Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Prayers for Pauline Pray-ers

My eighteen-year-old daughter raised her head from her Trigonometry homework as she heard me come home after work. As I asked how her day was, I was surprised her response was not her usual “good, how was yours?” Instead, she tilted her head and said, “Well, something kind of strange happened today. A girl in my class, Andrea, asked me if she could talk to me after school. She told me her dad just found out he has a tumor and has to have a big operation. She asked if I would pray for him.”

I asked her what she told Andrea, and she recounted, “I told her I would absolutely pray for her dad, and then I went to the chapel and prayed for him. I also prayed a Rosary for him while I drove home.” She paused and continued, “I was just so shocked she asked me; I really don’t know her that well. But she told me I always look so happy when I’m in the chapel praying and when I’m a Eucharistic Minister at our school masses. We talked a little last year when we were on the same bus coming home from the March for Life.  But honestly, I’m a little nervous because she is really counting on my prayers. I don’t always know what to say when I pray; sometimes I just talk to God and sometimes I even start daydreaming. I’m really not the best pray-er!”

Understanding exactly how she felt, I told my daughter that most of us, I believe, feel that we are not as good as we should be at praying. Some, on the other hand, obviously excel at prayer. Blessed Father Alberione, the Founder of the Pauline Family, has to be considered one of the all-time best pray-ers. He identified prayer as “the first duty and the first contribution which [he] must make to [his] Congregation” (A Marvel of Our Times, 118). Father Alberione was a man of endless creativity
and constant action, but he acknowledged, and everyone around him knew, that “prayer was the source of all his activity” (AMOT, 119). He started his day by celebrating Mass at 4:30 AM. He prayed with all his visitors, and he always stopped whatever he was doing at noon to pray the Angelus. Despite his rigorous schedule, he prayed five to six hours daily every single day of his life. “That is my point,” my daughter responded, “I can never be as good at prayer as Father Alberione and the Daughters of St. Paul. That’s why I always ask the Daughters to pray for my big prayer intentions.”

“So  why do you ask them to pray for you?”
She looked at me, considering my question, and responded slowly and thoughtfully, “I think they have a pretty strong relationship with God, and they have had more practice praying than I have. I guess it’s all about relationships – they are so close to Jesus that they can help strengthen my relationship to God.  So I figure I should look for someone with a really close relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; that’s who I want praying for me and putting in a good word for me, especially on the big stuff like making sure I make the right college and career choices and that friends and family stay healthy and happy, not the little stuff like basketball and football game outcomes. That’s always a pet peeve of mine,” she elaborated, “when college and professional players thank God – not for their health or safety, but for their victory over their opponent, as if their win is a sign that God loves them more than He loves the team they just beat.”

Complimenting her on her wisdom in asking the Daughters of St. Paul to pray for her intentions, I reminded her of Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo’s advice on prayer. She told her Sisters to “daily recommend to God all the faithful, all sinners, all unbelievers.  Be ‘big-hearted’ enough in prayer to embrace everyone in the world.” I guess that’s the way professional pray-ers do it.

“For being an amateur ‘pray-er,’ you are doing a great job,” I assured my daughter. “First, people can tell that you love Jesus enough that they are not afraid to talk to you about your faith and ask for your prayers. Second, you did exactly the right thing by not just saying you would pray for Andrea’s dad, but you acted on it and prayed in the chapel and throughout your drive home. Some people say they will pray for you, but they never actually get around to praying.  (And excellent touch in invoking our Blessed Mother’s intercession by praying the Rosary; that’s not an amateur move!)  And third, even as a high school student, you are able to share Christ with others. That’s what a Pauline does: brings people to Jesus and brings Jesus to all the world. Those who knew Blessed James Alberione “clearly sensed that God was in him and that he gave God to others” (AMOT, 120). You are turning into a fine young Pauline woman!

“That means,” I stated slowly through a proud papa smile, “that you may not be a professional pray-er yet, but I officially dub you an official semi-professional pray-er! I would be honored to have you pray for me and my intentions any time. And I will continue to pray for you and all Pauline pray-ers around the world (from amateur to professional)!”


