Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Journeying to Damascus

Now Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.  On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"  He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”  The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one.  Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing;* so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.  For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.  -  Acts 9:1-9

I recently attended a Road to Damascus Women's retreat and was amazed by how much more clearly I could see that first, converting vision St Paul had of Christ's Light.  I am no stranger to blindness. I lost a lot of the sight in my left eye when I was nineteen, due to damage that happened to my optic nerve.  Sometimes, when I accidentally spend any length of time outside on a sunny day without sunglasses, I am literally blind for a few minutes upon entering the house or darker area. When it first happened, I was frustrated, afraid, upset, angry....pretty much every emotion simultaneously. But it was also at this time that God began to open my eyes to His vision of the world.  I think this weekend helped me to once again have the scales removed from my eyes and know how much alike we all really are.

We started the retreat by giving up our cell phones and watches-- and, more importantly, control.  As a nanny who constantly juggles schedules and sends millions of emails and texts, I was actually very eager for this part of the retreat. But it was a little scary too.  I have a hard time giving up control, i.e., not keeping track of what I am supposed to be doing next or where I am supposed to be. In the end, this little factor helped me more deeply understand what Saul was going through in those hours and days before Ananias showed up. It allowed me the freedom to let go and be led, while just enjoying every moment I had with our Lord. I am sure it did the same for Saul.
Conversion on the Way to Damascus by Caravaggio. With permission
from the Caravaggio Foundation, under Creative Commons licensing..

Before the talks began, the image of Caravaggio's famous painting of Saul's conversion was displayed on the projector.  It depicts the moment when Saul was confronted by the Light of Jesus Truth, an experience too much for his eyes to behold. He was rendered blind. Now I have seen this painting of Saul knocked off of his horse before. In fact, I have read a discussion about it, to the effect that nowhere in scripture does it say that Saul was even on a horse. Read the scripture above again-- see, no horse! Yet often this is how Saul is portrayed.  I often get stuck or fixated on little details, but today that wasn't what came to mind.  When I sat there staring at that painting, the term "get off your high horse" came to mind.  Maybe the horse is a representation of Saul's perceived righteousness in his attempt to rid the world of Christians.  I began to think deeper, what is my vision of God?

Maybe I also needed to be knocked off of my 'high horse."  Where am I persecuting Christ? Do I do this by not loving and accepting my brothers and sisters?  Do I set up barriers, out of jealousy or fear, for others who are trying to make Christ known to a world in darkness?  Slowly, Jesus Truth began to open my eyes: to Who He really is and what that means to me and my life; to who I really am in His eyes and how much I mean to Him.
Once I had encountered Jesus Truth, and seen myself the way God sees me-- in Love, despite all of my faults and failings-- it was time to meet Jesus Way, Who calls us all to follow.  This is an area of my personal life where I often struggle.  Lack of self confidence can lead me to think you need to be "good enough" for God, or even make me afraid of what He might ask of me.  We listened to the song "Oceans" by Hillsong, a song I have heard many times before. But just as that painting was so very familiar yet seemed to be new, so was this song.  The song talks about God calling us out onto the water of life, just as Jesus called Peter.  I can really relate to Peter in this passage:

Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.  But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” - Matthew 14:28-31
I beg God to call me, and as soon as I hear Him I jump right in. But I soon take my eyes off of Him and begin to sink. I begin doubting that I really heard Him. After all, I am nobody special, there are many people more qualified, and I am going to fail Him....  Pride is what made Peter sink, and pride is what makes me sink too. When I start to focus on me, and begin thinking I can/need to do it on my own, that's when I fail. What jumped out at and amazed me about hearing the passage this time was the word "immediately." Immediately after Peter called out to Jesus, He stretched out His hand and caught him.  Immediately!  If I follow Jesus Way, am I called to do that as well?  Am I willing to "immediately" help my brother or sister up without casting judgment or counting the cost? Jesus could have waited a moment or two to teach Peter a lesson, or to get even with him, but He never does. Can I do the same?

