Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Why Cooperate?

What attracted you to the Pauline Family?  
Why do you keep coming back?  
How are you involved in the apostolate in your own life?  

So often many of us Pauline Cooperators do not have the time or opportunity to have these conversations among our own groups of Cooperators.  How much harder is it to engage with and learn from Cooperators who live across the country or around the world?

We are starting a periodic series of Cooperator profiles on the blog in order to start these conversations among the wider Cooperator community.  Blog Coordinators Christine and Rae have asked me to begin.  Please use these questions as a jumping off point to share your own story -- or feel free to adapt them!  Let’s share our stories.

How did you learn about the Pauline family?

I used to live in Chicago for a few years and would sometimes pass by the Pauline book and media center downtown.  I never went inside for some reason, but I was vaguely aware that it existed.  Several years ago, I was looking around for some sort of lay association.  There are so many religious orders in Boston, where do you even start to find the right match?  I started off with some communities that looked like they would be great fits on paper, but they didn’t quite fit.  The Daughters of St Paul provincial house is in my neighborhood, within walking distance of my house so I thought I should check them out at least once.  I was hooked and kept coming back!

What attracted you about the Pauline charism?

When I was finishing college, I read Dorothy Day’s autobiography Loaves and Fishes.  In the
opening scene, Peter Maurin is bursting into her apartment telling her that as they were about to start this Catholic Worker movement she needed to start a newspaper in order to facilitate “the clarification of thought.” I was just finishing my undergraduate years where I had majored in philosophy, was editor-in-chief of our college newspaper, and had been the head of our campus fellowship group.  This idea of using a newspaper to facilitate “the clarification of thought” seemed to be made for me.  Then life went on and I started to get settled into adulthood I stopped thinking about that.

Years later, as I started reading about Father Alberione and the Pauline charism all those memories started to come back.  How can I be contributing to the Clarification of Thought?

How has your involvement with the Pauline family enriched your spiritual life?

I love the Pauline emphasis on Jesus as Divine Master, Way Truth and Life.  Being a Christian disciple is not only a matter of going to church on Sundays and saying my prayers, as important as those are, but should shape how I am an employee, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a neighbor, a consumer, a citizen, and everything else.  Pauline devotions keep reminding me that Jesus must not only be my Truth but my Way and Life as well.

I appreciate the practice of a Visit -- to settle myself down in a chapel, set my cell phone alarm for an hour and just stay there until I hear the alarm sound.  Sometimes I may have a lot to talk about and sometimes I am just settling in and being in the presence of God.  I find that setting aside those extended periods of time and giving the Holy Spirit space to do his thing is a discipline that feeds my soul.

How are you participating in the Pauline apostolate now?

I participate in the Christian Humanist Radio Network, which is an ecumenical group of scholars exploring their various fields from a confessional Christian perspective.  I very occasionally appear on air but am more often behind the scenes specifically organizing our interview program Christian Humanist Profiles which features in-depth conversations most frequently with authors who have recently released books.  I work with publishing houses and authors to keep a steady stream of guests coming for Profiles.  We’ve featured a St. Paul’s Press book Letters of Fire, and have had a variety of big names including Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright and Father James Martin SJ.

How about you?  How do you live the Pauline charism in your own lives?  Please consider sharing your story, using these questions or using your own, so that we can learn from each other in our journeys following Jesus our Divine Master.  When you are ready to share your story you can email Christine at .


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, April 20, 2016

From Formed to Transformed (God's Amazing Grace)

I am honored and happy to be invited to share my spiritual journey experience with you. It’s wonderful to know that we belong to the same Pauline family although we come from different parts of the world. Blessed Alberione foresaw the power of the social media that would connect us all together. He is indeed awesome and amazing…

I come from a typical Chinese Buddhist family, with loving parents and a total of 7 children. When I was conceived, my parents already had a son and two daughters, each with an age gap of between one year to two years. It was a burden to keep me. They felt they had no choice but to terminate the pregnancy! The Chinese medicine which my mom took was definitely a lousy concoction because it not only did not terminate the pregnancy but made me even more determined to stay on! Frightened by the outcome, my grandmother immediately loaded my mom with health tonics to boost my health and growth. I must have been super eager to come into this world -- I was delivered in the hospital elevator, amazingly with no defects or handicaps! That was the beginning of the many great works that the Almighty God has done for me! This first episode revealed that God has made me solely for His purpose. I am unique and special.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."  --- Jeremiah 1:5 

After I was born, my dad was still determined to give me away, feeling it a burden to have so many mouths to feed. But, my mom would not let me go. It was too heartbreaking for my dad to see her cry at parting with me. Another battle won in staying on in the family, but the battle goes on... 