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, February 8, 2017

At the Center is Jesus Christ: Way, Truth and Life

Pauline Centers offer people a place of encounter with Jesus. The word “center” is a defining word for Paulines. Jesus is the Center of our lives. Jesus is the Center of our mission. Instead of saying "Pauline Store" we use the word “Center.”  Pauline Centers offer people a place of encounter with Jesus. “From within me”, Jesus said, “Living waters flow.” That is, from the Center.

From the Pauline center emanates the light of the Gospel, the light of our Eucharistic Lord.  If you check a thesaurus for synonyms for the word “center” you will find "inside, interior, core, heart." You will also find "gathering place, meeting place, foundation, meeting point, seat, focal point, focus, nucleus" and "spotlight." Father Alberione described Pauline centers as you would describe a church--the counter is a pulpit, the door is the place where the bread of the Word is distributed, and people who enter our doors are co-workers bringing the gospel out to the market place.

John Paul II said "Father Alberione not only opened modern pulpits of social communication to evangelization, but he conceived his work as organic action within the Church and at its service.” Pauline Book & Media centers are called to have a clear Christian identity, “offering services, practicing dialogue and ecumenism, becoming true centers of culture. Techniques and channels of diffusion are built up in the region so that new ways of being present are preeminent. We don’t underestimate the role of the virtual bookstores--where we interact with the public by means of e-mail--or the new forms of relationship with people through the media.” (CF Silvio Sassi 2005, 5.3).

"The Lord and Creator of all things became a 'grain of wheat' to be sown in our land, in the furrows of our history," said Pope Benedict XVI. "He became bread in order to be shared; ... He became our food in order to give us life, His own divine life."  This is why Pauline centers, even though they speak the language of retail, and look and feel like retail stores, are really places where God’s Word is lived, broken and shared. This is a consumerism that is humanized – we consume the bread of life – Jesus is our consummation – we share the bread of the Word. Christians are called to open up a different kind of economic space – the space marked by the body of Christ. It is an economy of giving. Eucharist does not begin with scarcity but with one who came that we may have life and have it abundantly (Cf William Cavanaugh).

Blessed Alberione told us that “A good part of today’s world suffers from a shortage of bread.  There is a far greater shortage of the spiritual bread brought by Jesus.  ‘I am the Bread of Life,’ he said. Countless people live complexly unaware of their destiny.  They have no other thought than the present.  Yet in a short time, death brings them to eternity.  There are few to prepare them with this bread.  'There is no one to break it for them.'  They die of hunger without truly understanding their hunger.  Jesus is Bread/Truth.  The apostle of the media of communication is another Jesus Christ who echoes and amplifies to people of every age and place what Jesus preached and taught on earth.”

Brother Al Milella tells us that “The world has not yet felt the full, exhilarating influence of the Good News. When it does it will be transformed. At present, it goes about dazed and diverted by its own hunger for something undefined.... What is conversion if not a head-on collision with the Word, either in Scripture, in a saintly life, or in the action of charity? Out of its own devotion to Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life is born a means to sanctify man's mind, will and heart.” Sister Veritas Grau also spoke of this hunger amidst the plenty of new technology: “It is taken for granted that this technological progress will automatically lead to a better quality of human life; deeper questions are ignored, such as those that relate to human nature, its hunger for communion, and its thrust toward transcendence and ultimate meaning.”

In Pauline Centers of Communication we are Apostles
  • The apostle of the media broadcasts Jesus Way who leads us to fullness of life in the Trinity.
  • The apostle of the media communicates Jesus Truth who said "This is why I was born and why I came into the world, to bear witness to the truth." He inspires the search for truth and knows the questions of our hearts: Who am I? Where am I going? For Blessed Alberione it is Christ who asks the questions, challenging the world to give an account of itself, of its deepest hopes and needs, and whether or not it is seeking what will truly make it happy.
  • The apostle of the media extends the invitation of Jesus Life who said “I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly." The media centers are open doors to this gratuity of God’s grace and authentic love.

