Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Sacrifices of Lent…courtesy of the coronavirus

About a week ago I wrote a blog article about taking a time-out with God, courtesy of the coronavirus. As a Catholic speaker I often give a keynote address about how I was forced to take a time-out with God because of a freak leg injury and then cancer.  In that first article, I reflected on how the coronavirus was forcing all of us to take a time-out with God. What I did not appreciate was how much things would change in just a week. More than a time-out, we are facing many sacrifices now because of the coronavirus. Perhaps it is in the sacrifice that we can find the gifts.

It is true; so much has changed in just this past week. Schools are now closed. People are being asked to work from home. Restaurants are shut down except for carry–out and delivery in many locations. Sporting events, graduations and even weddings are being cancelled or postponed. Cities and even states are shutting down. Saddest of all, Mass and receiving communion has stopped in many places.   

That brings me to Lent, a time of sacrifice, of deepening our relationship with God. Could it be that the pandemic, in forcing so many sacrifices, is helping all of us turn our attention to God? Are we not ever so grateful for the food we do have? Are children playing outside more and simply being children? As parents are we doing more to educate the children ourselves? Are we not learning to be a cohesive family again, to be present to each other? 

One thing I see more than anything these days is panic, the fear that is both driving and paralyzing people. Yes, these days are different than just a week ago, but there is no need to panic, there is no need to be afraid. Isn’t it said in the Bible 365 different times, “be not afraid”? We even have on the walls of the Pauline chapels the words spoken to Blessed Alberione at a very difficult time in his life, “Do not be afraid. I am with you.” Perhaps this is the Lent where we give up our fear and learn to truly trust in God.

Father Philip Mayer, St. James Catholic Church, Jacksonville FL
All we hear about these days is “social distancing”. I would offer that social distancing is from other humans, not God. In fact, we have more opportunity than ever to be close to God. He is beside us, on that walk outside, as we eat together as families, as we read and pray, we simply have to turn to him. More than ever, the priests are finding new ways to bring spiritual fruit to us. You can go to Mass on-line, every day, at all times of the day. You can attend Adoration, on-line. You can go to confession to priests in the drive through stations that have been set up. There are multiple story-times set up for the children, on-line. While we are socially distancing, we have many opportunities to become spiritually closer to God.

We are being forced to stay in, to stay together as a family unit, to take a time out, and in that is the gift of leaning into God, if we choose to accept it. God is waiting for us, He is longing for us and the world has offered us the gift of shutting things down so that we can open ourselves up to Him.

Isn’t that true of sacrifices? That a sacrifice causes us to reassess: it is a giving of ourselves for transformational purposes. We can embrace our sacrifices and recognize that this pandemic is opening up such clear pathways to God, so that we can be transformed.

There is a hunger in our sacrifices. I don’t know about you, but when I give up chocolate for Lent, it seems like chocolate is all around me and I can’t wait until Lent is over so I can have a piece again. Somehow simply knowing we can’t have it makes it all the more desirable. How I hope that in this time of the pandemic, Catholics the world over long even more fully for the real Body and Blood of Christ. How I hope that in its unavailability to us, we become deeply desirous of the sacrament of communion.
In a society that takes so many things for granted: people, restaurants, sporting events, and yes, even Holy Communion, perhaps this sacrifice will help remind us of how precious the Body and Blood of Christ really is for us. Perhaps the sacrifice this Lent will ignite the hunger in us to truly turn to God, to choose good, to value each other and to recognize this transformational time in our lives.

Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo, courtesy Sr. Kathryn J Hermes, fsp/

One of my favorite quotes---I reference it often---is from Mother Thecla, when she says, “God is a very good cameraman and will project the film of our lives. Let us be radiant stars.” This is our time, in our sacrifices this Lent, to show others how we can live and love Christ each and every day. We can be the radiant stars, by leaning into God, not being afraid, and offering up these sacrifices as we await his Resurrection, celebrated on Easter.