16 Lorenzo Veneziano, Christ Rescuing Peter from Drowning. 1370 Staatliche Museen, Berlin.
Christ Rescuing Peter from Drowning by Lorenzo Veneziano.
With permission, Staatliche Museen (Berlin) under Creative Commons licensing.
That evening we were led to adoration. It was a beautiful chance to spend time with our Lord and reflect on everything I had experienced thus far.  I thought of those hours Paul spent in darkness, conversing with our Lord. And I thought of the beauty God has shown us in Reconciliation, so that we might do that also.  In Reconciliation God gives us the chance to say, "Jesus, I know I messed up big time, and I struggle not to continue to do so.  I am so sorry, and I will keep trying to do what is right."  And then we hear His response, "Rise and sin no more." I felt so peaceful sitting there visiting with Him, pouring out my heart to Him in adoration. I shared my struggles and asked for His immediate help with them.  I heard Him tell me how much He loves me, and I wholeheartedly offered Him my own little, "I love You too."  Oh what a blessed way to end the evening!

The final talk was on Jesus Life and our call to go forth and share Christ with the world.

So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the holy Spirit.”  Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength. -Acts 9:17-19

Conversion of St Paul by Benjamin West.
With permission from Vanderbilt University
under Creative Commons licensing.
Again, "Immediately" comes out.  The moment the Holy Spirit fills Saul, Jesus immediately draws the scales from His eyes.  How difficult it must have been for Ananias to trust the Lord and help this man who had been persecuting Christians like himself.  Yet he listens, follows and shares, as we are all called to do.  The final presenter read us this quote from Pope Francis:

The spread of the Gospel is not guaranteed either by the number of persons, or by the prestige of the institution, or by the quantity of available resources. What counts is to be permeated by the love of Christ, to let oneself be led by the Holy Spirit and to graft one’s own life onto the tree of life, which is the Lord’s Cross.—Homily, Mass with Seminarians and Novices, July 7, 2013

We are called to be "permeated by the love of Christ"-- permeated or spread throughout, thoroughly infused with the love of Christ.  Wow, now that is a powerful image.  I heard in my heart again the words, "You can't give what you don't have," which brings me back to why I went on this retreat to begin with.  I know that I need to schedule time to get away and be filled up before I can give out all that He calls me to.  As I said before, I am a nanny caring for three different families with a combination of  seven children, aging from seven months up to fifteen years old.  I consider it my calling to pour out every single ounce of love I can into each and every one of them at every opportunity I am given. The seven month old can be much much easier than the fifteen year old, but that doesn't mean I can just not bother trying. It means that I try even harder.  I also call out to Jesus to help me much more often. I ask Him to help me to not lose my patience, when the child in my care is frustrating me and getting me upset.  I don't ever want to be a voice telling any of them that they are bad, wrong, or too much to love.

Lord, Help me be a clear reflection of the Love you have for them, as if I am the only reflection they may ever see of You.  
Don't get me wrong, it is not like I hold back with the baby at all, he just makes it so much easier. But I am so thankful God doesn't just love us when it is easy.  It is in the struggles, when we may not see Him, that we are resting in His shadow.

The retreat concluded with a beautiful teaching Mass and the return of all of our cell phones and watches.  Unlike my physical eyesight, the vision of Christ only continues to get clearer and clearer the more I am exposed to the Light.  I truly treasure the taste of Heaven I was given by being able to step outside of time and schedules and be led on the Road to Damascus. I strongly suggest that you also make time to go "off the clock" and let yourself be led.

Please Lord, help me to be as my names says I am, a "Christ bearer", to the world in need of Him.  Amen

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 former 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, July 13, 2016

Treasures of Mount Carmel

Our most important work is to pray –

This week, we look forward to the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel -- Saturday, July 16th. While almost all Catholics know a great deal about this devotion and the related Church history, few have had the opportunity to explore the extensive, and sometimes surprising, details of its rich history and spirituality. The wisdom of this devotion encompasses not only the Christian era, but has its roots set back in both the Judaic and pre-biblical spiritual traditions.

rom the earliest days of Christianity, it has been one of the most popular Marian devotions among the faithful – so popular through the ages, in fact, that it intertwines with many diverse devotional and cultural threads in human history. The history of Mount Carmel itself, an actual site in the Holy Land, set the stage for development of the devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Prior to the Christian era, like many other summits in the ancient world, Mount Carmel was regarded to be sacred space by a variety of ancient, pre-Christian peoples who populated the area. Its earliest Judeo-Christian traditions trace back to the time of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Mount Carmel is reputed to have been the location from which the prophet Elijah, in the 9th century BC, was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire.