In Ephesians 2:19-22 Paul says that: “In Christ the whole building is joined together and grows into a holy temple of the Lord. In Him you are being built together into God’s dwelling place in the Spirit.” This is the Pauline center – the building of God.  In 1 Corinthians 3:9 we read: “We are God’s co-workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”  “The house where the light of the Gospel must shine is the house where each one of us lives and also a house open to the world… .Blessed James Alberione, apostle of communications, said we are all called to the Christian apostolate, every one is called to co-operate in the task of transforming the world, to build together a world of fraternity and solidarity where human and Christian values shine in lives and in social structures.”[2]

The Pauline family is called to respond, as Father Alberione directed, to the needs of the Church in the twenty first century. It is a call to promote the integral Christian message with and through the media so that the Gospel influences the culture. Christ is the true teacher.  Paulines living His Word are the channel of his art. As the Pauline diffuses the Word, she transmits Jesus Master.

[1] Fr. Alberione in 1949 in the introduction to the book of Fr. Lamera: the Founder summarizes his global vision of the Pauline formation and where the expression, "At the center is Jesus Christ Way, Truth and Life,"
[2] Pope John Paul II’s Mission Prayer Intention for July 2005: Comment by Sr M. Antonieta Bruscato, Superior General Daughters of St Paul FSP

Sr. Margaret Kerry, FSP, celebrates 42 years of life and mission as a Daughter of St. Paul. With a Masters from Boston College School of Theology & Ministry, she gives presentations on the vocation and mission of the laity, media literacy, and evangelization. She directed the Association of Pauline Cooperators for 15 years and was creative editor of The Pauline Cooperator magazine. An author (St. Anthony of Padua: Fire & Light; Strength in Darkness: John of the Cross), and Live Christ; Give Christ: Prayers for the New Evangelization. Sr. Margaret is working on two more books. You can reach her at

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Hope's Conversion

David Dufresne (Enthusiasm), Christine Dufresne (Hope), and Tom Ostrowski (Encouragement)

Last week, having celebrated the feast of the conversion of St Paul, I decided to share a piece of my own conversion story.  My story is somewhat of an ongoing one, but my time in Kentucky was a major turning point in allowing God to heal and grow my heart.  The following is a piece of creative nonfiction that I wrote for a class I took this Fall.  I felt it was appropriate to share it here as well.  I hope you enjoy.

My name is Hope.  This wasn’t always the case.  In fact, before I came to live in Kentucky I would have to say my name was more Depressed or Discouraged.  But thanks to the lessons like the one I am about to share with you, Hope is now what I am known by.

I’m really here, in Warfield, KY, in my kayak, in a place that up until this point I had only ever dreamed I would be.  About to set off downriver on an approximately forty mile journey without being completely certain what lies ahead.  Will there be branches down from the storm?  Will there be rapids around the corners of the river that I can’t see from the road?  Will my muscles be able to hold out for this huge journey when the furthest I’ve been able to paddle back home was thirteen miles?  In this morning light, the river is eerily landscaped, with the forest climbing up the banks on both sides, still somewhat dark from being so early in the day.  A mist hovering about the water hides what lies ahead.  Once I start paddling, there may not be another chance to get out until I reach the boat ramp in Louisa.  Where do I even begin?  First one stroke of the paddle cutting deep into the water, then the next and the one after that, a steady rhythm pulling me closer to the finish line with every smooth move.

Now I am here with the deeply soothing smells of the woods surrounding me as if I am being
embraced in a deep hug of memories of wilderness from childhood.  There is not much pine in these parts so it seems like the other smells have the freedom to come out more vibrantly.  So many distinct smells surround me that even though they are not really recognizable, together they make the air smell cleaner and fresher--especially after a warm rain, or like now, as the sun grows higher in the sky warming the air around us.  The mist is lifting and all around there is a rugged beauty that comes only in things that are untouched by human hands. Knowing that we may be the only people to have ever taken this exact journey--and maybe the only ones who ever will--is awe inspiring!

