Wednesday, September 21, 2016

How Saint Mother Teresa Highlights the Pauline Mission

Mother Teresa with the author
Kentucky, 1988.
Back in 1995, I was reading the Chicago Tribune while eating lunch above our Pauline Book & Media center. I read the third of a series of articles titled “Saving our Children” describing how children in the inner-city were killed by stray bullets in gang-wars. Suddenly, with a bolt of awareness, I realized that we could go to be with them in mission.  Meeting Mother Teresa six years earlier, and receiving a letter from her in which she addressed the Pauline mission, had a lot to do with my response. In retrospect, even my sensitivity to these articles was because of her influence. The poverty I hoped to help alleviate with our Pauline mission was the poverty of resources that negated dreams for these children. It was the poverty that Blessed Alberione wrote about: “A good part of today’s world suffers from a shortage of bread. There is a far greater shortage of the spiritual bread brought by Jesus who said, ‘I am the Bread of Life.’"
"Reach out to the spiritually poor
to satisfy their hunger for God,
their thirst for peace, so they in turn
try to relive the hunger and homelessness
of the poor and needed of your place."

The year after I met Mother Teresa, the socialist regimes in Europe collapsed. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote that there were expectations that the hour had come for the Christian message, “Should not Christianity try to very seriously rediscover its voice, so as to ‘introduce’ the new millennium to its message and to make it comprehensible as a general guide for the future?” This is what the Second Vatican Council had intended, he said. Following the Council, it was to become evident that Christians embrace all of life. The spirit of the age called for crossing boundaries, reaching out to the world and becoming involved in it.  Even before Vatican II, Blessed Alberione and Mother Teresa were forerunners in this movement. They already began to live as Pope Francis is now asking, to “go out to the margins with the Gospel.” Alberione's
response was to use the media to cross boundaries and bring the Gospel to the margins. Mother Teresa's response was to physically cross boundaries and be present to the poorest of the poor.

Pope Benedict XVI realized that in our technological age we are becoming a technological object while vanishing as a human subject. Progress makes all goals seem noble as a way to improve the quality of life. What will happen when we can no longer find the divine mystery in the Other but only what makes them useful, he asked? Mother Teresa modeled a presence that reflected the promise of God to be with us in every circumstance of our life – regardless of what we can make or produce.

Paulines initiated various programs in order to be 
present to the children at least once a week.
As I continued praying and reflecting on how these two holy people would respond to the spiritual poverty of the inner-city, it became obvious that a more permanent presence was necessary. In his writings, Blessed James Alberione had considered reaching many more people with the Gospel through libraries. Now, with the added impetus of Mother Teresa’s example of presence, our local Chicago community set about opening reading rooms in the inner-city. During our research, both gang members and Church personnel suggested that we open reading rooms inside the community. The children did not have the means or the safety to go to public libraries or churches to study. The Boys & Girls Club Extensions accepted our request for rooms in each location. In the early 1980's, we had visited apartments in these areas by going door-to-door with issues of The Family Magazine. Now we went door to door inviting families to the reading rooms where they could find many more titles.  After realizing that Planned Parenthood put on events inside the Boys & Girls Clubs, we created various programs for children and visited the reading rooms as often as we could.

Sr. Margaret helps someone pick out a book 
This Pauline outreach brought the Catholic Church into the inner-city. Priests, Sisters, and laity donated and assisted with the program. One volunteer joined the RCIA after reading the book St. Martin de Porres found in the reading room. A Catholic New World columnist wrote an unsolicited article that concluded with a request for books for the Pauline Reading Rooms. Donations began coming in. The Chicago Cubs and the White Sox became involved. Bookcenter customers purchased books for the children. Paint, shelves and rugs were donated. The stories that can be told about this form of evangelization are very many indeed, too many to blog about here. I want to highlight three things: the inspiration of Saint Mother Teresa, whose presence had the power of preaching; the inspiration of Blessed Alberione, whose insights into evangelization are extraordinary; the role of the Pauline Laity and Volunteers as they lived the mission and charism with us.