This episode confirmed my understanding of a mother's love for and bond with her baby after carrying her for nine months in her womb. Therefore, I am pro-life and strongly against abortion.

My first contact with the Catholic Church came when I was six. My parents sent me to my grandparents on weekdays so that I could go to a good convent school. Life was miserable at the beginning. The separation was awful and I will never forget the parting and reunion once a week. It left a big scar in my life and made me terrified of parting and separation. As I grew up, I would cry easily when I saw strangers saying goodbyes at the airport or at a funeral. Twenty years later, the priest at an Exodus Experience retreat helped me work through these events that had caused me such agony. 

In this episode I first experienced the healing power of God. 

When I was seventeen, I joined the Catholic Students’ Society during my tertiary education. My fellow Catholic students influenced me to the point that I decided to get baptized and become part of the group. My dad strongly objected to my baptism. He tried to persuade me to wait until I got married, so that I could follow my future husband's religion. I went ahead without his consent. He was very upset with me and started to say things like, "I wish I had given you away…” That was how my past was revealed to me. At first I was upset and hurt. But their present love for me compensated for their past decisions. They never loved me less than my other siblings. My dad was my hero and the love of my life. It's no wonder that God then began using me to bring Dad to Him. I found out that Dad had left the Catholic Church sixty years ago. God brought first me and then my younger sister to the Catholic faith. Then my dad was able to go back to God, on his dying bed, through our intercession. His amazing grace!

After I graduated from school and started working, I became a "Sunday Catholic."

Like many practicing Catholics, my spiritual life was based on the five precepts of the Church:

  1. attend mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation
  2. confess my sins at least once a year
  3. receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season
  4. observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church
  5. help to provide for the needs of the Church
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2041-2043)

The turning point of my life came when I was twenty-six. I was invited to a Parish Renewal Experience. That weekend, I discovered I was a Singaporean Catholic and not a Catholic Singaporean. My identity had been reversed! I was born for a purpose, made for everlasting life. Reformed from being a Sunday Catholic, I became a follower of Christ who wanted to build His kingdom on earth!

I joined the Youth Group, the Legion of Mary, and participated in programs and retreats like Choice and Exodus. The Charismatic Renewal Prayer Group began in our church and needed members to help. I attended the Life in the Spirit seminar and was transformed by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit!  From a shy and timid person, I became a charismatic shepherd, leading in praise and worship!

Little did I know that God had a bigger challenge for me when I turned thirty: marriage. The four years of faith formation in the Renewal prepared me for the big cross that I had to carry, my married life. I am grateful for the challenge of my marriage. Because of my husband, I came to depend more and more on Jesus and grew closer to Him. The church became my refuge but I always returned home, reminded by the nuns or priest to keep the promise of my marriage vows. My husband is a good and generous man, just difficult to live with. And God had given me two girls, who by His grace have turned out beautiful and wonderful despite our dysfunctional marital relationship of twenty-seven years. The challenge to conform to the Church’s law that marriage is a covenant has made me a stronger person and has helped keep my family together.  

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.   ---  Romans 8:28

My first encounter with the Daughters of St Paul in Hong Kong was in the early 90s in our parish, at their book display outreach activities. The sisters invited me many times to visit their convent but I was too busy taking care of my toddlers. Then in 2007 I met Sister Grace Lee, a Singaporean FSP stationed in Macau. She invited me to join the APC in 2008. And so I became a Pauline Cooperator. The irresistible charism of St Paul and Blessed Aberione’s desire for us to become modern day St Pauls provided me the Way to lead a sanctified life.