The once international corporate marketing executive is now an author and speaker who encourages people to live radiantly, letting God shine through them. Donna A. Heckler was blessed with a prominent career serving multi-billion dollar organizations and now focuses her writing at the intersection of faith and business.  Donna’s award winning book "Marketing God: Inspired Strategies for Building the Kingdom" was just released in August 2019 by OSV and is a crash course for those passionate about their faith and looking for ways to share it effectively. 

Recognized as a thought leader in brand and marketing strategy, she is co-author of the book The Truth About Creating Brands People Love. Donna penned the acclaimed book Living Like A Lady When You Have Cancer after her stage 3 cancer diagnosis. She worked through her treatments but worked even more at trying to live radiantly every day. 

God now takes a front seat in Donna’s life as she shares her journey, her beliefs, her faith in her writing and speaking. Donna reminds us to sit quietly with God and to live radiantly despite what is happening in our lives, with God shining through every day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Reflections on the Feast of the Annunciation

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation!  The founder of our Pauline Family, Blessed James Alberione, placed his ministry under the protection of Mary, Queen of Apostles.  As a Pauline, it seems only fitting to write about our Lady on this feast day and reflect on my “annunciation” moments and how they changed my relationship with our Blessed Mother. MARY’S YES! MARY’S TRUST
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

At the Annunciation, although troubled by the invitation to be the mother of the Messiah, Mary said “yes” and cooperated with God’s plan for her life. We are all faced with situations when God’s messages are troubling or confusing. Like Mary, we might ask, “How can this be?” We might hesitate to say yes because we are afraid. I often have to remember the angel’s last words to Mary: “Do not be afraid” (Luke 1:30). Mary’s yes always reminds me that “with God all things are possible.” (A light but small personal story: Thinking back to when I was invited to write for this blog, I thought, “How am I going to get out of this?” Well, here I am and happy that I said “yes.” A wise friend told me, “Do not be afraid.”)

RELATIONSHIP My thoughts of Mary are usually of her role as the mother of Jesus and the joys and sorrows she experienced. While preparing for this article, however, I thought more about my relationship with her and her role in my life. Being a cradle Catholic and attending 12 years of Catholic school, Mary was always there in the Rosary, May crownings, novenas, etc.; however, after two surprising experiences, she started to play a bigger role in my life and my relationship with her changed. She became a confidant, a companion, a strong intercessor -- my Mother. UNEXPECTED EVENTS Shortly after my father passed in 2001, we were driving to visit our daughter in college. While thinking about my dad during that drive, I had an image of our Lady telling me he was OK. The vision was of her face and neck. Didn’t think too much of it; however, everything changed when I arrived at my daughter’s apartment. Her roommate asked me to go with her to purchase a new light for her Blessed Mother night lamp. Of course, I asked to see it. The lamp was of Mary and the exact image I had of her earlier in the day! About 12 years ago, I started to pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe and asked her intercession for my daughter to have a child. At the time, I did not know that she was the Protector of the Unborn – a God incident right there! Well, a few months later my daughter told me she was expecting. One of the first persons I shared this wonderful news with was a Daughter of St. Paul. When I told her that December 9th was the baby’s due date, she told me that was the first apparition of our Lady to Juan Diego! My grandson was not born on December 9th but on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12! These events drew me closer to Mary and I continue to be in awe when thinking about them.

 Mary Help for Hard Times

Sharing our stories is one of the best tools of evangelization.   As commented by another Cooperator on this blog site recently: “I love reading about other people’s authentic moments of faith.”  I  do too!
 A favorite book published by Pauline Books & Media is Mary, Help in Hard Times.  Along with prayers, reflections and devotions, people share their personal stories of answered prayers through Mary’s intercession or events in their lives that helped to grow  their devotion to her.