Brother Al Milella, SSP, calls the Pauline mission a “head-on collision with the Word either in Scripture, in a saintly life, or in the action of charity.”  Our zeal and passion to feed those hungering for God’s Word knows no boundaries. Alberione reminds us, “The congregation is not attached to the form; we are attached to the Gospel, the catechism, the Church. If records are more useful than books, then use records. And if filmstrips give the doctrine better than the catechism books, use the filmstrip.” (1964)  As I prepared to enter the Daughters of St. Paul in 1974, my mother asked why I had not considered the Missionaries of Charity. I asked, "how do you know about Mother Teresa?" My mother responded, "I read about her." "That is why I feel called to the Daughter of St. Paul," I answered. Little did I know that fourteen years later, I would kiss Mother Teresa and receive a letter from her highlighting our Pauline charism.

Here is a link to Blessed Alberione's vision for Libraries
General Association of Libraries 1921

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Sr. Margaret Kerry, FSP, celebrates 42 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), and Live Christ; Give Christ: Prayers for the New Evangelization. Sr. Margaret is working on two more books. You can reach her at mkerry@paulinemedia.com.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Knitting Love


“Love.

That was what she had that IT did not have.
...

But how could she use it? What was she meant to do?

If she could give love to IT perhaps it would shrivel up and die, for she was sure that IT could not withstand love. But she, in all her weakness and foolishness and baseness and nothingness, was incapable of loving IT. Perhaps it was not too much to ask of her, but she could not do it.

But she could love Charles Wallace.

She could stand there and she could love Charles Wallace.”

                                                         -  Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle In Time.


Several years ago, one of my closest friends moved to Germany. I thought I would miss her terribly but I never thought I would need to worry about her safety. Now I worry. 

Eleanor* and her family live close to the Belgian border. With the influx of refugees into Europe, she has been teaching German as a Second Language classes to incoming refugees, serving and loving those who are fleeing from terror in their homelands. At the same time, threats are starting to hit closer and closer to home. Eleanor had been in Paris the week before the November 2015 attacks, staying just a few buildings away from one of the restaurants where people were gunned down. On New Year’s Eve, hundreds of women reported that they had been robbed and sexually assaulted near the main train station in Cologne. Before she got married, Eleanor lived in Cologne, within walking distance of that train station. During Holy Week, suicide bombers claiming allegiance to ISIS killed more than thirty people at the Brussels airport -- just a few hours before Eleanor’s mother had been scheduled to land there. Some suspects from this attack were arrested just a few miles away from the city where Eleanor and her family live now.

All of this is hitting much too close to home. Terrible things are terrible no matter where in the world they happen but I didn’t anticipate people I love to be quite so affected.

On a personal level, Eleanor and her husband were joyfully expecting the birth of their first child, due in February. When I was travelling in Italy this past October on the Pauline Pilgrimage, I was knitting a baby blanket as my travel project. Before we went to St. Peter’s Square for a general audience with Pope Francis, Sister Margaret Joseph said that we could bring things with us as there would be a general blessing of them. “Religious items,” she clarified.  “Not like your scarf or something.” I am a snarky sort and suggested that “maybe you should bring your scarf. See if it takes!” Then I had a better idea and brought along the baby blanket in progress. We all decided that it “took.” I told Eleanor about this and she was delighted.

A few weeks later, baby Marie was born thirteen weeks early, weighing less than two pounds and with a serious blood infection which had sparked the early labor. Her tiny body couldn’t handle the big blanket I had made, but another friend of mine whose son had been born premature suggested that if I could do something small and quick out of inexpensive yarn that could be a very good thing. As this was over Thanksgiving weekend, I could do it. The pope was busy, but I brought it with me to my Episcopal church on Sunday and asked my pastor to bless it before I mailed them both off. Several weeks later, the baby was growing healthy and strong and ready to come home.  I also knit a couple little baby sweaters for her. When I went to the reformed Evangelical church Eleanor had attended in Boston, I brought those with me and asked the senior pastor to pray over them before I mailed them off. This is not a common practice for him, but of course he was happy to do so.

I don’t know what I think these blessings do, exactly, but I do know this baby could use all the love and prayers she could get. It seems a wonderful thing to surround her with love and prayers in a tangible form. At this point Marie is doing very, very well, healthy and strong. And it seems so right that she has been surrounded by tangible love and blessings from people across the Christian traditions ranging from reformed evangelicals to the Pope! Everyone comes together to love baby Marie, and it is all the same God.

While Marie is growing healthier and stronger every day, the world we live in seems to be as frightening as I can ever remember seeing. Every day seems to bring another attack. I feel as if I absolutely have to be doing something, but there is nothing that I can do.