Saints and Sinners Seek Shelter

In the centuries which followed, Mount Carmel became a refuge for a mélange of saints and sinners alike. Almost eight centuries before the birth of Christ, in the time of the fire and brimstone prophet Amos, Mount Carmel was known as a refuge not only for hermits and pilgrims, but also for thieves and other people seeking to escape justice and God. By contrast, by the second century BC, it had become a long-term refuge for the religious ascetics known as the Essenes, famed for their composition and preservation of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Mount Carmel: A Place of Prayer & Marian Devotion

Tradition tells us that, from the time when Elijah and his protégé Elisha dwelt on Mount Carmel, it also became a site for devout Judaic and Christian hermits. Until medieval times, the network of caves provided shelter for a solitary life of prayer and meditation in this wilderness. These hermits lived as individuals yet in relatively close proximity to each other – a kind of “community” of isolated hermits. In the twelfth century, some of the Christian hermits formalized association with each other as the earliest Carmelites. Details of their foundation and history are unclear, and the Carmelites have gone through a number of changes and reforms over the centuries.

Early on in their history, the thirteenth-century Englishman, St. Simon Stock, was among the first Prior Generals of the Carmelites who founded Carmelite sites outside the Holy Land. Although their history is complex and not completely recorded, three hallmarks distinguish their spirituality and lifestyle: a penitential life of prayer, a strong connection to the Elijian/Elishian hermetical traditions of Mount Carmel, and devotion to Jesus’ mother as Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

 Protective Shelter under the Blessed Virgin’s Mantle

The Blessed Virgin, especially under the name Our Lady of Mount Carmel, manifests the mercy of God by being both companion and protector not only to each Carmelite, but also to each one of us as members of the faithful. In this Year of Mercy, it is interesting to note that two important symbols of Our Lady of Mercy are mirrored in the traditions of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. They are the Scapular and the protective Mantle of the Blessed Virgin. Both are symbols of mercy in the form of Mary’s protection of her children, all believers. Many prayers ask Mary to protect us by embracing us within her mantle (scapular).

Wearing a scapular is a constant reminder of God’s mercy and of the protection that Mary affords her children. Originally, the scapular was an article of clothing either worn across the shoulders as a cloak, sometimes lengthened and extended into a work apron. The scapulat is part of the formal habit of several monastic orders, including the Carmelites and the Dominicans.

Over the years, this article of clothing came to be symbolized in the familiar devotional scapular. The devotional scapular is made up of two small squares attached with a narrow ribbon. It is often worn around the neck, under the clothing, as a symbolic mantle/scapular. There are many versions of the devotional scapular, including those picturing St. Benedict, St. Thomas the Apostle to India, and the Passion. But among them all, perhaps the two most recognizable are the Scapular of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The Mount Carmel scapular has come to be strongly associated with St. Simon Stock because it pictures on one panel, the image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and, on the second panel, the vision of St. Simon Stock receiving the scapular from Our Lady.

The Quest for Peace in the Land of Carmel

As I studied the history of Mount Carmel, I could not help but be reminded of the tragic turmoil which has plagued the land of Carmel. Personally, as a descendant of Latin Catholics from the holy town of Bethlehem, I find the worsening strife in the Holy Land a particular sadness. I still have relatives living there, and news of peace efforts in the region mean a great deal to me.

His Eminence and Beatitude Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, recently visited the United States. One of the Patriarch’s stops was at my Manhattan home parish, Church of the Holy Family, the United Nations parish, where he and His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan led a Prayer Service for peace in the Middle East. Patriarch Rai was elected in 2011 as the 77th Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East. About a year later he was ordained a Roman Catholic cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI. He represents the largest Catholic grouping in the Middle East.

