Wednesday, April 15, 2015

All Together One-of-a-Kind

In the post-Resurrection scene of the Gospel this coming Sunday (Lk 24:35-48), Jesus appears to the disciples and recalls for them what he had told them. He explains how his life and death was a fulfillment of what was spoken of the Messiah in the Hebrew scriptures, and then calls the disciples “witnesses of these things.” Remember that Jesus is saying this to men who had deserted him in Gethsemani and to Peter, who had denied him three times.

The faith and trust that Jesus puts in these weak and fearful men is amazing, and he puts that same faith and trust in us. Through our Baptism we have been made children of God, heirs of the kingdom that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection opened to us. However, that Baptism also calls us to bear witness to the new life that God has begun in us. He puts this faith and trust in us because he himself makes available to us the grace and strength to carry it through, so that we may witness to him in all situations. 
  
In order to avail ourselves of this grace we need to foster the awareness of his presence, of speaking with him and calling on him in time of need. This was something the saints learned well. However, they each learned how to do it their own way, within the circumstances of their lives. In the book Secret to Happiness St. Pope John XXIII recounts how as a young man, he wanted to imitate St. Aloysius Gonzaga, asking himself what St. Aloysius would do in a given situation. He eventually realized this was not the way to become a saint and states, “I am not St. Aloysius, so I should not try to become holy the way he did, but rather according to my own way of being, my own character, my own circumstances.”

Even though we’re all Christians and all Paulines, God creates us individually. We’re each “one of a kind,” and each of us can give glory to God, have a relationship with God, and witness to him as no one else can, because in creating us, God made us with a love as he loves no other person.  Did you ever ask God to show you what your calling is? Your one-of-a-kind relationship and mission? The persons that we are and the circumstances that we find ourselves in are uniquely our own. As we bring ourselves and those around us to God by how we live and through our prayers, we imbue various situations with God’s grace.

This approach can make all the difference in the way we respond to each other. Recently I was driving on a busy rotary in Boston. The traffic was made worse by construction, and the lanes were disappearing and merging, causing abrupt stops and turns. A woman in another car leaned on her horn, and then threw her hands up in the air. At the time I was saying the Rosary, so a prayer for her and the ability to remain calm seemed to flow naturally. However, I know at other times my initial response might not have been so Christian.

Life is basically made up of small moments, and everything—even and especially what annoys us or makes us suffer—is an opportunity to grow in holiness.  It can be as simple as remaining patient with the annoyance of an ill-fitting piece of clothing, or saying a kind word to an irritating co-worker that can help us grow in grace. It is in consistently taking advantage of these “opportunities” that small links in the chain of God’s graces are forged. These strengthen God’s grace in us and help us to grow in virtue, live with God, and witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
 
We will also then be “witnesses of these things.”
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Sr. Patricia Mary Maresca has been a Daughter of St. Paul since 1983. Besides evangelizing door-to-door, she has served in several PBM Centers from coast to coast. She is now carrying out a second term in Boston as a provincial councilor.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Indiana--“The Crossroads of America” in Its Crosshairs

St. Mary's Catholic Church, Indianapolis, IN
Last Thursday, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana signed into law SB 101, a state level application of the federal  Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In his press conference, he cited both the precedent for such legislation set by 19 other states in recent years, as well as his perception of the need for clear safeguards to religious liberty in the state of Indiana.

“The Crossroads of America” is now in its crosshairs. With the exception of Arizona, no other similar legislative processes have caused such furor. It seems that this law differs from other states’ laws in a few ways, notably as it is applied not just to individuals, but to businesses. So, while nothing in its language even mentions same-sex “weddings,” opponents construe from it an intent to protect defendants who not only withhold products and services for such events on religious grounds, but who also deny gays necessities like health care, employment, and housing.

Actually, the bill was designed to defend the right to freedom of religion from unnecessary government intrusion. This right is protected not only by the First Amendment, but by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. Since in 1997 the Supreme Court ruled that this Act is to be applied only on the federal level, states must decide to apply it within their jurisdictions. Hence Indiana’s proposed legislation.