One of my favorite stories in the book was written by our current National Director of Pauline Cooperators, Sr. Jacqueline Jean-Marie Gitonga, FSP.  Sr. Jackie shares her testimony of how her Marian Consecration using 33 Days to Morning Glory by Father Michael Gaitley, MIC was life changing.  Through this Consecration, she was encouraged to invite Mary into her home and open herself more completely to her.  Mary became someone she could relate to in everyday living!

If you are not familiar with making a consecration to Mary, I encourage you to do so.  I completed St. Louis de Montfort’s Consecration to Mary and Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory and recommend them both.  As confirmed by Sr. Jackie, these Consecrations help to deepen our devotion to and further our relationship with Jesus through Mary. 
Let’s turn to Mary and ask her to accompany us in our journey; be confident that she will take our problems to Jesus. I pray to have the same openness in my life as Mary did -- with trust and faith. 
Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us!

Maryann Toth has been a Pauline Cooperator since 2008.  She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Richard, is the mother of two daughters, blessed with four grandchildren and semi-retired as a Credit/AR Manager.  She serves as a Eucharistic Minister and lector at her parish and volunteers at a local Catholic hospital.  Helping at book exhibits and JClub presentations are her favorite activities as a Cooperator.  She currently serves as a Lay Provincial Team Member with the Daughters of St. Paul.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A Book to Give Hope for Healing After an Abortion

As an acquisitions editor for our publishing house, Pauline Books and Media, I offered to write an occasional post for this blog, figuring that I could share some inspiring back stories of books we publish.  

I don’t know about you, but I like to hear stories behind the story -- authors’ accounts of how and why an idea for a book came to them, or editors’ stories of when manuscripts came into their hands and how they came to be published.  All of our titles have beautiful back stories, but I want to share with you a little bit about a book that I acquired and we published two months ago. 

The book is God’s Mercy Awaits You: Find Healing After Abortion by Sr. Patricia Marie Barnette, RGS.  Sr. Patricia Marie is a member of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, who were founded in France in 1835.  They work with the poor, especially those most hurt by life. They take a fourth vow (in addition to the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience) of zeal for the salvation of souls.  

Sr. Patricia Marie has been working in counseling, and in particular helping women (and men) in post-abortion healing, for over thirty years.  She had the idea to write this book on her annual retreat one year, and she wrote it with the encouragement of many people, hoping to reach those who have themselves not yet reached out for help.  

She submitted her manuscript to us by email.  When I read Sr.  Patricia Marie’s proposal and her manuscript, I quickly felt very strongly that this book was so needed; so valuable, that we had to publish it! I remember the line in her proposal that most struck me:  she mentioned that she has worked with women even in their 70s and 80s who had not yet had a chance to heal from their abortions, to experience and receive the mercy of God.  I felt such a strong conviction that it is not God’s will for a person to live for years in guilt and shame.  God does not want this for any of us, no matter how grave our sin.  God wants us to turn to him in repentance and receive the forgiveness, love, joy, and grace he longs to give. 

Sr.  Patricia Marie explains, “Because of the trauma and the shame and the isolation, some women are so petrified that someone will find out—there are so many negative thoughts.  It takes a real act of courage for them to come forward and to admit to even one person the abortion in their past.”  

This book is addressed to the woman herself who has had an abortion, to help her begin her healing and find the help she needs.  (There are abundant resources listed in the back of the book.)  “Tips for family members and friends,” are also included after each chapter to help people know what to say and how to assist someone who has confided about a past abortion.  

The thing is, all of us—whether we know it or not—are in contact with someone who has been affected by an abortion—a woman or man who has lost a child through abortion, a sibling, grandparent, etc.  The pain and guilt and grief of abortion are such that they are rarely shared with another person, so we might not know who among our acquaintances are carrying this suffering in their hearts, who still need to experience the mercy and forgiveness of God. 

“It’s such a work of mercy,” says Sr.  Patricia Marie, about the post-abortion healing ministry.  “What is so beautiful is how God works.  When I work with a woman who goes from being very depressed and abandoned and gradually gets more peace and joy—and I’m able to be part of that moment when she accepts the love of God and it transforms her.  That is the work.” 