In his remarks Patriarch Rai recalled Pope Benedict’s urging at the time of his appointment as Cardinal, that no matter how impossible it appeared, it was essential that he believe in peace, and that he remember that achieving that peace would not be our own doing but rather the work of God. Our own most important work is to pray. Prayer and faith must not be forgotten in the great challenge to achieve peace in the Middle East. Faith, in turn, cannot be sustained without prayer in humility before our God. It will not be our doing but the work of God. Our most important work is to pray.

Efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East must confront and neutralize so many evils! After years of unsuccessful efforts to achieve peace, the task seems impossible – at least in a human context. What their Eminences emphasized in their comments is that prayer is the essential component which will convert the apparently impossible task into the possible.

“We admire you,” Cardinal Dolan told the Patriarch. He described the Patriarch as one, “who … holds his hands together in prayer, whose hands are often raised in blessing, whose hands are often held up to stop bullets and bombs and bloodshed, and whose arms embrace all…in a region which causes us sometimes to cover our ears, lest we hear more and more bad news…You instead encourage us to open our ears to hear God’s Word of justice and peace, to listen to Jesus’ call for reconciliation and mercy.”

Our Personal Quest for Holiness & Peace

In this, I saw a lesson that applies as much to our more ordinary (but not necessarily any easier) efforts to achieve peace and personal holiness in our own faith lives. Repeatedly in the Gospels, evil, weakness and infirmity appear before Jesus in various forms. Each time, he vanquishes the evil and doubt through exorcisms and healings. Jesus’ very presence is wrought with compassion and mercy for all – sinners, the marginalized, and the thirsty crowds drinking in his Good News!

While he commissions his disciples to go out and evangelize the world, Jesus repeatedly makes it clear that the most important component of his disciples’ efforts is their faith. In other words, this great work of converting the world is not simply the work of the disciples, but rather the work of God, in which the disciples participate.

Closing Prayer

In one of Saint John’s visions as recorded in the Book of Revelation, he saw the Risen Lord sitting on a throne and heard his divine promise: “See, I make all things new! … To anyone who thirsts, I
will give to drink without cost from the spring of life-giving water” (Rev 21:5-6). May we have the faith and wisdom to ask, through our prayers, that the Lord grant conversion to our hardened hearts and to those challenges and tasks which seem impossible to conquer. May the Lord give us the grace to stay connected to this central Easter message which we celebrate in each mass we attend!

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, July 6, 2016

Take two: The return of a great lesson

Chapter delegates. Br. Al pictured directly above 3rd kneeling figure at Pope's left.

One of my earliest up-close experiences of Father Alberione was at the first General Chapter of the Society of St Paul in the spring of 1957. The Chapter would mark a certain coming-of-age of his maturing religious family. It would decidedly take it from a rudimentary adolescent stage to grown-up apostolic adulthood—spurred by the founder’s vibrant Paul-like faith, form and fire.  

The Chapter’s deliberations would take him from Founder to “Superior General”. And his charismatic leadership would now be situated in the great tradition of consecrated ingenuity in transmitting the Gospel to the generations of our age.

From the care and effort he made each morning explaining the essential  fundamentals of being Pauline, to forging an intelligent and indispensable heart/mind/will relationship with the living Christ, we were caught up in exciting vocational discovery, purpose, and challenge. 

Motivated within by Christ as Master, we had first to understand a God-given mission and its practical  approaches to today’s  cross sections of humanity. Like Paul, we aimed to meet this milling modern humanity where it was: in the pulsing and often bewildering marketplaces of today’s world. Soldiered on by Jesus, with competency of means and members, it was for us to become faith-bearing samaritans of his Way, Truth, and Life to the multitude of today’s  unknowing, wandering, and weary—”out there”—on countless digital and side-of-the-road lonely impasses.

Br. Aloysius offers deference to the new Superior General.
“The harvest is great.” The reach of preaching was not. For this, Father Alberione presented himself disposed to the Spirit’s guidance in recasting methods and means for effectively allowing the wisdom and power of Jesus’ message to make contact with a distraught epoch, its distant and yearning  humanity—now all within reach—and everywhere so very much in samaritan need.

Many have been the saints and right-minded men and women who have suffered and protested the awful human consequences of wrongdoing paraded as good: love and life squandered, a perishing sense of the sacred, the depreciated qualities of human worth and dignity, and, pitied most of all, the surrendered capacity of praising the Creator and intuiting Truth, Goodness, the Beautiful.