The state’s dust-up occurred when influential LGBT individual and business advocates nationwide threw their financial weight behind the opposition. The damage they threatened against Indiana’s economy has now moved the State Congress to propose an amendment to the law specifically prohibiting perceived gender-based action by individuals or businesses. If the “fix” is passed, it would mark the first time in U.S. history that the issue of sexual orientation is integrated into legislation designed to protect religious freedom. Because such a “fix” would render religious freedom law ineffectual in practice, several analysts and religious leaders decidedly oppose it:
“All citizens should oppose unjust discrimination, but sexual orientation and gender identity laws are not the way to achieve that goal.…These laws create new, subjective protected classes that will expose employers to unimaginable liability, and would increase government interference in labor markets….
     “It would also threaten the freedom of citizens and their associations to affirm their religious or moral convictions….Sexual orientation and gender identity laws would treat expressing these beliefs in a commercial context as actionable discrimination” (Ryan T. Anderson, The Daily Signal).
That said, we might well question ourselves about our attitudes toward those whose sexual orientation or religious convictions differ from ours. Not too long ago, when we still had a Pauline Books & Media Center downtown San Francisco, a gay couple came in shortly before Christmas looking for a Nativity set for their home. While I regretted seeing them live their friendship in this way, I don’t think it ever crossed my mind to refuse my service in protest.

We would have had no problem selling the crèche of their choice to someone else. So my attitude, like that of us all at PBM, was purely a matter of remaining true to our mission of evangelization. I was called to image in myself what we offered on our shelves. Lecturing them wouldn’t have accomplished anything. Since they were only occasional church-goers, I encouraged them not to be strangers—an invitation that would have fallen on deaf ears had I snapped the tenuous thread that connected them with the Church. People have walked away from the Church for less.

Except when faced with aiding and abetting a criminal, we have no way of knowing, much less of controlling, what people do with what they buy. God hasn’t appointed us to police people’s wrongheaded choices. He puts up with an awful lot of them, including ours, not withholding his good graces from anyone. Can’t we?
“It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law” (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 10).
In their joint statement  on SB 101 the Catholic bishops of Indiana wrote:
“We urge all people of good will to show mutual respect for one another so that the necessary dialogue and discernment can take place to ensure that no one in Indiana will face discrimination whether it is for their sexual orientation or for living their religious beliefs….The rights of a person should never be used inappropriately in order to deny the rights of another. We are called to justice and mercy” (Indiana Catholic Conference, April 1, 2015).
This Sunday, dedicated to Divine Mercy, Pope Francis intends to officially announce a special Jubilee Year of Mercy, Dec. 8, 2015-Nov. 20, 2016. Can we bring to this jubilee the summons of Indiana’s bishops to “justice and mercy” as we pray for a change of heart for us all regarding this issue?

Resources for clarity…or more questions:
•    Indiana Catholic Conference, Statement on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act http://bit.ly/1aiWVEo.
•    Chris Good, “Religious Freedom: The Difference Between Indiana’s Law and All the Others,” ABC News, April 1, 2015 http://abcn.ws/1PhWOtf.
•    Tony Cook, “Gov. Mike Pence signs ‘religious freedom’ bill in private,” Indy Star, April 2, 2015 http://indy.st/1E2txyi. The article contains the governor’s full statement.
•    Ryan T. Anderson, “Indiana Has Changed Its Religious Liberty Law. Here Is What That Means.” The Daily Signal, April 2, 2015 http://dailysign.al/1DZ2JyV.
•    Catholic News Agency, “Troubled by Indiana reaction, Christian leaders stress gravity of religious liberty,” April 6, 2015 http://bit.ly/1N65WCt.
•    David von Drehle, “The Battle of Indiana,” Time, April 13, 2015: 28-35. Because it went to press before the latest developments in the case, this treatment is best understood in the light of the more recent coverage listed above.
•    The Anchoress: March 30, 2015 http://bit.ly/1yU5aNn  and April 2, 2015. http://bit.ly/1PibJ6C.
(Indiana SB101), April 1, 2015