I first saw this journey from a very different view.  I was driving on the road up above that winds alongside the river most of the way from Warfield to Louisa.  I would drive this road on a daily basis in my job as driver for a blind, 88-year-old priest I will call Inspiration; he is the one who inspired me to hope in the first place.  One day after Mass, having heard the readings about using your gifts for God, I shared with him how I felt that the river was calling to me, and how I wondered also what gifts I had to offer back to God.  I didn’t have any major talents, none that I knew of anyway.  I began thinking about the children’s outreach program at the mission center and wondered how I could help raise funds for enrichment activities.  These children had faces and stories, but not too many happily-ever-after options in their futures.  I wanted them to see how big this world is and how they could offer whatever talents they have as a gift.  Unfortunately this takes money, and in Appalachia, Kentucky, funds are hard to come by.  So one day, after driving along on this windy road, thinking about my love for kayaking and those sweet children, I sent a text that would forever change the course of my life to pretty much everyone I knew at that time.

“If I was thinking about kayaking 40 miles on the Tug Fork River as a fundraiser for the mission center, would you help me?”

I don’t know that even I knew completely what I meant by those words, but I was going to find out.  I had left the invitation imprecise on purpose.  Did they want to help me financially on this quest or did they want to physically join me?  I was in need of both kinds of help.  My answer for companionship on the journey came in the form of two men I like to call Encouragement and Enthusiasm,  Without them, I am not sure I would have been able to complete this journey.  Encouragement did just that--he gave me the strength to push ahead with my plans despite the multitude of fears and doubts I was confronted with.  I had only a few months earlier gone on my first successful kayaking trip, so it was a huge leap of faith for me to even consider this.  Enthusiasm was my "MacGyver" go-to man, he planned for everything we might possibly need: snacks, water, saw, first aid kit… and he even brought a tow line just in case!

Also along for the ride is the blue heron that guides us on this journey.  It flies just to the edge of our vision on the river, waiting until we catch up before once again flying ahead.  It is as if it is helping us to not get overwhelmed by the big picture, but instead to take it one stroke of the paddle at a time.  I feel like Inspiration is behind this phenomenon--not physically, but it is as if his prayers have taken life and are there with us since he isn’t able to be.

Enthusiasm is taking pictures of every last detail to share, maybe in a small hope of bringing others back here again someday.  He captures both the sadness of an area of poverty where it is considered an acceptable practice to dump huge amounts of trash into the water, and the immensity of captivating life that is all around us, even when we don’t see it.  There was only one instance of rapids where I was concerned we were going to tip over and where I wondered if we should turn back.  Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.  Then there were the somewhat comedic elements--like the couch wedged in the branches of a tree fifteen feet above the water!  We can only conclude that during some of the flash flooding--which happens suddenly, fiercely and quite often in these parts--someone had their couch relocated for them.  The couch must have drifted down the river on higher flood waters, got hung up on the tree, and when the waters receded was left as a humorous ornament to make us wonder if it would be a good place to sit for fishing or hunting, too high to be a platform for jumping into the river from.

We paddled through some quickly moving water; and then, toward the end when our stamina was
starting to fade, we paddled through some very smooth water with very little current.  We paddled on, following the heron all the way to the bridge in Louisa, where he turned back upriver and flew over our heads back to Martin County.  Having led us to the finish, his job was complete.  After ten hours on three rivers, between two states, across two counties, happily exhausted, we had finished this journey.  Yet somehow we all knew that this was really only just the beginning.

While we were on our quest, Inspiration was on a quest of his own. To fix some existing heart troubles, he was having surgery to place several stints in to increase blood flow.  I was able to see him on the Saturday after our trip and share with him every detail.  Despite his not feeling very well, he listened undividedly as I shared everything I could remember.

Msgr. Ralph Beiting (Inspiration) and me
Unfortunately, his journey didn’t turn out as well as ours did, not here on Earth anyway.  He passed away the following week from sepsis.  It was a long time before I could look at the pictures or really even grasp what a conversion had taken place in my heart on that water.  I had begun the journey mostly for Inspiration, but somewhere along the way--without me really even knowing--he taught me how to dream, how to hope, and how much I had to offer. That is something that has completely changed every aspect of my life. In fact, in some ways it is like he helped bring me back to life, but to a new and more alive life, if that makes sense.  And now, now my name is Hope.