This book would also be an excellent gift for any priest for their own information and to have on hand to share with others.


Sister Maria Grace Dateno is a Daughter of St. Paul, currently an acquisitions editor at Pauline Books & Media, the publishing house of the community. She has an M.A. in theology from The Catholic University of America and has served as the manager of the Pauline Books & Media Center in Alexandria, Virginia. Originally from northern Virginia, she is the author of the six-book Gospel Time Trekkers series, which are time-travel adventures for ages six to nine. Other children’s books include: The Mass Explained for Kids (co-author) and I Pray the Stations of the Cross. Her books for adults include Pray the Rosary: A Walk with Jesus and Mary and The Mass Explained.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Catholic Boomer Death Watch 2: Chasing the Mysteries

To our Pauline family and all of our readers and friends out there during this coronavirus event: wash your hands, stay safe, and pray. Our Jesus, we trust in Thee!

Revisiting A Shocking Discovery ...

It seems like a lifetime ago that this blog published "Catholic Boomer Death Watch. Part 1."  How innocent my article seems to me now. I knew so little then about the numbers of mostly-young Catholics who dislike or downright despise the Second Vatican Council! What a shock to discover! I wrote then about the anger many young Catholics feel towards “baby boomers,” those of us born between 1946 and 1964.  

“Your generation completely failed to pass the Faith on to us,” one young Catholic friend, Tracy, wrote to me. “This is why we are angry at you.” I have since become familiar with the phrase “OK Boomer”---a mocking rejoinder used in social media when an aging boomer is thought to suggest 20th century solutions for 21st century problems.  

 “By their fruits you will know them,” Tracy wrote me again. “Name a single good fruit that came from the Second Vatican Council.” Let's take a look at that Council. 

The Second Vatican Council: Why? ... 

“Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8)”, but the times and cultures through which his Church moves are not. The Catholic Church holds its four marks through the centuries: it is ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC.  But its customs, music, liturgical forms, relations with world powers, and other mutable elements grow and change along with the civilizations of the ever-changing world.  One century's innovation is another century's tradition. 

The Second Vatican Council ran from 1962 to 1965.  It was the first of the ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church that was not called to address a specific crisis of doctrine. Pope St. John XXIII instead called the Council to address relations between the Church and the modern world.  In Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, Pope John's opening address to the Council, he notes that despite the danger from the errors of modernism that Pope Pius X had warned about in Pascendi Dominici Gregis (1907), Providence is guiding the new ordering of society that is emerging: 
… [T]he voices of people are brought to Us who, although burning with religious fervor, nevertheless do not think things through with enough discretion and prudence... These people see only ruin and calamity in the present conditions of human society. They keep repeating that our times, compared to past centuries, have been getting worse. And they act as if they have nothing to learn from history, … as if at the time of past Councils everything went favorably and correctly with respect to Christian doctrine, morality, and the Church's proper freedom. 
We believe we must quite disagree with these prophets of doom who are forecasting disaster, as if the end of the world were at hand. In the present course of human events, by which human society seems to be entering a new order of things, we should see instead the mysterious plans of divine Providence which through the passage of time and the efforts of men, and often beyond their expectation, are achieving their purpose and wisely disposing of all things, even contrary human events, for the good of the Church.(Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, 8-9) 


In the public mind, the two most dramatic results of Vatican II were the dramatic changes to the liturgy and the ecumenical dialogue with persons of other faiths---attempts to understand rather than to oppose or convert.  And indeed, critics of Vatican II have zeroed in on initiatives in liturgy and ecumenism as the most troubling deviations from Catholicism of the past. But the scope of the Council was broader, and encompassed all of the Church's constitutive parts: 
The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this, that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be more effectively defended and presented. This teaching embraces the whole human person, body and soul, and it commands us pilgrims, who dwell on this earth, to strain eagerly towards the heavenly homeland... [It] is first of all necessary that the Church never turn her eyes from the sacred heritage of truth which she has received from those who went before; and at the same time she must also look at the present times which have introduced new conditions and new forms of life, and have opened new avenues for the Catholic apostolate. (Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, 11-12)  


Joy, Sorrow, Glory: The Traditional Christian Mysteries ... 