Photo: Vintagejhan, Wikimedia Commons.
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Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP, originally from San Francisco, has been a Pauline evangelizer since 1973 and has worked in various phases of the mission of the Daughters of St. Paul. Since attending the nine-month Charism Course in Rome in 2012-2013, she is now based in Boston, where she serves on the provincial Cooperator Team in the area of ongoing formation.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Jesus Wept


"And Jesus Wept," Oklahoma City Memorial

Jesus wept at the sight of Jerusalem,
for the people's rejection of peace.
Jesus wept over them for their proud and stubborn hearts.
Jesus, do you weep, do you weep over me?

The above lyrics are from the refrain of "Jesus Wept"  written by James V. Marchionda, OP,*  and are based on Luke 19:41-42.

"And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, "Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes."

I remember when I first learned this hymn.  I was a member of a small choir in an inner city parish, and it was my first Easter singing with the group.  At first, it seemed no different from other Lenten hymns, until I got to the last line of the refrain:
         "Jesus, do you weep, do you weep over me?"

It doesn't get much more personal than that, does it? 
Perhaps you know the remorse and sorrow of hurting someone you love so deeply that it brought them to tears.  It's an awful feeling, whether you have disappointed a parent, betrayed a family member or friend, or broken someone's heart.  You'd give anything to undo the damage, take back the spoken word said in anger, or make a better decision.  It is a true moment of humility to admit our faults and ask forgiveness of the ones we have wronged and to try to atone for the pain we have caused.

How many times has Jesus wept over me?  I dare not try to count.  In fact, if it weren't for his infinite mercy, the thought of it would be overwhelming.  But rather than despair, we are called to hope.  Let us consider the words of St. Paul:
 "For our high priest isn't one who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses; he was tempted in every way we are, yet never sinned.  Therefore, let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need" (Hebrews 5: 15-16).
As we approach the passion and death of our Lord, we contemplate the times we have made Him weep. Yet there are ways we can finish our Lenten journey on a positive note:
  • Go to Confession: This may be difficult to find a parish in your area hearing Confessions this week, but it may be possible. Or, make an appointment with a priest. I don't know too many who would say no.
  • Look for ways in which you can live in solidarity with the redeeming, merciful heart of Jesus: through additional acts of charity, self-denial, and almsgiving. 
  • Prayer: Take extra time to spend alone with Jesus.  Talk with him about those times when you may have made him weep.  He knows your sorrow and longs for your love.  Trust in his forgiveness.
  • Say the Divine Mercy novena: The feast of Divine Mercy is celebrated the Sunday after Easter.  The nine-day novena begins on Good Friday. (For a photo/audio guide click here.)
"Since through the blood of Jesus we have the confidence to enter the sanctuary by the new and living way he opened for us through the curtain–that is, the way of his flesh–and since we have a great high priest who has charge over God's household, let us approach with true hearts and the full assurance of our faith, with hearts sprinkled clean from a guilty conscience and bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the profession of our hope without wavering, for the One Who made the promise to us is faithful" (Hebrews 10: 19-23).
Through his passion, and cross, Jesus has conquered sin and death. Alleluia! 

* Jesus Wept by James V. Marchionda, O.P., copyright © 1989, World Library Publications, wlpmusic.com  ~ All rights reserved. Used by permission. 
 Photo: Lukasz Lukomski, Wikimedia Commons.
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Bernadette Boguski has been a Pauline Cooperator for over 20 years. She is a member of St. Columbkille Parish in Parma, OH, where she serves as a Eucharistic Minister, cantor, and member of the music ministry. Bernadette holds a degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and currently serves as the development director for Womankind, a nonprofit agency providing free prenatal care and support services for pregnant women in need. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Like Mother, Like....