As Father Alberione himself summarized:
“a)  How much is Christian life practiced today in conformity with the Gospel? In what way is this life lived in the world today?  In what is it lacking?  What means are to be adopted for a valid purification and elevation in Jesus Christ, the Master? ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’. ‘Learn of me’.  ‘I AM THE WAY.’  
“b)  How far has the doctrine of Jesus Christ been spread? With what acceptance and understanding? How has it been preserved in its wholeness and purity in the world? What are the means by which it can win all minds, mindful of the mandate of Jesus Christ, the Master, to the Church: ‘Teach all people’. ‘This is eternal life, that they may know the one, true God, and him alone whom he has sent, Jesus Christ’.  ‘I AM THE TRUTH’.
“c)   How and in what way do we pray in Christ and in the Church ‘in spirit and truth’? How and in what way are we fruitful in life and in grace as true children of God, as co-heirs of Jesus Christ? How can we better apply the words: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done’? What are the difficulties and application in actual practice? ‘Prayer must be made without ceasing’. ‘Whatever you ask the Father in my name, it will be given you’. ‘I AM THE LIFE’.”
On Christmas Eve 1947, Father Alberione issued a booklet of thirty brief meditations and prayers called “The Way of Humanity.” He proposed a review of the destiny of human beings—their “Way,” beginning with creation, then touching on revelation, Jesus’ life and ministry, the Church, eternal life, etc. Following are samples of these meditations in which the Founder proposes a theological expression (Truth), an invocation to assimilate the expression (Way), and a prayer (Life).

The Most Holy Trinity gathered in council, and issued the decree: “Let us make man in our image and likeness” (Genesis 1:26).  In the plan of God, Mary is seen as the masterpiece of creation, the prime and final goal of all creation.
   My Lord, I am entirely the work of your omnipotent love.
   I adore you, my God, one in nature and triune in Persons.
   I thank you, because you have made me for the happiness which lies in you and for your eternal glory.
   Save me with your omnipotence!
Glory to God in the highest and peace to humanity!
Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life, have mercy on us.
Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us.   

After Jesus Christ finished teaching by example at Nazareth, he began the school  of the spoken word. On the Mount of the Beatitudes he outlined the way of peace and salvation, and revealed God to men and women, announcing the new law of love (cf. Lk: 4:14-30; 6:20-38).
   I adore and thank you, Divine Master, who declared yourself to be the Way and Truth and Life.
   I recognize you as the Way I must follow, the Truth I must believe, the Life which I must eagerly long for.   
   You are my all; and I want to be totally yours: mind, will, heart.
Glory to God in the highest and peace to humanity!
Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life, have mercy on us.
Mary, Queen of Apostles, have mercy on us.

Administrator’s note: One hundred years ago today the Pauline Family was founded. We join together in prayer, giving thanks to God for the good he has done through us and for his mercy in the face of our limitations. We ask for wisdom, courage, zeal, and joyful witness to Jesus Master  for ourselves and for every Pauline in the world, remembering in prayerful affection every Pauline, known and unknown to us, who has gone before us.
Brother Aloysius Milella entered the Society of St. Paul as a candidate for the Brotherhood on the feast of St. Paul, June 30, 1946, and pronounced first vows in September 1948. Following his perpetual profession in 1953, he was assigned to the staff of the SSP family monthly, Catholic Home Messenger, published in Canfield, OH, where he would be engaged in its editorial and production sectors for 14 years. He worked briefly as the province’s vocation director, before serving as a member of the congregation’s governing body in Rome for the next 17 years.  After returning to the States in 1986, he was involved in book center ministry and then in administration, guiding its day-to-day apostolic fortunes in various communities. After a period in Dearborn, MI, he returned to Staten Island in 2012.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Reflections on St. Paul

Unique Statue of St. Paul at St. Paul the Apostle Church in 
Westwood California, near Los Angeles