But I can love. In Madeleine L’Engle’s novel A Wrinkle in Time, Meg Murry’s little brother Charles Wallace has fallen under the evil control of IT. Meg returns to rescue him but has no idea how she can do this until she realizes she can just love him. In the face of love, IT’s power melts away and Charles Wallace is freed and returns home to his family. I don’t know how to defeat ISIS, but I can love my friend, and her husband, and their baby. I live across an ocean, but I can make things to make that love tangible.
 
And we all rest in Someone whose love is far more powerful than mine. After Marie came home from the hospital, her family gathered joyfully to celebrate her baptism. We live in a world with terrifying premature births and terrorist attacks, but we also live in the hands of the One who has overcome the world.  Eleanor and her husband chose these verses as the theme for Marie’s baptismal celebration:
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 NRSV)
*Names have been changed at the request of the family.

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Kristen Filipic has been involved with the Pauline family since 2010 and completed the Cooperator Formation program in 2014.  She is a native Midwesterner but has lived in Boston for the last twelve years, where she works as a civil rights attorney.  She serves as a lector and a Bible study leader in her home church.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Witch: Puritans and Patriarchs and Satanists, Oh My!



A daughter searches for her way in Puritan New England
in "The Witch". With permission, A24 Films
What kind of film appeals to both Christians and Satanists? Try "The Witch" on for size.

"The Witch" is a period horror film set in Puritan New England just before the Salem witch trials. It won its director, Robert Eggers, a Dramatic Directing award at Sundance 2015 and emerged as the most talked-about horror movie of the year. In general, it has done well with both critics and viewers.

This is not a film for the young or immature. The Catholic News Service, an office of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), rates it L – Limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling[i]. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) gives it an R rating -- Restricted, under 17 must be accompanied by parent or adult guardian. There is brief nudity and disturbing content.

Catholics like myself who are aficionados of horror films – and who have a mature understanding of the darker elements that are specific to the genre -- will likely appreciate it. Interestingly enough, a satanist group called The Satanic Temple has pronounced it to be "a transformative Satanic experience" and is sponsoring screenings of the film to provide this experience to others.

The fact that the same work can be seen as a cautionary horror tale for Christians and a recruitment tool for satanists speaks volumes about the philosophical divisions within our society and culture. I was curious to see how the same film could be viewed through both a Christian sacramental lens and a satanic interpretive lens.

The premise of the film is simple. A devout Puritan family in 17th century America faces horrors from without and within as it struggles to survive in a hostile wilderness. As the film opens, the father, William, defiantly asserts his righteousness in an unspecified doctrinal dispute against the authorities of his church. The governor of the community rules against this heresy and publicly expels William and his family from the church community, the only civilization at hand. William then leads his family to a piece of wilderness land where they will build a home, work the land, and worship God on their own terms. The land borders a dense, dark forest that the children are forbidden to enter.
A family prays around the dinner table, on the brink of spiritual trial.
With permission, A24 Films.

This is a family of seven: parents William and Katherine; Thomasin the eldest child, who is on the cusp of womanhood; Caleb, who is a few years younger; Mercy and Jonas, twins who are past the toddler stage; and newborn Samuel. Almost immediately, disaster strikes. A family member disappears while under Thomasin's care. In a few swift images involving some blurred nudity and implied violence, the audience sees that the woods harbor a horrible menace. As the family reels from the tragedy, the crops fail, family members turn on each other, William makes increasingly poor leadership decisions, and the dark power in the woods grows ever closer to their home. To reveal more would be to spoil the movie.

Looking at the film through a Catholic sacramental lens, I see a story of a strong-willed father exercising leadership of his family while isolated from other human company and struggling against a hostile natural (and possibly supernatural) environment. The film reminds me of The Mosquito Coast, another film about a father -- in this case not religious, but a utopian idealist-- who leads his family into a harsh environment where his idealism and leadership are no match for the realities of the environment. Both films feature a nearly-adult child who makes the hard discovery that a revered father is fallible to the point of hubris and failure. In The Witch, that child is Thomasin. Both films examine both the high level of personal virtue required of a leader, and the personal choices that open up to a child who experiences terrible consequences of the clay feet of a parent.