Striving for Perfected Generosity of Spirit

As we draw near to Holy Week and the end of our Lenten journey, this year’s Church calendar presents us with the spiritually enriching feast of the Annunciation of the Lord. Every March 25, we are given a beautiful image to emulate – that of holy Mary, the pre-eminent disciple at the moment of her being called to be the Mother of the Lord. We, too, all called to holiness, are asked to humbly stand before the Lord and give our own fiat (let it be done) in imitation of our Mother’s great generosity and holiness. This seems especially difficult in a world where we work so hard to control our lives for personal happiness, security and material gain. With Lent, we have a season of reflection, penance, and prayer to help us examine our progress to allow Christ to live and love in and through each one of us. Who better to study and emulate than Mother Mary?
            In contemplating the personal call to holiness, I am reminded that the Holy Father has declared this the Year of Consecrated Life, until February 2, 2016. In a sense, all of us must consecrate our lives to the Lord, but this is a year of celebrating those whose fiats go a step further to formally and exclusively consecrate their lives with vows and promises to serve the Church. Like holy Mary in the Annunciation, members of the consecrated life also model the spirit of Christlike generosity to all the rest of us. Within the Pauline Family, we have a secular institute of laywomen who live out such a life of dedication.
The Pauline “Annunciationists” 

Among the Pauline Family’s ten members is the Institute of Our Lady of the Annunciation, a secular institute of laywomen founded by Blessed James Alberione in 1958 and approved by the Holy See on April 8, 1960. Blessed James beautifully described its apostolate as “the flower of true love of God and of souls: it is the fruit of an intense interior life. It requires a burning heart which is unable to contain or suppress its interior fire. The apostolate makes us God’s loudspeaker.”
The founder described Annunciationist lifestyle as follows: “You shall live at home, work in schools, offices, factories, and you shall carry out your witnessing within these institutions. You, however, shall be consecrated persons… You shall be ‘salt’ and ‘leaven’ in the contemporary world… You shall be consecrated to God and dedicated to the apostolate in the world and with the means of the world … in order that to all men and women Christ may be proclaimed, and to give Jesus Christ to the world, totally as He defined Himself: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
            In studying Blessed James’ words to and about the Annunciationists, I was especially struck by the beauty and power of his images in the above poetic description of their apostolate as the “flower of true love of God and souls … the fruit of an intense interior life … [and] a burning heart which is unable to contain or suppress its interior fire.” Mary in the Annunciation exemplifies deep love of God and souls in her generous fiat. Her own intense interior life could only have been the result of a rich prayer life. May these fruits flourish in each of our hearts and souls.
Centrality of the Eucharist
Blessed James emphasizes the importance of daily Eucharistic adoration in the prayer life of all Paulines. He has described it as the “heart of life and of apostolate, the sacrament of love, the sign of unity, and the bond of charity.” Here, again, he links the intense interior life of being one with Christ with an outpouring of love in the form of generous service to God and souls. As a Pauline Cooperator, I find the members of the Pauline Family truly inspirational. Over the years, I have found that studying the history of how the Pauline Family was formed has enriched my own spiritual life.

Beginning in 1914, as quite young people, Father Alberione and Mother Thecla answered their own calls to the consecrated life, and began the task of building up the Pauline Family we know today. Sustained by the rich prayer life Father Alberione advocated, they devoted decades upon decades to the service of God and souls. Even today, consecrated Paulines dedicate an hour or more each day to Eucharistic prayer. It is a beautiful reality that many of their Book & Media Centers have a small chapel for prayer throughout all hours they are open.
This emphasis on contemplative prayer is rooted in the lifelong spirituality and dedication of Father Alberione and Mother Thecla. Recently, I came across a composite picture (see above) which touched me deeply. Reproduced here, it shows very early portraits of Father Alberione and Mother Thecla (They look so young!) on the left, contrasted to a picture in their later years on the right. When I saw it, I was struck by the reminder that they made such great commitments at such an early age, and then faithfully lived out those commitments over half a dozen decades of apostolic work and Pauline family leadership. Their perseverance in such heroic work is truly impressive and inspiring. Emulating the faithfulness and holiness of Mother Mary, they have now become our parents, advocating for us in heaven.
Closing Prayer
Jesus, Master, Way, Truth and Life: Enlighten our minds and hearts, and guide us to live a life of dedicated generosity and ever-increasing holiness.