I now yearn to be transformed by my Lord, Jesus the Master. Prayer is the oxygen to my spiritual life. Every day, I attend morning Mass to be in communion with Him, read His words, and adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament. The secret to my spiritual growth is building a close relationship with Him, who is the Master, Way, Truth and Life. This disciplined life not only brings me closer to my Lord, it also makes my life healthier with the “early to bed, early to rise” habit. My purpose now is to lead a sanctified life, to glorify God in my marriage, and to spread His gospel of love so that more people will enter His kingdom with me.

I have been formed, deformed, reformed, conformed, and transformed by Jesus Master, The Way, Truth and Life, my Living God. Amen!

Cheryl Pong, a Singaporean married to a Hong Konger, has lived in Hong Kong for the past 27 years. She is blessed with two adult girls, one working and the other still in a graduate school. She made her commitment to the Pauline family in June 2011. She helps in her parish adult catechism class, with catechumens age ranging from 17 to 70. But her greatest joy is that God brought her back to the Charismatic Renewal Prayer group last year, after leaving the group for 25 years. With the Power of the Holy Spirit, she hopes to live out St Paul's spirit that "it's no longer I that liveth but Christ that liveth in me:" Galatians 2:20. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Recognizing Christ: Lessons Learned from the Daughters of St. Paul

Stare at the line of four dots in the center for 30-60 seconds then stare at a white paper or wall.
In last Sunday’s Gospel reading, the seven disciples to whom Jesus appeared at the Sea of Tiberius did not initially recognize Jesus until after their miraculous haul of fish (Jn 21:1-19). In next Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jesus states, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me” (Jn 10:27). These two passages make me ask myself how I know and recognize the Divine Master in my own life.

I have confidence that I am hearing Jesus when I hear His voice through a friend I know is close to
Christ. When Sr. Jackie Jean-Marie Gitonga, fsp, holds my hand and tells me that Jesus and His Blessed Mother understand a particular struggle I am going through and will remain with me until the end, I get chills up my spine at the unequivocal assurance that her words are from Jesus Master. Sr. Jackie is a friend, a prayer warrior, and a loving and beloved spouse of Jesus. Through her, I can grow closer to Christ. The joy that fills her life and the love she cannot help but share with others show us the Way to Jesus. She is one of over a hundred Daughters of St. Paul in my life who represent Jesus Way.

Available by clicking this link
I also know I am hearing Christ is when I listen to the Pope and teachings of the Magisterium. I always remember Jesus promising St. Peter that the gates of hell would never prevail against His Church (Mt 16:18). When Pope Francis encourages us to seek out opportunities to show mercy to others, I have no doubt I am hearing Christ speak through his Vicar on Earth. The message is also usually a clue; a call to act with greater mercy toward others must come from Jesus who is Divine Mercy itself. I can most easily find truths of our faith on any shelf of a Pauline Books and Media Center. Every time Sr. Cynthia Guza, fsp, recommends a book or CD or DVD for me, I know it will be as rock solid as St. Peter. The Gospel message, especially as spread through the apostolate of the Good Press, represents Jesus Truth.

Finally, and most importantly, I need to strengthen my own relationship with Jesus, mainly by spending time with Him. I think of my own children; I have spent so much time with my children every day for years and years that if one whispers to me while I am sleeping at 2 AM, I immediately know which child it is and can often even anticipate his or her needs. Of course now they range from 22 to 17 years old, so middle of the night problems are usually much bigger than when they used to request a light on, a glass of water, or help for an upset stomach. The stressful situations I encounter at work have certainly not grown easier with time. Life changes, and we encounter terrifying surprises in our life that we never dreamed we would someday be experiencing. The one constant, the one thing that never changes, is the presence of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, in our family and friends, in our Church (especially in the Eucharist and the other Sacraments), and always in us. He is always here for us, but we need to make certain that we do not ignore Him.