To his credit, the filmmaker presents the austere piety of the father, William, straight on, without the stereotypical condemnation or religious buffoonery we have come to expect in film depictions of devout Christians. William is confident of his role as the head of the family, but he isn't a tyrant. He shows his wife and family love; he does not terrorize them. He considers it a duty of leadership to teach his family to live a life of daily faith. He holds strong theological beliefs, but when Caleb questions these he does not get angry at the questioning. He catechizes, encourages and explains-- gently and without harshness-- up until the time that the mounting horror of his family's situation overwhelms him. Then he erupts in fear and anger. His faith has not proven equal to the challenge surrounding him.

A question for Catholics viewing the film might be, why and how does the family unravel? Is it the family structure per se, the father's hubris, a flawed theology, or the family's insufficient spiritual lubricant , i.e. love? Delving even further and more thoughtfully into the film’s content, we might focus our sacramental lens on the portrayal of Christian desolation. The Pauline practice of Cinema Divina encourages us to ask, What is the Holy Spirit saying to me, specifically, through the images and content of the film I am viewing?[ii] Do you experience times in your life of faith when it seems that the darkness is ready to swallow you whole? How do you keep body and soul together when all you want to do is cry out, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?[iii]” If it appears that God is not answering your prayers, do you turn elsewhere?

The Satanic Temple (TST) would reject most of what I wrote above. For TST and other groups that have seized on the movie, the problem is as simple as the patriarchal structure of the Christian family itself. Anti-patriarchy groups see nothing healthy in a family where the husband and father holds a leadership position. Religious piety in such a father is seen as a vehicle of oppression of his wife and children. In the thought of Jex Blackmore, national spokesperson for The Satanic Temple, you need look no further than William himself to discover why his failure as a man of faith, as a father and as a husband is a triumph for Thomasin and the females in the film.

"The Witch examines theocratic patriarchy in microcosm, documenting the pathology of a religious hysteria that is still influential in politics today," writes Blackmore[iv]. "While the patriarchy makes witches of only the most socially vulnerable members of society, Eggers’ film refuses to construct a victim narrative. Instead it features a declaration of feminine independence... We are empowered by the narrative of The Witch: a story of pathological pride, old-world religious paradigms, and an outsider who grabs persecution by the horns... The witch does not burn but rises up in the night.

"The Witch is not only a powerful cinematic experience, but also an impressive presentation of Satanic insight... The Witch is more than a film; it is a transformative Satanic experience that, in its call to arms, becomes an act of spiritual sabotage and liberation from the oppressive traditions of our forefathers.[v] "

Transformative Satanic experience? Satanic insight? Pretty scary stuff from a Pauline perspective! Why would I even go there? I think it is important for Paulines to hear this for a couple of reasons. We are a Catholic religious family whose primary mission is to make use of the media in order to tell the world the good news about Jesus Christ. Words have significance, and so do images.

Consider the words "Satan", "Satanism," "Satanic", and the like. We Paulines take the existence of evil as seriously as did Our Lord himself, who came to us as the Way, the Truth and the Life. We know that "our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.[vi]" Satan is real. Our journeying with our Lord as He makes all things new involves real spiritual attacks from the realm of the fallen angels, who much prefer the old ways. We see it in Jesus' own life, we experience it in our own.

The Satanic Temple, though, is a satanic group that does not believe in the supernatural. They do not believe that Satan is real. They embrace the concept of Satan as a dark, Byronic rebel against authority, specifically the authority of those who represent the Judaeo-Christian God. But they also know, as we do, the power of words. Satanic Temple members self-identify as and revel in their status as pariahs. They love to outrage and terrify Christians by proclaiming themselves Satanists, urging others to sign the devil's book and join them in calling for a Satanic revolution.

Catholic responses to this need not be over-reactive. I suggest that our proper response is prayer and education. Many of our contemporaries are drawn to the occult, whether they profess belief in it or not. This makes them vulnerable to spiritual influences that are not benign. Many contemporary Satanists, unlike The Satanic Temple, do in fact believe and profess allegiance to the real Satan. This is dangerous territory indeed, calling forth compassion and not enmity for those who, like us, are infinitely precious to Our Lord.

What many of these folks have in common is acceptance of a fierce and often wildly hateful critique of Christianity and its traditions, especially its understanding of gender, sexuality, and family. This critique is in the schools and the universities. It is all over the Internet. Rather than wringing our hands about it, we need to understand it and educate ourselves in the topics. We should aim at developing a range of reasonable, informative responses to legitimate criticism and compassionate, forthright responses to illegitimate.

Production values are good. The movie is beautifully shot. It moves at a slow, suspenseful, creepily contemplative pace with sporadic bursts of action. It was meticulously researched (according to its director), with large chunks of dialogue taken from 17th century sources.