Photo: Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP
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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 18, 2015

Lights to Guide Us – How To Grow Spiritual Friendships

If you ever find yourself stuck in the middle of the sea,
I’ll sail the world to find you.

If you ever find yourself lost in the dark and you can’t see,
I’ll be the light to guide you.
Find out what we’re made of, when we are called to help our friends in need.
You can count on me.


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a friend as a person whom you like and enjoy being with; a person who helps or supports someone or something.  These lyrics from the Bruno Mars song, “Count On Me,” is also a definition of friendship–someone who will be there when we are lost, the light to guide us; we can count on them.  We have friends we meet with socially, Facebook friends whom we may never meet personally, childhood friends, neighborhood friends, work place friends, etc.  While these relationships are important, there is also the need for spiritual friendships, those friendships that go beyond our general interests.  A spiritual friend is one whose journey toward God mirrors our own–a companion who shares our faith and our longing for God.

Im at the center back.
After reading a pamphlet on spiritual friendship, I began to think of how being part of the Pauline family as a Cooperator has helped me to develop friendships that brought me closer to Christ.  It has given me the opportunity to develop friendships with the sisters, priests, brothers, and other lay people in the Family.  When struggling with a problem, I know I can always call a “Family” member who will be there for me.  I can count on them.  They have shown their friendship when life events necessitated speaking to or praying with someone.  They have been and continue to be lights to guide me.

Just recently a woman I met at a Cooperator Retreat, who is going through the formation program, asked me to correspond with her and share ideas on how to grow in holiness.  I was so excited!  That’s what friends are for!

In this busy world we live in, what are some ways to find and grow a spiritual friendship?  Very often, they are right in front of us.  Here are some ideas:

•    Perhaps a co-worker or neighbor will stand out as someone who shares not only our interests but our love of prayer.  Pick up the phone and make a lunch date.  Too busy?  Send an email, Facebook message or old-fashioned snail mail.  You never know what will happen.

•    Join or start a prayer group.  Years ago I prayed for help and support during a stressful health situation with my father.  In less than a week a friend invited me to a prayer group meeting.  Fourteen years later I still participate, and this group has fostered personal and spiritual friendships for me.

•    Our beloved saints can also be our companions along our journey; friends to turn to when we need a helping hand.  Like us, they are individuals who struggled and had their own gifts and weaknesses. 

Numerous resources about the saints are available:

•    The Classic Wisdom Collection of books published by Pauline Books and Media is an excellent resource to learn more about our saints.  Besides stories about many saints, the Daughters of St. Paul share their stories of how the saints impacted their lives and vocations.

•    The new Queen of Apostles Prayer Book, published by Pauline Books & Media, is filled with prayers to the saints for all of our intercessions.  Stay open for the ways in which our saints might connect with us.  A conversation may suddenly mention the name of a saint you may be praying to or a holy card for that saint might suddenly fall out of a book.  We all know about St. Therese of the Little Flower sending roses down from heaven as a sign of her intercession.  During Pope Francis’ recent flight in January to the Philippines he prayed to St. Therese for his trip and asked her to send him a rose.  He did not receive a rose but a picture of her.  He commented that, “instead of a rose she came herself to greet me!”
My copies look...loved.

•    The two Saints Alive! Collection, (The Faith Proclaimed and The Gospel Witnessed) also published by Pauline Books & Media, are filled with stories of men and women who can be our companions along the way. As stated on the back of the book, “this book is a pleasurable way to meet some of the people we hope to live with some day.”