Pray. We need to pray. Prayer can seem so daunting at times, but Sr. Mary Lea Hill, fsp (the Crabby Mystic), teaches in her books how to simply and easily talk to the God who already knows us intimately, as well as our desires, wishes, and most of all, our great fears. If we work on this friendship and talk more to Jesus and set time aside for this relationship as we would for our spouse, our children, and our friends, we will surely come to know Jesus when we see Him in others and when we hear His voice in the quiet of our sometimes aching and at other times joyful hearts. Cultivating our relationship with Christ is the surest way to know the Blessed Trinity. This vitally important relationship is Jesus Life.
As we continue to work through these steps of the Way, the Truth, and the Life, we cannot help but know God’s love in this life and for eternity, and no one, ever, “can snatch it out of the Father’s hand” (Jn 10:30).


Jeffrey E. Mathews, MD, has been a Pauline Cooperator since October 11, 2009. He and his wife, Carolyn, live in St. Louis, MO, and are blessed with three sons and two daughters (two out of college, two in college, and one in high school). Dr. Mathews, a gastroenterologist, is trying really hard to improve his Spanish for his annual medical mission trip to Honduras.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Unique Easter Encounters of Saints Peter, Thomas & Paul

In these highest of holy days, as we began our Easter Season journey with Easter Week, we highlight the eight-day Octave of Easter with the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday. On that day we give thanks for both the mercy and compassion of the Lord and for the greatest of gifts – Christ’s sacrifice on the cross redeeming all sinners for all time. The day also tests our faith and challenges us to examine our own willingness to have the generosity to offer mercy and compassion to others. Over the years, the various traditions and biblical stories of the first Easter demonstrate that there are many forms of encounter with the Light and Truth of the Easter mysteries. Each one of us experiences our own unique Easter Encounter with the Lord – some more gentle, some more traumatic, and some downright earth-shaking! The saints offer examples for us to contemplate.

Saint Peter Seeks Out Truth

In his Easter Vigil homily, the Holy Father emphasized the need to emerge from the sombre disillusionment of the Crucifixion and actively go out to seek truth and life in Christ. Last week, Pope Francis spoke of Peter, who did just that. Peter did not remain in hiding, overwhelmed with fear, disillusionment, and remorse at having denied the Master. He rose and went to the tomb, seeking the truth – that is, seeking encounter with Christ, in spite of his doubts and the darkness which surrounded him and the other disciples. The light of God was able to enter his heart because he made room for hope by not giving in to sadness and darkness.

Peter reminds us that we, too, in spite of our weaknesses and shortcomings, must humbly emerge from the darkness of doubt and self-recrimination for our lack of personal perfection to the light of encounter with the Lord. However, if we do not have the understanding, strength or courage to do so, we are not left on our own. The Lord will reach out to us. We see this in the iconic story of Saint Thomas, a saint who is inextricably associated with the Easter story.

Assuring Saint Thomas

Prior to the naming of the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday, it was often called, "Saint Thomas Sunday". This was especially true in the Eastern Churches. The reason, of course, for the reference is the centrality of the story of Saint Thomas, popularly known as “Doubting Thomas”. In John 20:27, we see the familiar story of Saint Thomas’ faith struggle. Because he was not present when Jesus first appeared to the disciples, he had great difficulty believing that the story they told was anything more than wishful thinking in the face of the perceived terrible defeat of the Crucifixion. Jesus responded to him with the contact and encouragement Thomas needed. Upon seeing and speaking with the Lord, Thomas’ faith is bolstered and he exclaims the conviction: “My Lord and my God!”  In this story, we, too, receive personal assurance and gentle encouragement with Jesus’ words, “Blessed are those who have not seen, but who have believed.”

Saint Paul’s Dramatic Call

In a sense, was not Saint Paul’s dramatic encounter on the road to Damascus an Easter Encounter as well? However, it was quite the opposite extreme from a gentle encounter. While he did not seek the encounter, Paul was strikingly humbled as he faced the Risen Lord. The intensity of the Light temporarily blinded him by contrasting the greatness of the Light with the depth of his spiritual darkness and intransigence. The effect of that Easter Encounter was dramatic and instantaneous. Paul, in spite of his shock and bewilderment, immediately recognized that he was in an encounter with the Risen Lord. He even addresses Jesus as, “My Lord” and demonstrates humble obedience to the instructions of Jesus.

