’s path.

I have found that my Pauline commitment animates every aspect of my life, but perhaps especially my work as a doctor.  When I have to break bad news or when I spend time counseling the dying, I often invoke the intercession of our founder or other blessed Paulines (for instance, Blessed Timothy Giaccardo).  When I write or speak on topics concerning Catholic medical ethics, I pray for the assistance of St. Paul—the greatest of all religious communicators!  I offer my sufferings—watching illness ravage those I love, losing the time I had hoped to spend with my family, or facing problems that cannot be solved—for the Pauline apostolate.  I pray that souls touched by the media produced by Paulines find the guidance and solace they so desperately need.  This keeps the apostolic work of Paulines throughout the world much closer to my heart.  I have also kept a prayer connection with fellow Holy Family Institute members that have gone to meet our Savior in death.

My daily Pauline life may not seem very extraordinary, but neither were the 30 years that Jesus lived in obscurity.  My own family life is very much like that of the Holy Family in its hiddenness and routine fulfillment of duty.  Again, it is all about family, both human and divine.

Blessed James Alberione cultivated a great to devotion to our Blessed Mother and her earthly spouse, Joseph.  He shared that devotion with all in the Pauline Family—religious orders, secular institutes, and Pauline Cooperators.  In Mary and Joseph he saw the prototype for the perfection of the human family.  In their lives of sacrificial love and marital devotion, they manifested all the virtues worthy of imitation by families today.  Through the evangelical counsels (religious vows) of poverty, chastity and obedience, a Christian couple finds ample opportunities to live in discipleship.  The Holy Family Institute’s calling to live these vows faithfully with Pauline ardor is our way of proclaiming the Gospel.

As we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family (Dec. 28), we can all look to Mary and Joseph for inspiration.  The Synod on the Family reminded us: “The family is uniquely important to the Church and in these times, when all believers are invited to think of others rather than themselves, the family needs to be rediscovered as the essential agent in the work of evangelization” (Relatio Synodi, 2).

It is the prayer of all Holy Family Institute members that we faithfully live our lives as married and consecrated persons in union with the entire Pauline Family and all its apostolic work throughout the world.  What a blessing for us all!

Editor’s note: If you think you’ve read these thoughts before, you’re not far off the mark. At the beginning of the Synod, HFI members Jim and Luisa McMillan reflected on their family life along similar lines, even though the circumstances are different. Compare the two:  How do they compare with your own family or communal life?

Photo: Sr. Irene R. Hoernschemeyer, FSP

Greg F. Burke, MD, has been a perpetually professed member of the Holy Family Institute for five years. He and Kimberly, his wife of 23 years, have four daughters. Greg works as a general internist and is Chief Patient Experience Officer in the Geisinger Health System, based in Danville, PA. Kim is a nurse and religious education coordinator. Greg also serves as president of the Harrisburg Guild of the Catholic Medical Assn. and was awarded the Benemerenti Medal for his service, by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.