I recommend the movie "The Witch," with a couple of disclaimers, to horror movie fans who have a mature grasp of their own faith. First disclaimer is: don’t watch the trailer! It gives away plot points. Second disclaimer: it does not provide the kind of entertainment many people look for as a way to relax at the end of the day. It's not at all a "feel-good" movie. I found it disturbing. I recommend watching it in a time and place where good discussion can follow. Seen through a sacramental lens, it addresses timeless issues of leadership, family life and Christian discipleship.
As for the satanic lens, I think The Satanic Temple misses a very obvious point in the movie. In their FAQ, The Satanic Temple describes the satanic attitude to which they aspire as that of the eternal rebel who bows his to no authority, and that of the heretic who questions religious authorities and rejects tyrannical impositions [vii].  

Who is it in the film who most closely resembles the Satanic hero?
A father walks the path of religious rebellion, choosing
personal sovereignty over his faith community: at what cost?
With permission, A24 Films.
Recall now the small bits of the movie’s plot that I have described here. What was the opening scene? The father of the family presents himself as a rebel in opposition to authority, defending personal sovereignty in the face of insurmountable odds. He refuses to bend his will to that of the authorities of his church, and he presents himself as a heretic willing to be banished as a pariah.

In other words, he adopts a satanic attitude. And it did not work out too well for him...

[i] Jensen, Kurt, "The Witch", Catholic News Service; see http://www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews/2016/the-witch.cfm for full review, with permission.


[ii] See Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP’s excellent explanation of Cinema Divina in “What is Cinema Divina?”, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sisterrosemovies/2013/01/what-is-cinema-divina/ , with permission.

[iii] Words of Jesus Christ from the Cross; Matthew 25:46.
[iv] Blackmore, Jex. "The Witch X Satanic Temple: A Letter from Jex Blackmore", http://satanic-revolution.com/ , with permission.

[v]  Ibid.

[vi] Ephesians 6:12.

[vii] The Satanic Temple, FAQ, http://thesatanictemple.com/faq/ 

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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 46 years, have six sons, three daughters, nine grandsons and eight granddaughters; they eagerly await the birth of grand #18. 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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Respect and Humility-Attending our Relationships

In our intensely fast-paced, technologically driven world, we can often overlook the people in our lives and our need for relationships. Work becomes all encompassing and life seems to be passing us by at greater and greater speeds. It is too easy to forget what is really important in life—relationships—with God, family and friends. Friendship and family relationships take time to nourish, develop and sustain. And, unfortunately, they can be too easily taken for granted. I know I have done this at various intervals in my life. Now I wonder what drove me to be so intense about tasks and less about people and my relationships with God and others. I believe it takes humility to see oneself for who one really is, to understand one’s place in the world and the purpose of life.

Jesus says, in Luke’s Gospel, that those who "exalt themselves will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."  Too often we can point the finger at someone else to say they are arrogant or prideful, but forget to look at ourselves. How do we live this gospel maxim?

(photo courtesy of Warner Bros.; www.theinternmovie.com)
I think of the movie, The Intern, with Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway, in which a young internet startup founder, Jules Ostin (Hathaway), is forced by her board to have a Senior Intern program at her company. When retiree Ben Whittaker (DeNiro) comes to be her full-time intern assistant she and other 20 and 30-somethings question whether Whittaker knows anything about running an online fashion startup. In great humility, Ben is there to learn, to be of assistance wherever necessary. Even though he is called “old-fashioned” or “vintage” for wearing a suit to work in the very casual atmosphere, he goes about with quiet confidence that what he knows is not useless, that his experience is valuable and his worth is not in doing many things, but in the relationships he develops. He offers a wealth of wisdom through his humble presence. In the end, he becomes everybody’s mentor, support and friend. He puts the focus where it should be—on people.

Sometimes in life, it takes time to grow in wisdom, to see things in light of the greater good other than one’s own. Humility allows us to rejoice with those who are doing great things and to suffer with those who are struggling. Humility is about placing our life focus more on relationships, on the people with whom we live, on friendships and acquaintances, rather than on building extensive careers, amassing wealth or gaining recognition.