The other day I went to Mass at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Westwood, CA where the Paulist Fathers have an early morning Mass.  The young priest was talking about St. Paul in his homily.  He said that St. Paul was a courageous missionary who truly took to heart Jesus’ words: “Go out to the whole world and tell the good news.”  I have always loved the statue of Paul which is pictured above.  It is to the left of the side altar at St. Paul’s Church and I gazed on this statue as Father was talking about Paul as a courageous missionary.  St. Paul seems to want to say something to us modern day missionaries from his humble stance in this statue.  He is holding out the scriptures in his left hand and clutching to the sword in his right hand which actually looks more like a cross than a sword to me.  I hear St. Paul telling me to “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” This is the ultimate goal of a Pauline’s life, “Until Christ be formed in me.” It was the ultimate goal in St Paul’s life, in Alberione’s life, in Mother Thecla’s life, in Blessed Timothy Giaccardo’s life and in every Pauline who has reached the great Pauline mansion in heaven.  We are fortunate to have the Feasts of Saints Peter and Paul to celebrate on June 29 and a special Congregational Feast of St Paul on June 30.  May you each have a wonderful celebration in honor of St. Paul!  I asked the Los Angeles area Pauline Cooperators and Pauline Cooperator Candidates who are in formation to tell me about their relationship with St. Paul and I share their thoughts below.

Bob and Adra Martz, Promised Cooperators
Bob and Adra Martz are promised Pauline Cooperators from Culver City, California (near Los Angeles).  They had these t-shirts made with St. Paul’s image on them and proudly wore them at the Religious Education Congress in Anaheim.  Their mission was to promote the knowledge of the Pauline Family by handing out free holy cards of Fr. Alberione and Mother Thecla and to tell people about the Pauline Cooperators.  Adra admits that before she became a Pauline Cooperator, she did not have a close relationship to Paul because she did not understand his writings about women.  Once she learned that Paul was writing from his particular cultural reality and she began to meditate on Paul’s writings, she realized that he is truly our founder. Now she even wears his image on her shirt!

Mary Latini, a Candidate in the Cooperator
Formation Program
Mary recently shared with me that St. Paul inspires and encourages her to pray always and to be persevering in prayer.  St. Paul told his followers to pray always and he asked his followers to pray for him.  St. Paul tells us to never tire of praying for all God’s holy people. Petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving should be offered for everyone.

Teresa Connor, a candidate in the Cooperator 
Formation Program

Teresa told me that she decided to read the New Testament as a practice of Spiritual Reading.  When she started reading Paul’s letters, she recognized that they deepened and renewed her faith.  She found new light, new energy, and a new understanding especially in the letter of Paul to the Romans.

Amelia Tagle, a candidate in the Cooperator
Formation Program with Sr. Khristina
St. Paul gives Amelia strength and helps her to know Jesus even more.  She said that her call as a Pauline is to imitate St. Paul by bringing joy and love to others through the media.

Theresa Limtiaco, a candidate in the Cooperator 
Formation Program

Theresa shared that her participation in the Pauline Cooperator Formation Program has given her the opportunity to think and reflect more deeply on St. Paul.  She now looks to him as one of her favorite saints. Theresa said she has always admired the saints who have undergone radical conversions/transformations in their lives.  St. Paul certainly belongs in this category.  She admires him, but more importantly, she looks to him as a model for her own life.  She finds him to be someone she can relate to because of his weaknesses prior to his conversion.  Paul accepted the will of God and exhibited complete faith and heroic virtue.  Theresa said that we can look to St. Paul to intercede for us and to help us reach the goal “I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me.”  This is one of her favorite quotes from St. Paul and one of her favorite prayers.  She added, we can look to St. Paul as a model of zeal in evangelization which is a call for us Paulines.


Sr. Marie James Hunt entered the Daughters of St Paul community in 1981.  She is currently missioned in California where she is the local superior of the Culver City community.  Sr. Marie James is also the West Coast Coordinator of the Pauline Cooperators.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Do events in our lives happen by chance or are they planned by God?  Are we just at the right place at the right time or does the Lord put us where we need to be at the right moment?  Our lives are made up of coincidences which I prefer to call, and commonly referred to as, God incidences.  We have all had moments in our lives when there are really no explanations other than God’s intervention.  The first day I casually walked into a Pauline Book Center, which was life changing, was no coincidence.  Part of evangelization is sharing our stories – our God incidences.  I would like to share one of my mine.