Pope John XXIII hoped, as he convened the Council, “that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be more effectively defended and presented.” How has that worked out for us? According to my young friend Tracy, not all that well. But I think this is a short-sided view of the matter. “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. (2 Peter 3:8)” It has been sixty years since the Second Vatican Council closed in 1965. Sixty years is a blink of an eye with the Lord. Why would we expect His Church's most recent Council to have accomplished its goals already and flowered this quickly into its final fruits? 

The rosary is a beautiful traditional Catholic prayer whereby we meditate on the joys, sorrows and glories of the Redeemer's life; but to what purpose? Can the rosary and its cycle of mysteries help us understand the Second Vatican Council?  

Much of my friend Tracy's criticism is correct. The Council began expectantly, then tripped and stumbled over implementation. The joy of its beginning lasted a year or two. Then changes came too quickly. Enthusiasm overpaced prudence. 

I could fill a volume with stories of the battles I fought myself against impoverished Catholicism. I watched feel-good catechetical works replace the Baltimore Catechism---“butterflies and flowers Catholicism” that emphasized feelings over doctrinal clarity. I rescued boxes of books from the trash when my parish's director of religious education (who believed in reincarnation by-the-bye) threw out any book written before 1962. 

The constant invocation of “the spirit of Vatican II” took on a mystique of its own. It came to mean any change an innovator wanted to enact. The Church started down a via crucis of liturgical and doctrinal confusion. Always remember, though: Jesus' own public mission had a similar trajectory. It too began in joy, boomed with enthusiasm, and appeared to devolve into abject failure.  But appearances were deceiving.

If you don't succumb to the short-sided view, you can see that we are at the cusp of a resurrection in the life of the Church. Mysteries of glory bloom around us, from the beautification of churches, to the popularity of traditional liturgies and devotions, to the proliferation of adoration chapels. Some traditionalists think that their insistence on veils at Mass and ad orientem liturgy are the cause of this revival. But in fact what is happening is a flowering of the Church's rapprochement with the world and its technologies---initiatives of Vatican II.  

Take the use of social communication. When I first participated in digital discussions of the faith in the 1980s, online culture was aggressively hostile to religion. To practice online apologetics in the 80s was to open oneself to near-universal online ridicule. It was rare to meet others online who understood doctrine, were non-dissenting, and provided support for fellow Catholics.  Now think of today's proliferation of Catholic websites, documents, blogs, and social media communities. Tracy and her friends today possess in spades what my generation of Catholics could only dream of. 

Yet they, this fortunate generation of Catholics, grouse and groan. They are nostalgic to return to the culture of western Catholicism from the 16th century to the Second Vatican Council. Why? The Council of Trent was the Church's answer to Protestantism; that Council took place in an overwhelmingly Christian world that no longer exists. Vatican II's document Gaudium et Spes rightly described the world that the current renewal is taking place in: "Unlike former days, the denial of God or of religion, or the abandonment of them, are no longer unusual and individual occurrences... Indeed today's progress in science and technology can foster a certain exclusive emphasis on observable data, and an agnosticism about everything else (Sec. II:57)" 

Who seriously thinks that the renewal going on right now is because of a wholesale rejection of Vatican II? The challenges of 20th and 21st century secularism are distinct from the challenges of 16th century Protestantism. Read the documents of Vatican II and you will see that they form a distinctive response to the growing secularism of the post-Enlightenment world. The vigor of 21st century Catholicism is all around us. Young Catholic families welcome multiple children with joy with support that those of us who raised large families forty years ago can only envy.  The internet gives access to two thousand years of Catholic thought and art. We are in the midst of a Catholic revival. The recovery of traditions from the post-Trent period is a welcome awakening from the post-conciliar sleep when innovation was running wild. But a return to the past is not the point.  