Jesus Master, Way, Truth, and Life have mercy on us. St Paul pray for us.
Fr Beiting pray for us.
From all sin, deliver us, O Lord.


Christine Dufresne has been a Pauline Cooperator for 2.5 years. Originally from New Bedford, MA, she served at a mission in Kentucky for 16 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 23 years, helping with the children's program on retreats and with the Holy Family Institute group in Boston, and is currently a nanny for several families. She serves as a Eucharistic minister in her home parish of St. Mary’s in Waltham and visits the hospital monthly to bring Scripture and Communion to patients in the eating disorders and behavioral management wards.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Continual Influence of St. Paul's Conversion

Could there be any more appropriate a figure for our times than St. Paul? Or a more appropriate time for conversion for all the world than now? The Feast Day of our great founder’--as Blessed James Alberione would himself adamantly call St. Paul the Apostle--is January 25th. Surely we are all quite familiar with the Conversion of St. Paul (cf. Acts 9:1-19) and we might have even experienced our own Pauline ‘conversion’ in a way that still surprises us and/or confuses our own family and friends. Yet we have come to realize that such a moment of conversion must be always ongoing, always necessary, and always timely. But what can we do, as Paulines, that might not only aid us but help us aid others who are still ‘awaiting’ their conversion or ‘yearning’ for a deepening of their conversion?

Well, a genuine conversion is about experiencing a metanoia or a “transformative change of heart; especially a spiritual conversion” This change of heart can certainly occur in many ways and even without notice, but it must always begin with the Holy Spirit and be received by the person in such a way that he or she desires to act on this gift of a new heart--one that a Pauline knows well to be when “Christ is formed in you”. And whether this is our first, our second, our third, or our thirty-third metanoia, it must always be deepened by ‘living with a penitent heart’  - some of the divinely revealed words to Blessed James by Christ Himself in the 1920’s when he was gravely ill and which have been inscribed in every chapel of the five Congregations of the Pauline Family throughout the world.

Yet many of us come back to ask, Is there an easy way to do this?” “Is there an easier way to live this conversion daily?” Well, yes there is, and not only is it practical but even more importantly it is part of our Pauline spirituality. The manner in which we can move more quickly and consistently in encountering Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life is through His very own WORD, the WORD of GOD.

Inscribed into the constitutions of the Congregations and Institutes of the Pauline Family is the prescription for spending time with the WORD daily. This can be done in any number of ways: in a systematic manner of reading the Bible, meditating on the daily Mass readings, celebrating Lectio Divina (individually or in a small group setting) or spontaneously praying to the Holy Spirit and opening the Scriptures to a page & verse. But the more time we spend daily encountering the WORD outside of participating in the Mass itself and/or outside of praying the Liturgy of the Hours (when often we are hearing it for the first time without time for reflection), the more we are saturating ourselves with the Grace of the LORD--the Grace that frees us from our sins and enlightens our soul with the true joy, the Joy of the Gospel!

When we begin to read the WORD of GOD in a more probing manner we often call it a scrutiny of the WORD or an “examining carefully in a critical way”. St. Paul himself was a Pharisee and an ‘expert’ in the Hebrew Scriptures of his time, one who read and re-read the Scriptures. But he had not yet encountered the LORD as he eventually did on the road to Damascus, because the Gift of the Holy Spirit was not yet with him. It was only after his encounter on the road to Damascus, when eventually the ‘scales fell from his eyes,’ that he could ‘see’ the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures in Christ. Eventually, his own Letters would become part of the Holy Scriptures we now commonly call the New Testament. It is these very Scriptures that would eventually provide countless conversions for nearly 2,000 years and become the inspiration for the saints of yesterday, today and tomorrow, including (as we pray for the canonization) for our own beloved Maestro, Blessed James Alberione!

One practical way for all--like me!--who consider themselves neophytes in reading the Scriptures is to utilize some of the many popular Bible Study programs on-line or in books available at your local bookstore of the Society of St. Paul, Daughters of St. Paul or Sister Disciples of the Divine Master! So, if ever there was a time for true conversion--like now--we should not only feel confident to find daily grace in the WORD of GOD but we should then reach out and invite others to join us. Then maybe even our own family and friends, fellow parishioners and neighbors, will no longer think of us as crazy but rather join us in this great family founded by St. Paul to bring about the change of heart when Christ is formed in all people!