A few years ago, a favorite radio personality suggested adopting a Bible verse and living it out during the approaching New Year.  I loved this idea; however, by mid-February I still could not decide on a verse.  Then, while attending a day of prayer, the priest mentioned the above verse in his opening comments.  I immediately loved it and decided this could be the right one for me.  While leaving the chapel and picking up my Pauline Prayer Book, the prayer card from my father’s funeral fell out.  On the front of the card was Micah 6:8.

A chill ran through me.  The card was chosen because it had the prayer of St. Francis on the back (my Dad’s name is Francis), but I did not remember the verse on the front from Micah.  My dad died in 2001; I had not looked at the card for years.  I truly felt this was a message.  If I had not been in the retreat chapel on that day and the prayer card did not fall, this incident would never have happened.

Since Father’s Day will be celebrated this month, I decided to dedicate this post to my father who taught me so well in his quiet and gentle way.  Evangelization is not only writing and talking about God’s love but living it out in our daily lives .  My father did not talk about his faith and religion but he lived it.  What was the message of my God incident?  What were God the Father and my dad telling me?  How could I apply Micah 6:8 to my daily life?  Some thoughts:

To Act Justly – Everyone wants to be treated fairly and with equality and dignity.  In our society today, this has become an important topic and has been in the news almost daily.  To act justly simply means to do the right thing and to follow the Golden Rule:
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you. “  St. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4:32:  “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you” and in Colossians 3:12-14  “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

Lord, help me to treat others as I want to be treated, especially in the small annoyances of life when it is so easy to forget to be kind, patient and forgiving.

To Love Tenderly –  Our culture uses the word love so casually.  I witness tender love when I see the faces of new parents gazing down with unconditional love at their newborn or at a grieving person holding the hand of their loved one as they are saying their final good bye.  Who is a better example of tender love than our Blessed Mother who we, as Paulines, hold close to our hearts?  Mary is the most humble, gentle, tender and loving mother.

The familiar verse from 1 Corinthians 13:4 -5 sums up beautifully what tender love is:  “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.”
In Romans 12:10, St. Paul tells us, “Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.”
How do I treat the people in my life who I profess to love?

Lord, let me love tenderly – with compassion and mercy.

Walk Humbly With Your God -    As Paulines we are called to imitate Christ who said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.“  Nothing makes me feel more humble as when I am giving Communion at Mass, to the homebound or at a hospital.  Love this quote that speaks of humility from Pope John XX111:  “It often happens that I wake up at night and begin to think about a serious problem and decide I must tell the Pope about it.  Then I wake up completely and remember that I am the Pope.”
St. Augustine was asked which virtue was first.  He answered:  humility.  It is the foundation of all of the virtues.

Lord, help me to be humble.  Help me to live my life in humility and simplicity.

In closing, and since I am dedicating this to my father, please bear with me as I share another God
incident.  While volunteering at a local hospital one morning, I noticed a familiar name on my patient list.  I was assigned to visit my godfather who I had not seen in several years.  It was such a blessing to not only visit him but to give him one of his last Communions and then attend his funeral the following week.  Had I not been in the hospital that day and assigned to his room, I would not have this lasting memory.  A coincidence?

One more share…. I heard a story recently about a couple whose baby was born and was given only a short time to live.  While at home one evening, they picked up their Bible,  turned to the Gospel of Luke (the baby’s name) and randomly chose a page.  The first verse they saw was Luke 18:16:  “let the little children come to me.”  The baby died the next morning.  A coincidence?
Do you have a favorite Bible verse or God incident that has impacted you?  Please share.  It is an excellent way to evangelize!

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, June 15, 2016


As we approach Father’s Day, we have been reflecting on the notion of Paternity and Fatherhood in our faith and our relationship with God and what it means for our sense of place in the world and in the Economy of Salvation.