•    We members of the Pauline Family, especially, recognize Blessed James Alberione as an excellent companion.  We look to him for guidance in the world of social communication.  Like him, let us bring the light of the Gospel to others.

•    St. Paul, whose extraordinary conversion story led so many people to Christianity, is a personal favorite.  He never met Jesus personally, yet “saw” him.  Like St. Paul, I want to “see” Jesus.  I pray to St. Paul to show me the way to a more personal relationship with Jesus.

•    St. Joseph, whose feast day we will celebrate tomorrow, is a powerful intercessor, the “faithful cooperator in our redemption,” as the Pauline prayer manual describes him.  With him as our companion, we can imitate his humility and ask him to walk with us in our day-to-day struggles.

Why not use the remaining weeks of Lent to “adopt” a saint or start a friendship with someone to walk with you on your journey?  Share with us your story of a spiritual friendship or how you would like to develop one for yourself or another.  To quote St. Thomas Aquinas, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”

“Keep smiling, keep shining, knowing you can always count on me, for sure.  That’s what friends are for” (Dionne Warwick, “That’s What Friends Are For”).

Photos: Maryann Toth
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Maryann Toth has been a Pauline Cooperator for six years. Semi-retired as a credit/AR manager in NJ, she is a wife, a mother of two daughters, and a grandmother of four. She serves as a Eucharistic minister and belongs to a Divine Mercy Cenacle group. Maryann assists at Pauline book fairs and J-Club events, schedules meetings and prayer times for local Cooperators and friends of the Pauline Family, and currently accompanies a candidate in the Cooperator formation program. She participated in a Pauline Cooperator pilgrimage to Italy in 2010.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How To Live Lent and Easter With Kids...and Love It

Read to Your Bunny
All of us love our children more than anything in the world. In their first years we feed them so they grow. We bring them to the doctor so they are healthy. We strap them in car seats so they are safe.
    But the most important thing in the first years of life is the growth of the mind and spirit. This is when a child learns to love and trust, to speak and listen.
    After a child turns two years old, these things are very difficult to learn or teach ever again. Trusting, singing, laughing, and language are the most important things in a young child’s life.
    And so they must come first for mothers and fathers, too, because we can never have those years over again.
    Every day, make a quiet, restful place for twenty minutes. Put your child in your lap and read a book aloud. In the pages of the book you will find a tiny vacation of privacy and intense love. It costs nothing but twenty minutes and a library card.
    Reading to your little one is just like putting gold coins in the bank. It will pay you back tenfold. Your daughter will learn, and imagine, and be strong in herself. Your son will thrive, and give your love back forever.


I first came across this lovely piece of advice almost fifteen years ago, then posted it in the children’s corner of our Pauline Books & Media (PBM) Center in San Francisco. Here and there I noticed people stop to take it in. Apparently Rosemary’s nudge to get a library card didn’t deter them from buying a book. Whether you buy or borrow, your role as parents (and grandparents!) in a child’s early learning, is indispensable especially when a book about God’s love for us is included in the cuddling.

That story is easy to tell at Christmas. But during Lent? How do you get past the horror of the Crucifixion? Sometimes that will depend on what images kids have already been exposed to in their churches and homes or what movies they’ve seen, or what they’ve encountered through their older siblings. In any case, you’ll want to reassure very young children that nobody will do that to them, so that they feel safe.

How do you explain the tragedy of sin to a little person, who has no concept of it yet? Before reading, you may find it helpful to demonstrate to pre-schoolers the separation that sin causes, by coaxing them to try and jump to you from an unreachable distance. Since only the cross can span that distance, the book you’re about to read to them will tell them how Jesus used the cross to do just that. Or you can let the story say whatever it does without the prep work.