Fr. Ed was ordained to the priesthood in May 2000 for the Archdiocese of Boston. He was assigned to three different parishes in the Archdiocese from 2000-2010, when he was appointed to the Faculty of Saint John's Seminary, Boston, where he is Dean of Men and Director of Pastoral Formation. He is also the Spiritual Director & Liaison in the Archdiocese to Homeschooling Families as well as the Spiritual Director for the World Apostolate of Fatima (Boston Division). He recently made his First Profession in the Pauline Family Institute of Jesus the Priest.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Using Our Gifts

Mid-January, 2017 – the Christmas decorations are down, the carols have been sung, and presents received may have already been forgotten or put aside.  While these gifts are always fun to give and receive, their use and the joy they bring are generally temporary.

Other gifts, unearned and unmerited, are permanent--the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Unfortunately, like the presents received at Christmas, they too are often forgotten and unused.  Truth be told, I knew I received these gifts at Baptism and Confirmation but never really thought about them.  Last year, after being introduced to the Chaplet of the Holy Spirit which consists of invocations for each of the seven gifts, I began to think more about them.  What value could they add to my daily life and how could I use them?

How could I fit another devotion into my prayer life?  A Daughter of St. Paul shared with me that she prayed the Chaplet every morning with her coffee, asking the Holy Spirit for an increase in His gifts during the day.  I thought, I can do that!  If not in entirety, I could pray it during the day as time permits and especially when I needed help from the Holy Spirit.

This devotion is now part of my daily prayer.  Praying and reflecting on the gifts of the Holy Spirit has enhanced me personally and spiritually; it has become my “go to” prayer, especially when an urgent intention is requested. 

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful with (name of gift) and enkindle in them the fire of your Love.  Send forth Your Spirit, O Lord, and they shall be created and You will renew the face of the earth.  (3X for each gift)

These gifts can help us overcome our fears to bring others to Christ; they can help us to “put on Christ.”  Some personal thoughts:

WISDOM:  Holy Spirit, fill me with words of wisdom.  When I may not know what to say; come to my aid.  Even one word of encouragement to a hurting person can make a difference.  When faced with a problem, let me slow down and turn to God for wisdom.  Part of the Serenity Prayer comes to mind:  God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

KNOWLEDGE:  Lord, give me the knowledge to better understand my faith and share it with others to bring them closer to you.

COUNSEL:  Lord, help me to discern good from evil; enlighten me to be able to counsel others who may ask for advice.  Help me to make the right decision in difficult situations.

FEAR OF THE LORD: During his general audience on June 11, 2014, Pope Francis spoke on the gift of the Fear of the Lord.  He said that it does not mean being afraid of God, but a reminder to do the right thing.  Lord, grant me the grace to always respect you and to avoid sin.

UNDERSTANDING:  Lord, give me an understanding heart in all situations; let me not judge.  Let me be a better listener and give others the gift of my time – a free gift that cannot be returned.  Recently I read an interesting post on Facebook:  “I never cared about the material things someone gave me.  I care about their time, attention, honesty and loyalty.  Those gifts mean more than anything money can buy.”

PIETY:  Lord, again let me always respect you as my loving Father.  Let me not approach prayer as a burden but as a joyful conversation between daughter and Father.  Let me not be overly pious but a good example to my family, friends and others I encounter in my daily life. 

FORTITUDE:  Lord, give me courage, a strong sense of morality and integrity.

It is not too late to make a New Year’s resolution.  I seldom make one since I don’t keep it.  However, I am committed to praying daily to the Holy Spirit, especially for a gift I may need that day. 

Thank you Holy Spirit!


Maryann Toth has been a Pauline Cooperator for eight 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 accompanied a candidate in the Cooperator formation program. She participated in a Pauline Cooperator pilgrimage to Italy in 2010.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Holding On to the Joy!

