Wednesday, December 13, 2017

LET’S SHINE OUR LIGHTS! A COOPERATOR EXPERIENCE


“Wake Up the World With the Light of the Gospel” – what a fitting theme for the 2017 Pauline Cooperator Convention recently held in Des Plaines, IL.  As a young boy, our founder, Blessed James Alberione, was told by his mother, “we need your light; give us your light.”  He was old enough to hold the lantern so others could see the way.  Then, as a seminarian, during the night that divided the 19th century from the 20th century while in perpetual adoration before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, a particular light came to James from the Eucharist.  He had a greater understanding of Jesus’ invitation: “Come to me, all of you”.  The Pauline Family was thus born from the inspiration received from the “light” of the tabernacle that night.  From my first encounter with the Daughters of St. Paul in a book center in NJ, the Family has been a continuum of light for me.

After attending the Convention, the theme of light seemed to come to me more often.  I started to think about how to be a light to others.  As followers of Jesus, we are called to be lights in the darkness.  How do we do this?

I would like to first share a recent experience.  Shortly after the Convention, I was given the opportunity to help the Daughters of St. Paul with a book exhibit at a diocesan conference -- one of the many things I enjoy doing as a Pauline Cooperator.  While the DVDs, books, etc., were warmly welcomed by the attendees, I left the conference lifted up by the people I met that day.

As I walked past one of the exhibitor’s tables, the numerous pamphlets and cards depicting “light” caught my attention.  While chatting with the two women manning the booth, I learned that one was the recipient of a double lung transplant and the other lost her 13-month old baby in a car accident and donated her organs.  There were no words.  What could I say to these women?  All I did was cry and we all hugged.  It is one thing to read about these life-altering situations, but to come face to face with people who lived through them made it so real.  These women who had experienced so much pain were filled with “light” and I was deeply impacted by meeting them.  Later, while reading one of their pamphlets, I learned that many people make and donate “comfort’ blankets to the families of organ donors.  I love to crochet – don’t think I need to tell you about my new project!

Other people I met that day also shined their light – the young girl (a postulate) who recently joined a religious order only a month before was smiling and full of joy; the priest in a wheelchair who writes for our local diocesan paper, a widower and former pediatrician who is now a newly ordained priest– they were all shining stars to me that day!

What keeps us from shining in our day-to-day lives?  We usually have good intentions, but our lives are busy.  We run from one thing to another and usually in a hurry.  I would often think that it takes a big project to make a difference.  In reality, it is often the unspoken words and small acts of random kindness.  As we decorate our homes with light during this Advent Season and light the candles on our Advent Wreathes, we also need to let our interior light shine -- send a special “thinking of you” card or a positive, uplifting text.  Consider being a blogger.  If you like to write, encourage others through words.  When it is difficult to find the right words of comfort for someone struggling, let them know you are praying for them or light a candle.

The words of St. Paul come to mind:  “Do everything without grumbling or arguing so that you’ll be blameless and pure, unblemished children of God amidst a twisted and perverted generation among whom you’ll shine like stars in the world” (Phil 2: 14-15) and  “The Spirit’s fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control.”  (Galatians 5:22)  As Blessed James wrote in Thoughts:  “The apostle is one who carries God within and radiates God to others.”

As a divine coincidence and a surprise to
me, today is the Feast of St. Lucy.  Her name, “Lucia” means “Light.”  In Italy, torchlight processions mark her day.  In Norway, Sweden and regions of Finland, girls dressed as Saint Lucy carry cookies and saffron buns in procession, which symbolizes bringing the light of Christianity throughout world darkness.  Falling within the Advent season, Saint Lucy’s Day is viewed as an event signaling the Light of Christ on Christmas Day.

Like young James, let’s keep our lanterns lit as we continue our Advent journey and sing this familiar song:

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, shine, shine
Let it shine!

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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, December 6, 2017

Lazarus at the Gate: Economics as Spiritual Discipline



How often do you talk about money?  Who do you talk about money with?

In his 1983 book Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book, Catholic novelist Walker Percy includes a letter to Dear Abby:

“I am a twenty-three year old liberated woman who has been on the pill for two years.  It’s getting pretty expensive and I think my boyfriend should share half the cost, but I don’t know him well enough to discuss money with him.”

That sounds ridiculous, but it can also hit closer to home than it should.  At least it does for me.  Many of us share so many parts of our lives but are so quiet about our finances.  Those things that we can’t talk about, they tend to have power over us.  And it is much harder to make wise choices about generosity and savings and spending when we need to make those decisions in isolation because polite people never talk about money.  Often at our churches talk of “stewardship” just means giving to support the needs of the parish.  That’s true and important but is only part of the picture.

Jesus had no such compunctions.  He talked about money a lot.  It was one of his favorite topics, probably because it is so often the major rival to God in our lives.  St. Paul did not mince words either, writing to Timothy that “The love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.”  1 Timothy 6:10 (New American Bible).

That sounds terrifying.  But we can’t just avoid the topic.  The Bible includes warnings about the dangers of wealth but also celebrates God’s many good gifts to us, which include the resources that God entrusts us with.

One tool that I have found valuable as I try to navigate through these issues is the Lazarus at the Gate Bible study developed and distributed by the Boston Faith and Justice Network.  While exploring the various ways the Bible talks about money, this is a guide for small groups to get used to sharing our financial lives in Christian community.  Over the course of eight weeks we share our money stories, share our household budgets with each other, and embark on various small experiments in gratitude, simplicity, just spending, and joyful giving.  As each member makes small sustainable changes in their financial lives to free up more money for generosity the group as a whole considers various charities and decides where they want to direct this additional giving.  With many people contributing to the same cause, the numbers can add up.  It can be just fun to see how our own small efforts combine to form a substantial gift.  I know of one group that kept meeting periodically for years after the eight-week study ended and over that time gave away tens of thousands of dollars.
The Sectarian Review Podcast, with which I am affiliated, had an extended interview with the leaders of the Boston Faith and Justice Network about economic discipleship and the Lazarus at the Gate curriculum.