The symbolic “language” of the icon pictured here shows the Pauline encounter between earth-bound Paul and the Risen Christ who reaches out to him through a window from heaven. The entire scene is bathed in the golden heavenly Light of the Redeemer. After the encounter, Paul is pictured (the inset on the right) as being led like a child by the hand to begin his journey of faith.

This humble stance of being taken by the hand is described in relation to the current believer in the Holy Father’s Easter Vigil homily, when he urged the faithful to allow the Lord to lead us by the hand and “take us out of our anguish.” The Holy Father urges us not to allow a lack of hope to imprison us within ourselves. Allow the Light of the Risen Lord to shine upon our problems! The Holy Father even spoke of “evangelizing” those problems by allowing the Light of Easter to generate Christian Hope in our hearts so that we will know that the Lord is always by our side and will never fail us.

We can only have such hope if we come out of ourselves – reject selfishness – and open our hearts to the joy, generosity and courage that are generated by the Easter Light. Mother Thecla was no stranger to this experience of the Risen Lord. In a 1931 invocation, she expressed how the Easter experience opens the heart to the Pauline ideal of allowing Christ to live fully in and through each one of us. When will I be able to say that now it is no longer I but the Lord who lives in me?


“That my thoughts and my affections become more humble and united to those of Jesus. Unite myself to him; let myself be transformed into Him.”

--Mother Thecla Merlo

Marie-Louise Handal has been a Pauline Cooperator for the past decade. She holds a Master’s Degree from St. Joseph's Seminary, an M.S. in the Foreign Service from Georgetown University, and is a candidate for the S.T.L. from the International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton. She also holds a Certificate in Spiritual Direction from the New York Archdiocesan Center for Spiritual Development. Her professional work experience encompasses 20 years in international banking and finance, followed by a second career as a mathematics educator in Manhattan. Marie-Louise is a native New Yorker, born and raised in New York City.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Out of Darkness

You are my lamp, O LORD!
My God brightens the darkness about me.   
2 Samuel 22:29

I think it is quite appropriate this blog post is coming right after Easter since I can say that looking back this whole thing feels to me like a longer version of the Easter Vigil Mass.  How when you enter the church there is such a deep darkness, it almost seems impenetrable, and then one by one as the candles are lit by the Easter candle the darkness lifts.  I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and can say this whole process from symptoms to diagnosis to treatment to now has felt exactly like that, like the darkness has been lifting and the brightness of the hope and possibilities seems endless.
Often in the past I have told my friends that God is my heart, because He has blessed me with such an amazing ability to love people, that is until I was diagnosed with Hashi’s, I began to ponder if He isn’t more like the thyroid instead.  To be honest, up until November of last year I didn’t really even know what the thyroid was, or much more about it other than that we have one and they test it to see if it is working every now and then.  Over the last few months I have read so much about it, and now know this is incredibly so much more than a simple diagnosis.  Hashi’s is an auto immune disease where my body’s natural immune system that normally protects me from invading germs or illnesses, starts attacking itself, and in my case specifically my thyroid.  I have to admit, maybe partially due to my overactive imagination and partially due to the timing of my diagnosis that went right along with the release of the latest Star Wars movie, I envisioned an epic battle going on complete with light sabers and storm troopers, unfortunately it wasn’t in some galaxy far far away though, it was inside of me.

So, now that I have shared what Hashimoto’s is, why don’t I tell you a little about what your thyroid actually does and how it has given me a better picture of God’s ways of working in my life.  The thyroid is a small gland in the lower neck that helps control mood, metabolism, temperature, energy, sleep, and even your heartbeat.  Among others, the symptoms for Hashimoto’s in particular are you can get depressed, gain weight, feel extremely cold all the time, have no energy to do simple tasks even, are exhausted even after you just wake up, have a brain fog where you can’t remember or comprehend simple things and it can even slow your heart beat.  I can’t say I noticed the extent of how really awful I was feeling until the medicine began to make me feel better again, it was like I was in this dark cloud that had come on gradually enough I didn’t notice it until the cloud began to lift and the brightness returned.  It felt like things that were always so much fun for me and brought me such joy and happiness just didn’t anymore, and maybe even like there was no hope they would ever again.  When I found out about the diagnosis, I remember being so happy that I wasn’t just “losing my mind” because I had become so tired and forgetful and actually right before I began treatment had a day that I felt so disoriented to almost feeling drunk, and I hadn’t had anything to drink. 