After the noise and drama of the Christmas holidays, we are now met with a kind of pause. We may feel the relief of having fewer tasks to perform and simpler schedules with which to cope. Or, we may experience a kind of depression at the sudden absence of all the celebratory activity and excitement. We may have feelings reflecting a mix of the two, or possibly just a sense of numbness. One thing is certain; this can be a quiet season which provides a rich spiritual pause to engage more deeply with the joys of Christmas. Such a contemplative effort can have rich spiritual rewards.

A Light to Dispel the Darkness
 Connecting more deeply with the meaning of Christmas will enhance one’s ability to hold on to the joy of the Christmas season throughout the entire year! The core of this joy is rooted in appreciation of the great gift of Christmas, which is the experience of Emmanuel, “God with us”. The Word is made Flesh; the grace of God has taken on visible human form; the Light has dissolved the darkness.
        Not only the Scriptures, but also the hymns, carols, and even the popular culture echo the Christmas story over and over, throughout the holiday season. While much of this is superficial, commercialized and unduly noisy, it does not take away from the fact that the best of the Christmas story still strongly permeates the culture, our society, our consciousness and our subconscious. When the Christmas Season ends, it can leave us hanging, especially when we have not gone beyond the superficial and material experience of the Christmas message.
        That message came from the heavenly angels to the lowly shepherds –
"Peace on earth..."
                "Good will to all..."
                                             "To you is born a Savior."
         This last part of the message is recorded in the name, Jesus (He who saves). January 3rd is the Optional Memorial to the Holy Name of Jesus. His name, which we honor above every other name, is a statement of his mission. He does so with the greatest of sacrifices in the ultimate display of agape, perfectly selfless, divine love. We, too, are called to emulate this love to the best of our capability in the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor, keeping the spirit of Christmas alive throughout the year.
The Great Gift of Christmas
 The great Gift of Christmas is God’s only Son, who has come to redeem us once and for all. The readings and celebrations in the Christmas liturgies foreshadow the events and salvation history we will contemplate during Lent and Easter. In His infinite love, the Father has given us His only Son. The preeminent response for this sublime Gift is thanksgiving in the form of our participation in the Eucharist. We kneel at the altar as the shepherds knelt at the manger. It is with great joy and wonder that we join our spiritual Mother, Mary, in contemplating the miracle of Christmas.
        In being born of Mary, Jesus shares in our humanness while we are given the opportunity to share in His divinity. From the Annunciation and her generous Fiat, the Blessed Virgin begins a life-long journey to become Mother of the faithful. During the Christmas Season, we celebrate the Feasts of Mary, Mother of God, the Epiphany of the Lord, and the Baptism of the Lord. With the birth of her Son, and through the years as his most faithful disciple, Mary lived the call to be Mother of God. This role made her, in turn, our own spiritual mother.
Great Joy Is Ours
 The Word has been made flesh and dwells among us. Salvation has been offered to all of humankind. In other words, salvation is being offered to each one of us, again and again, at every moment of our lives. The most appropriate response to this reality can only be a sincere prayer of thanksgiving. We can participate in that prayer of thanksgiving with every Eucharistic celebration. The question is: Do we (I) engage in the mass with enough spiritual depth to feel the joy of receiving, in my very being, the great Christmas gift of God’s Son? Is the joy of the Incarnation renewed in me with every Eucharistic liturgy?
        As members of the Association of Pauline Cooperators, we have the privilege to be a part of the Pauline Family, which provides a daily example to us of how to live perpetually in the joy of Christmas.

 Holding on to our Christmas joy will give us every opportunity to share in the redemption, to become true heirs as brothers and sisters of the Lord, and true sons and daughters of our joyful Mother Mary…

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish, but will have eternal life.” (John 3:16)


Marie-Louise Handal has been a Pauline Cooperator based in Manhattan, New York City, for 15 years. She has participated in organizing and hosting a number of Pauline Family special events, media presentations, and educational programs in the New York Archdiocese and environs. 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.
        Her advanced degrees include a Master’s Degree in Theology from St. Joseph's Seminary, a Master of Science in the Foreign Service (MSFS) from Georgetown University, and a B.A. in Mathematics & Science from Hunter College. She is currently 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.