Being faithful in my finances is a continuing struggle for me, and I don’t think I am alone.  Might Lazarus at the Gate be a valuable tool for you too?  Discuss in the comments, what other tools have you found valuable in honoring God in your financial life?

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Kristen Filipic has been involved with the Pauline family since 2010 and completed the Cooperator Formation program in 2014.  She is a native Midwesterner but has lived in Boston for the last twelve years, where she works as a civil rights attorney.  She serves as a lector and a Bible study leader in her home church.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Miracle for Christina



These are a few pictures of Christina from a few months before she was diagnosed, earlier this fall and a few weeks ago

Having recently celebrated the feast of Blessed James Alberione, our Founder, Paulines worldwide have begun novenas asking for his intercession, praying for the complete healing of a young girl Christina Dangond in Massachusetts, USA. Her parents are postulants in the Institute of the Holy Family, part of the Pauline Family, to which we also belong. Christina is 11 years old and was diagnosed 5 years ago with a rare form of cancer. That time the doctors gave her only a few weeks to live. She went into remission twice and now Christina's parents have been informed that there is nothing more medically that the doctors can do so we are praying for a miracle. With God all things are possible. If you'd like to pray with us, this is the prayer:

"Most Holy Trinity who has willed to revive in the Church the apostolic charism of St. Paul, revealing yourself in the light of the Eucharist to Blessed James Alberione, Founder of the Pauline Family. Grant that the presence of Christ the Master, Way, Truth and Life, may shine in the world through Mary, Mother and Queen of the Apostles. 
Glorify in your Church this apostle of the new evangelization, and raise up mean and women open to the signs of the times, who, following his example will use the modern means of communication to lead all humanity to you. Through the intercession of Blessed James, grant me the grace that I ask for at this time, the complete healing of Christina Dangond from all of her cancer (pause). 

Glory be to the Father.....

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Our Father’s Day

Blessed James Alberione, our Founder
image courtesy of Sister Disciples of the Divine Master
November 26th, the day we commemorate our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, is once more upon us. He was still living when I entered the Daughters of St. Paul in 1964 so you might imagine that I know him very well. Back in the early years of formation I thought that I did. I looked upon him with the same adolescent superiority that a teenage daughter might reserve for her parents. Yes, the parent is older and wiser in a lot of ways, but so lacking in other things. I considered the Founder’s writings, for example, somewhat simplistic. However, as the years passed by swiftly for me, our Founder, too, picked up speed.
When I look back at my early relationship with Father Alberione’s writing I am mortified. Suffice it to say, time and reflection are great teachers. After repeated reading and sharing meditations with older and wiser Paulines, Father Alberione’s writings began to reveal themselves to me. I was the one who was lacking in so many ways. The Founder  purposefully offers us simple, substantial bread – not unlike how the Divine Master himself feeds us. Alberione didn’t propose for us a dense theological study of St. Paul, for example. Rather, he distilled Paul’s mighty thought to its essential components so that we would learn to put Christ at the center of everything, adopt a generous missionary heart, and strive for the final triumph when it will no longer be I  who live, but Christ who is living in me.
Our Blessed Founder is known to the Pauline Family as il Primo Maestro, or the first teacher. This title really says it all. But, we need to understand what it means to be the first teacher? This is not simply a chronological title denoting that he was the one who founded the Pauline Family and so has the right to teach the rest of us. That is true. He is the first teacher, the Primo Maestro, because he was the first one encountered by Jesus the Master, our Way, our Truth, and our Life and entrusted with the task of leading this new family of disciples. Alberione’s title as first teacher is meant to reflect Jesus’ own title as Master. In his divine plan, Jesus Master gave the Pauline Charism to Alberione and asked him to share it with others.
Blessed James Alberione taught us the art of discipleship. He, the first teacher, was also the first disciple of Jesus Master. The most important thing that he taught us about discipleship is the posture of a disciple’s soul. In the presence of Jesus, our Divine Master, we must be open, trusting, and humble. Open to the truth he is presenting to us, trusting of the way he wants to lead us, and humble before the love he pours into our hearts. This is not a natural posture to come by, even in the presence of our Lord (as I so aptly demonstrated in the first years of my religious life). It is really something that falls upon the soul like a seed that falls upon the ground. It must be taken into good soil so it can mature and bear much fruit. When the Founder taught us he gave the essentials, but he wanted us to learn how to fill out the material, to make the applications according to our personal and apostolic need.
Happy Feast Day to our Primo Maestro!
Happy Feast Day, Blessed Alberione!
So, as we once again mark the day when we celebrate the memory of Blessed James Alberione, let us embrace the gift we have been given and rejoice in our vocation to the Pauline life. Let us bless his memory by living out our Pauline discipleship with generous fervor and love. And, let us always rely on him to be our first teacher.
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Sister Mary Lea Hill, a member of the Daughters of St. Paul since 1964, has enjoyed communicating the faith through a variety of apostolic assignments. Her skills as a story teller were honed as director of audiovisual productions when Pauline Books & Media first produced animated features in the early 80s. An editor and author for many years, Sister Mary Lea has written several books, including Prayer and You, Blessed are the Stressed, Saints Alive: The Gospel Witnessed, Saints Alive: The Faith Proclaimed, and the best-selling Basic Catechism (co-authored with Sister Susan Helen Wallace).