Ben Whittaker was a great reminder to a younger generation that those who have gone ahead of us are not “out-of-date” but are rather people full of wisdom and a desire to teach, guide and mentor. It is a reminder that working at and building up relationships is crucial to our lives as authentic human beings. Most especially this is true in our relationship with our Creator, Lover, Father and Friend. Spending time with those we love is the best gift we can give them. It is perhaps the only thing we can give that truly matters. For sharing our life in humility and love is what gives joy, hope and consolation to all the people in our lives. This is what the writer of Sirach means, where he says, “conduct your affairs with humility and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts” (Sir. 3:17).

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Sr. Nancy is a Media Literacy Education Specialist and Director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies, Culver City, CA. She is a member of the Daughters of St. Paul and has degrees in Communications Arts and Theology and Arts. She has extensive experience in the creative aspects of social media, print media production, radio and video production as well as in marketing, advertising, retail management and media administration. For over 20 years, Sr. Nancy has given numerous media literacy workshops, presentations and media retreats around the country. She is a member of NAMLE (National Association for Media Literacy Education), SIGNIS (World Catholic Association for Communication), and a contributing theologian at THEOCOM (Theology and Communications in Dialogue). She is present on Twitter @snancy, Snapchat, Facebook, Vine, Instagram and www.bemediamindful.org. She is a contributing writer to the Fuller Theological Brehm Center’s Reel Spirituality website: http://www.brehmcenter.com/initiatives/reelspirituality/film/articles/ . 


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Heavenly Hope in the Summer Heat


In these warm summer days, our Gospels have become somewhat fierce.  As I have done liturgy planning at my parish, I find myself with thoughts of Lent and penance when I’d rather be thinking about the beach!  We have been taught to store up treasure in heaven, to be prepared for the unknown hour of the Lord’s coming, and this Sunday to enter by the narrow gate.

Throughout the Gospels some of Jesus’ most profound teachings come from someone having enough courage to ask the tough questions.  (Take note of this for your own prayer life: ask the tough questions!)  Someone asks, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  Jesus, in his usual and often frustrating fashion, does not answer directly but gives us more to ponder: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” Luke 13:23-24 We find the master of the house saying to those to whom he preached, “Depart from me, all you evildoers!’  And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth…and you yourselves cast out.” Luke 13:27-28

The Lord is preaching to us; we eat and drink each week in his company and he is teaching in our streets.  We are meant to contemplate whether we are among those who might be left out of the master’s house.  The question should not leave us in despair however grim this Gospel appears to look.  It is a bitter pill that must be taken alongside the rest of the Gospel teachings: those of God’s great love and mercy.  The Gospel Acclamation verse, sung in anticipation of the Gospel’s proclamation reads: “I am the way, the truth, and the life, says the Lord; no one comes to the Father, except through me.”  John 14:6 This way, truth, and life is a loving and merciful God who underwent sufferings for our transgressions.  He gave all he had so that we might be saved.  He loves us with a perfect and supreme love.  To enter by the narrow gate means to respond to this love.

The virtues within us, the greatest of which is love, might not be of equal strength but they do grow in strength together.  Striving to respond to the love of God and growing in holiness assist the whole of our person in growing in strength.  We become more pure, more humble, and more joyful.  We become gentler, more faithful, and more hopeful.  Our entering through the narrow gate to avoid hell is not scurrying away from bad things and tallying all the rules we have followed.  It is a wholehearted response in love to the God who first loved us, created us, died for us, and wants us with him fully united in that love for all eternity.

“And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.  For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” Luke 13:29-30

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Kellen is 27 years old and is Director of Liturgy & Music at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Hastings, MN. He is a Masters student in Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN and is a scholar of the Church.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A ‘Pauline’ World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland?


I know quite a few will think that’s a stretch, but cannot every pilgrimage a Pauline takes be infused with the ‘Pauline’ spirit? (After all, you and I are Pauline so whatever we do is ‘Pauline’!)
Let me begin by saying that I recently had the privilege of traveling to Krakow, Poland this summer to join what amounted to be over 1.5 million young people from around the world celebrating their Catholic faith in the presence of our Holy Father Pope Francis, hundreds of bishops, thousands of priests & religious, and even thousands more adult chaperones, who walked with them on this great pilgrimage! What was started some 30 years before by the late Pope John Paul II to gather the Catholic youth of the world, this 31st World Youth Day was a joy to walk with a dozen youth from a local Boston parish and to see them touched by the joy of the Holy Spirit blowing ‘where He will’, strengthened in their Catholic faith, and (soon) departing for their homes yearning for more true experiences of faith and opportunities to both grow in and share their Catholic faith in the world!