1.    Keep it simple. For infants and toddlers, once you find an appropriate book, it will be enough to look at the pictures together, reading a few words here and there to tell the basic story. Pre-schoolers will be able to understand more and will eventually want to “read” you the story in their own words. One of the best books I’ve ever seen for this purpose is PBM’s The Road to Easter Day. Pain in the illustrations is muted, and joyful colors are vibrant. Every page introduces the next part of the narrative, from Palm Sunday to Jesus’ appearance on the way to Emmaus, as another step “along the road, along the road, the road to Easter day,” conveying the sense that any sadness, while real, is not the end of the story.

2.    Combine the story with an easy activity or craft. For older kids, The Stations of the Cross coloring and activity book or My First Easter Sticker Book does the trick. The sticker book also simply and happily announces that, “Because Jesus loves us and died for our sins, heaven is open to all of us!”

One of the best activity books around, though, is The Lent-Easter Book —182 pages of stories, games, puzzles, recipes, and crafts that assist parents or teachers in passing on the season’s Catholic traditions. This spiral-bound treasury also suggests ideas on holding faith conversations with five- to nine-year-olds and with ten- to fourteen-year-olds.

3.    Allow books to teach our little ones to pray and live justly. The cross, backlit by the resurrection, casts its shadow across all of Lent. During this reflective time, even children can find in the cross their own reasons for growing in prayer, virtue, and awareness of others’ needs. Books can help them do that.

Primary-age kids are keenly sensitive to the pain of Jesus, especially when they understand how he suffered to forgive and heal them and the whole world of their sins and the sins of others. With its simple, colorful pictures, I Pray the Stations of the Cross stirs their empathy for Jesus’ redemptive suffering and connects that empathy with compassion for others. The Stations of the Cross in My Pocket is a pocket-size version of almost exactly the same text, with a more ornate art style.

Children’s Way of the Cross cleverly leads intermediate readers to imagine themselves right there with Jesus, then to listen to him by means of a passage from the Bible, then finally to respond to his love with a sentence from a Psalm. Expressive pen and water color renderings bring the Via crucis to life.

Of course, Lenten prayer would not be complete without the celebration of the sacraments. The Sacrament of Reconciliation in My Pocket is a pocket-size guide to celebrating the rite and includes an explanation of Reconciliation, a simple examen of conscience on the Ten Commandments, prayers, and a short glossary.

4. Fun historical fiction for kids, ages 6-9, weaves together time travel, biblical culture, and faith values in Discovery at Dawn, the latest in a series on the life of Jesus. Three modern-day siblings are transported back into time, meet the risen Jesus, and discover the ultimate meaning of giving up something for others.

If you need more resources go to www.paulinekidsblog.com. You'll find descriptions of PBM titles for kids, book guides, interviews with authors and illustrators, plus spiritual gems for parents and educators. Take a peek, too, behind the scenes at what goes into our kids' books.

For ways to share your finds with other families, look into J-Club, the only Catholic book fair for schools and religious education programs, that couples as a fundraiser.

Looking for something different? Vatican II’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions asserts, “The Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today” (n. 4). Yet blaming Jews for Jesus’ death persists among Christians. So PBM offers My Jewish Friend (on sale until Easter for $2.95. Regularly $14.95). It’s a fictional account of two boys, one Catholic and the other Jewish, who explain their beliefs and rituals to each other, and so grow in their own faith and in mutual respect. The narrative is vividly illustrated and masterfully interwoven with information about both Catholicism and Judaism.

Had we not sinned, Jesus would not have died to forgive us. Even so, we could have sinned from our first breath until our last, and still we would not have caused Christ’s death. Love did that. His love. Christ “loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). All the books we’ve talked about here say that very thing in one way or another. There could be no greater story to read to your little Easter bunny.

Photo: Mary Emmanuel Alves, FSP
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Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP, originally from San Francisco, has been a Pauline evangelizer since 1973 and has worked in various phases of the mission of the Daughters of St. Paul. Since attending the nine-month Charism Course in Rome in 2012-2013, she is now based in Boston, where she serves on the provincial Cooperator Team in the area of ongoing formation.