The Bible is full of numerous examples of the importance of paternity in the worldview of human culture in the ancient world and into the modern era. As early as the first few pages of the book of Genesis we see images of paternity in God’s creation of the world and of Adam, and at the end of chapter 2 we get the first instruction on man’s paternal responsibility: “And that is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” (Gn 2, 24).
In chapter 5 of Genesis we see the record of the descendants of Adam, evoking the importance the ancient world placed on paternal lineage, and pre-figuring the genealogy of Jesus recounted in the first Chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. “Adam was one hundred and thirty years old when he begot a son in his likeness, after his image, and he named him Seth.” (Gn 5, 3). This wording is identical to that used in describing the creation of man in the likeness and image of God. This connotes a sharing of the power of creation between God, Father and Creator and man, creation and in turn co-creator.  St. John Paul II, speaking in one of his Theology of the Body Catechesis sessions, said that “fatherhood is one of the most prominent aspects of humanity in Sacred Scripture,” giving this text as an example.
Adam is the first human father image we are given, and he is at once flawed in his sin of disobedience. This should give us an early warning against the worldly notion of the all-powerful authority figure of a human patriarch: mankind’s fatherhood is subject to flaw and sin, unlike God’s, even though ours is meant to be a reflection “in his likeness and image.” Genesis gives us further genealogies, from Adam to Noah, then from Noah’s son Shem to Abraham. Like most of us, these men have their good points and their failings.

In Abraham we have perhaps the finest Old Testament example of a human father. His faith and obedience to God are clearly shown – and chosen for emphasis – as he is held up in Genesis as a man God attracted (from a family that worshipped other gods) then tested and chose to be the father of an “innumerable race” in which his plan for reconciliation would unfold generations later in the person of Jesus.
Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus in chapter 1 is meant to show us that the Nativity of Jesus is indeed the fulfillment of the promise of God’s salvation in Isaiah 7, 14 and Samuel (2 Sm 7, 12-16). Fatherhood and lineage play a key role in bringing salvation into the world.

St. Joseph is a beloved devotion in our family, and although he is often listed among the “other”
devotions of the Pauline family, we always include him in our prayers right next to Mary. This is a particularly meaningful devotion for us, as St. Joseph is the adoptive father of Jesus. We found him to be a wonderful model and source of inspiration, hope and patience in the early years of consolidating our blended family, where Jim had to assume the role of step-father to adolescent girls. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about the challenges Joseph faced in raising Jesus – except for that little bit about leaving the caravan to go to the temple in Jerusalem without telling his parents – but it has been a great comfort to reflect on Joseph’s abiding trust in Divine Providence when faced with situations where we have felt at our wit’s end, lost and without clear answers. Imagine what Joseph must have been feeling when he could not find a place for his wife to give birth? Or when they fled into Egypt with nothing, just barely escaping Herod’s army of assassins? His trust in God in times of trial can be a great comfort for all men (and women) facing uncertainty and fear.

For the fathers reading this: what do you know about your lineage, your ancestry, the challenges the men in your past faced and dealt with? There are lessons to be learned in both the triumphs and the failures of these stories, and they are an excellent vaccine against the sins of pride, hubris and belief that we as human fathers must be all-powerful and obeyed.  And if the above exercise leads to us feeling down about the challenges of fatherhood, we only need recall the numerous examples of God’s mercy and aid given to those men who were faithful to Him, even when it meant going against social pressures.

As human fathers, we sacrifice our own self-interest and ego for the good of our wife, our family and our children, which in turn spreads out into society like ripples on a pond. In doing so, we more closely approach that definition of fatherhood in the image and likeness of God. The Bible is full of good examples, and so-called “good bad examples” to help us discern the better path when we are faced with difficult choices in guiding our families.
May the Divine Master intercede for all fathers that He might grant them the faith, trust and obedience of Abraham and Joseph as they strive to more perfectly reflect the image and likeness of God the Father in their roles in their family, the Church and the world today.
We wish you every blessing this Father’s Day.
Jim & Luisa McMillan
Holy Family Institute


Jim and Luisa McMillan are members of the Holy Family Institute, which they entered in Colombia in 2000. They currently reside in Colorado with their youngest daughter, Maria, where they work as translators and interpreters. Their oldest daughter, Gabriela is married and lives in New York with her husband, Fidel, and their daughter, Emilia. Sara is currently attending graduate school in Michigan.