It all began with the official Tuesday evening Opening Mass of World Youth Day by the Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz.  During each of the three following days of World Youth Day leading up to the great weekend encounter with the Holy Father, there are three-hour morning catechetical events taking place in hundreds of locations and in different languages.  Thousands of (in our case, eighteen thousand) youth gathered for a teaching by a Bishop, several witness talks by peers, and a period of praise & worship, followed by the Holy Mass presided over by that Bishop. These three-hour mornings gave our youth a great infusion of Catholic life where they learned more about being Catholic, seeing the importance of the faith in their lives, and encountering Christ Jesus in the Sacraments, both Eucharist and Confession, which was held often and at every turn!

Stained glass windows of Pauline Saints in chapel of PDDM in Warsaw.

Their afternoons and evenings were filled with events hosted by larger movements or communities within the Universal Church, visits to numerous Catholic churches where they could see elements of the vibrant 1,000-year history of Catholicism in Poland, and encounters with the lives of two great contemporary Polish saints of our day: Pope John Paul II and Sr. Faustina Kowalska! After a long history of great Polish saints, these two great figures offered our youth vibrant witnesses to the mercy of God through Apostolic and Contemplative lives and a call to be witnesses themselves to the most necessary gift of our day for young and old alike: God’s Divine Mercy!

After the Thursday evening official welcome of Pope Francis and the Friday evening contemporary celebration of the Stations of Cross with the Pope, the high point of the week-long Catholic celebration is the long-awaited overnight when 1.5 million youth walked some 8 miles to Campus Misericordae (The Campus of the Mercy, near the world renown underground Wieliczka Salt Mine).  Here their day-long convergence brought them together from (almost) every nation and language on the cusp of the great Saturday evening Vigil: a prayer service of music, witness talks, a talk by Pope Francis, and silent Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, under a starry night of absolute silence and prayer - and when you could have heard a pin drop!  This powerful evening is followed up after a long night of sleeping out under the stars (without any cover and ‘side-by-side’) with the celebration of the Holy Mass on Sunday morning presided over by Pope Francis, hundreds of bishops, and a thousand priests!

With the Mass ending with Pope Francis’ announcement that the next international World Youth Day in 2019 will be in Panama City, our 1.5 million youth began the shortest part of the ‘rest of their lives’ with the 8 mile walk back to their temporary homes in Krakow, and the first leg of their becoming witnesses to the world of God’s great Mercy!


PDDM in Shrine of Częstochowa, Poland
So, what - you ask - made World Youth Day so ‘Pauline’? Well, each morning I began my day reciting prayers from ‘The Prayers of the Pauline Family’ prayer book when I joined a communion of Pauline brothers & sisters throughout the world praying as members of the ten Institutes of Pauline life. Each of our daily Masses in various churches throughout Krakow (and beyond) was an opportunity to be united with the thousands of Pauline priests, brothers, sisters, consecrated members, and Cooperators throughout the world who offer through the daily Holy Sacrifice of the Mass “their prayers, actions, joys and sufferings of (that) day in reparation for the sins and the salvation of men and women.” Each afternoon was a time for me to pause and celebrate the Examen Prayer and to pray the recitation of the Holy Rosary, staples of Pauline Life that conform Christ more perfectly within us. And each evening my daily Night Prayer recalled for me the many ‘Pauline saints & heroes’ who have gone before us and yet who urge us on still on our pilgrimage of life to bring Jesus Master, Way, Truth & Life to the world!

PDDM sister in Warsaw, Poland


Sr Mary Louise O'Rourke from Dublin, Ireland
Yes, everywhere we go - even pilgrimaging with 1.5 million young people from the four corners of the world - is a Pauline pilgrimage! And lest I forget, the surprise of meeting Pauline Pious Disciples of the Divine Master in the Shrine of Czestochowa;








‘Providentially’ meeting Sr. Mary Louise O'Rourke from Dublin, Ireland in the middle of a field of 1.5 million youth; and while out for an evening stroll on the streets of Warsaw, meeting Sisters of the Warsaw PDDM.  Paulines can indeed feel at home wherever we go!






So now, how about making World Youth Day in 2019 in Panama City a real Pauline Pilgrimage? It’s never too early to begin planning! (See you there!)



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Fr. Ed 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). He recently made his First Profession in the Pauline Family Institute of Jesus the Priest.