Since there was no denial possible, my test results were clear, and not outside of Divine providence, my boss is an Endocrinologist who specialized in Hashimoto’s, I understood pretty quickly that I did indeed have this disease.  Then my problem solving skills kicked in and the questions began.  So, what do we do about it?  The only answer I got was to just take a pill in the morning with a full glass of water an hour before eating for the rest of your life, and with regular blood tests we could determine if the dosage would need to be increased.  Would this medicine stop this battle inside of me?  The short answer from my doctor, no, it would only give me a synthetic version of the hormone my thyroid was not making enough of because of this attack, eventually though the antibodies (storm troopers) would succeed in destroying my thyroid.  Another problem with auto immune diseases is once you have one, there is a significantly increased chance on developing others, and this one is not nearly as bad as some of the others in my opinion.  

I really wasn’t happy with this being the only solution so I joined an online support group and found out about several people who had successfully reversed their Hashimoto’s with dietary adjustments.  I was amazed by the incredible abilities God has given our bodies to heal. These people didn't just mask symptoms but actually got their antibody levels to drop and normal thyroid function to return.  It required a lot of work on my part, I would have to go gluten, grain, dairy, soy, nut, legume and nightshade free for the next 31 days at least, and give up some things like caffeine and sugar probably forever.   Also I would have to make all of my food from scratch, not eat out, and have to learn what a whole list of things were in order to even begin to figure out how to prepare them.  It seemed overwhelming to say the least, but my faith really helped me to know this was the right answer for me.  

Going gluten free also meant no longer receiving the Eucharist in the form of the host, which as someone who attends daily Mass, is a Eucharistic minister and who brings the Eucharist to the hospital once a month was honestly one of my greatest challenges.  I tend to be a “don’t really want to stand out” kind of woman, and this meant that every Mass I was asked to serve at I would have to go to the sacristy before Mass to talk to the priest about this.  For at least 31 days I had to commit to this or walk away all together.  I chose to commit and it has taught me so much about my faith as well as made me feel better than I have in a long time, maybe even ever.

Like any illness, this gave me lots to reflect on, where was God in all of this, what did this mean for the rest of my life?  One day in particular when I was praying before Mass I began to think how much God is like my thyroid, aside from the malfunctioning of course.  I know He is there and that He is important to my life but how?  What was His functioning like in my life?

I thought about how He can help us control our mood by allowing us to see the positive sides of things and filling us with such Joy and Hope that we can’t even contain it-- or when necessary, such sorrow and contrition for the things we have done that we seek reconciliation.  How He can be in control of our spiritual metabolism and help us to hunger and thirst for His presence in our lives, something I think I have to fight the temptation not to try to quickly alleviate by filling it with something else.  How He helps us to not become too cold and indifferent to our own needs as well as the needs of those around us and how He can set us on fire with love of Him and others.  How without Him it can be nearly impossible to find the energy to do things as simple as washing the dishes-- but with His support we can somehow participate in 5 or 10 ministries in the same day and yet feel ready for more.  How He helps us to really rest, not just physically, but even when we can’t get the sleep our bodies crave-- a few moments with Him and we feel energized and renewed.  And lastly How He regulates our ability to feel His Divine Love and how much we are able to share that Love with the world.

I have completed the 31 days and have begun the reintroduction phase of my diet where over a period of 5 day increments I try reintroducing a food back from the restricted section, looking for symptoms of a bad reaction.  The order is supposed to go nightshades, nuts…….. Gluten, but I didn’t want to wait to try to receive the Eucharist until all those other things.  Seeing the host is not a complex mixture of many different things on the list, I decided to reintroduce it earlier.  I am happy to say this reintroduction went perfectly, and honestly although I would like to have some other things back, it has given me a whole new appreciation for others who can't receive the Eucharist this way at all.  I had decided that even if this was the only thing that could return, I can’t complain.  God is good.