Novus ordo vs The Latin Mass--- why??
Rejection of Vatican II and the current magisterium is a modern form of that kicking against the goad practiced by St. Paul while still hostile to Christ and stuck in traditional Phariseeism. The internal Catholic back-biting is a scandal to those who are looking from the outside in. Why would they want to join a community divided against itself?

It is bonkers to pit the Novus Ordo against The Latin Mass, for instance. The last email exchange I had with Father Leonard Klein, a beloved priest who championed the Latin Mass in my diocese, was directly related to my discussion with Tracy. Fr. Klein died on December 4 of last year. Two months before his death and ailing, this good shepherd was doing what he always did, attending to his flock: 
On Oct 2, 2019, at 3:03 PM, Rae Stabosz wrote: Hi Fr. Klein, Am I standing on solid theological ground when I assert that it is not possible for The Latin Mass to be inherently superior to the Novus ordo? It seems to me obvious that it is the same act, the same "unbloody sacrifice" as we said when I was a girl, performed or celebrated or enacted (I don't know the right verb) in two different, equally valid formats or using two equally valid set of rubrics. Am I correct? Thanks, Rae  
On Wed, Oct 2, 2019, 6:40 PM, wrote:  You would be on solid ground. There are good arguments for the old form but those are also good arguments for the new form done well. Fr  Klein

Mysteries of the Rosary and the Challenges of Change
“Name one good thing that came out of Vatican II,” was the challenge put to me. I offer the luminous mysteries of the rosary. There are more but let's stick to our rosary theme. Pope St. John Paul II added them in 2002 when he issued his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae. Some traditionalists will not pray the mysteries of light. Yet think of what they contemplate in the daily life of Jesus---the baptism; the wedding feast of Cana; the proclamation of the Kingdom; the Transfiguration; the institution of the Eucharist. Can you see their relevance to the skirmishes of modern life, where we argue about the reality of sin, the need for repentance, the nature of marriage, the randomness of life and the Presence or absence of God in human life?

From where I sit, the luminous mysteries---an innovation of Pope John Paul II and the post-Vatican II Church--are a brilliant help to understandingnChrist and an awesome aid to ruminations on the meaning of our human condition. The luminous mysteries came in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, as did John Paul II's Theology of the Body. This series of talks, grounded in the 20th century theology of personalism, is already a source of insight into questions of human sexuality and the meaning of bodily life---issues at the forefront of secular disputation in our culture today.

Ven. Carlo Acutis
Venerable Carlo Acutis was an Italian teenager who died of leukemia at age fifteen in 2006. He was a self-confessed “computer geek” who loved to play Pokémon on his PlayStation. He imposed limits on his own screen time, without his parents' instruction, so that his love of gaming would not lessen his love for Jesus. He is known for compiling and organizing the list of Church-approved Eucharistic miracles into an easily accessible web site. He was recognized for heroic virtue and made Venerable in 2018.  

“I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20),” Jesus said. He didn't abandon his Church the day Pope John XXIII convened the Council. If the post-conciliar times can produce a technologically-savvy Italian teenager on the road to sainthood, shouldn't we give up the illusion that Catholicism was better in the past? Let's stop bickering and apply ourselves to becoming saints in the present.


Rae Stabosz made her Promise to be a Pauline Cooperator in 2003. She loves being a part of the Pauline Family. She and Bill Stabosz, her husband of 50 years, have six sons, three daughters, fourteen grandsons and nine granddaughters. She retired in 2007 from the University of Delaware, where she was a technology and media specialist for 27 years. Rae is co-founder and past president of The Society of Catholic Scholars of Delaware, and proprietor (since 2004) of the Pious Ladies Bookmobile.