How blessed we are to have a God Who for the most part is willing to go unnoticed but is Always present, loving us, strengthening us, and guiding us.  How thankful I am knowing that no matter what lies ahead and what might happen, just as in Star Wars, the Force is always with us, but better than an inner energy source we have an all Loving all Just and all Forgiving Trinity.  We have a God Who loved us so much He chose to lower Himself and become one of us, just so we could spend eternity with Him.  I can tell you I look forward to that day, with no more illnesses and no more special diets. How eager this makes me to take the light that I have been given and bring it to the darkness in the world, helping others then also come into His Light.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.  Ephesians 1:18


Christine Dufresne has been a Pauline Cooperator since 2014. Originally from New Bedford, MA, she served at a mission in Kentucky for 14 months before settling in Waltham, MA. In addition to being a foster parent, she has been working with children in various ways for the past 20 years and is currently a nanny for several families. She serves as a Eucharistic minister in her home parish of St. Mary’s in Waltham as well as visiting the patients at Boston Children's Hospital at Waltham on both the eating disorder as well as behavior management wards once a month.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spy Wednesday

"Treason of Judas", German 15th Century, Courtesy of
National Gallery of Art
The traditional title given to the day before Holy Thursday is Spy Wednesday. We know this is due to the nefarious conduct of one of Jesus’ chosen disciples. Judas sought for a way to betray the Lord to his enemies. Being an accused spy, true or not, is not a coveted accolade. Spies, however, are not such a strange breed; after all, every nation on earth from the beginning of time has employed them. The scandal present in the Gospel spy story is, much like the present day Church scandal of pedophilia, in the fact that evil lurks where holiness should reign. How could a man honored by the Messiah, his trusted collaborator, friend, and daily companion suddenly betray that intimacy and side with those bent on his destruction? There have been innumerable scenarios offered by scholars, everything from disillusionment to a misguided plan to hasten the revelation of Jesus’ true mission.

No matter how distressing we find this incident and how justifiably scandalized we imagine ourselves to be, the “spy” may not be so foreign to our own spirit. Haven’t we occasionally found that we spy on others seeking to discover their motivations or to test their sincerity when disagreements occur? There are, of course, prudent reasons for not being up front about our suspicions; we want to be sure before we accuse or confront.
"Judas Betrays Jesus", fresco, church in Assisi

On another more personal and more practical level, the Church has always encouraged us to spy, not on others, but on ourselves. I am, of course, referring to the time-honored spiritual practice of the examination or examen of conscience. The exam does not suggest interrogation, but rather a gentle attentiveness and an honest confrontation of our faults. As we look over our thoughts, words, sentiments, actions, and intentions of the day we may “spy” something that doesn’t seem to jive with who we say we are, that is, Christian. Isn’t this how spies are detected? Something about them isn’t right; something isn’t authentic about their words or actions. They somehow betray their sincerity.  What do we seek for in this examination of conscience? Blessed James Alberione answers very simply, “To know ourselves, to read the book of our conscience well: what state we are in, what value and worth we have, and what we need.”  

Let’s not be dismayed by Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, but instead let us look within. How do I measure up to my Lord’s expectations of me? When we find a betrayal of our Christian identity within, we reprimand ourselves, confess our guilt, present ourselves to a confessor for absolution, accept our penance, and then go on to make amends. We have been called to an enviable position by the Divine Teacher who signs us as disciples by our baptism and draws us to a life of close companionship through the sacraments. We are not greater, nor are we stronger, than Judas; so when we spy some little betrayal of Jesus’ trust we should turn to him with confidence, humility, and trust. Judas should have been Saint Judas, an honored pillar of our Church, but then we are also meant to wear the title of saint and to help bear the burden of the Church today. Let us be sincere as we watch and pray.    

Sister Mary Lea Hill, a member of the Daughters of St. Paul since 1964, has enjoyed communicating the faith through a variety of apostolic assignments. Her skills as a story teller were honed as director of audiovisual productions when Pauline Books & Media first produced animated features in the early 80s. An editor and author for many years, Sister Mary Lea has written several books, including Prayer and You, Blessed are the Stressed, Saints Alive: The Gospel Witnessed, Saints Alive: The Faith Proclaimed, and the best-selling Basic Catechism (co-authored with Sister Susan Helen Wallace).