Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Men and Women of the Word

Nov. 26, 2014 marks the close of the centenary year of the Pauline Family. Brother Aloysius Milella, SSP, describes the role of the Word of God in Pauline life, yesterday and today.

Under the early guidance of our Founder, and as it has been handed down, when we Paulines spoke of “apostolate” or “mission”, we knew we were not  talking about a theory or an abstraction.  It referred to something very concrete. And the cue for this was to be found in a phrase of Acts 1:1: “Jesus began to work and teach.”

As he did of so much of sacred Scripture, Father Alberione took this to heart. He lived and applied it. I mention this because the Founder always saw the Bible as a lever.  A mission is ever  longer and larger than a person’s life, whatever years it will have.  It wasn’t enough that Father Alberione would launch a mission.  He knew, and was ever preoccupied that it would know an essential “unity, stability and, above all, continuity.”  He effected this through an inspired and determined application of his Pauline reading of the Word of God.

And if we look at our history as institutes and as a Pauline Family, one of the most obvious of our “spiritual genes” as a family is an affinity for this very Word, this life-sustaining Word. The Founder instilled this as a fundamental in each of our Congregations and Institutes—the Cooperators included!

Biblical instruction, conferences based on the sacred text, meditations inspired by the Gospels and St. Paul’s Letters, were the grounding for the deeper grasp and understanding of our call. This was the basis of the religious formation that Alberione personally had at heart when shaping the distinct soul of our religious family over the course of so many years. And with great conscientiousness.

Encouragement was always there for scriptural studies, scriptural reading. And there was never a doubt that the motivating impulse of our apostolic activity—the whole of it—was ever to be the Word of God, Jesus the Teacher of the Gospels.

Alberione & aspirant, Eucharist & Gospel, Corpus Christi, 1930.
At the very start in 1914/1915, there was the veneration of the Bible in the corridors, the chapel, and the apostolic workplace....highly uncommon at that time. Father Alberione’s sons and daughters were given a unique hand-me-down taste for the Word of God as few other religious families of that era knew. We were to venerate the presence of the Lord in the Word as we were to venerate it in the Blessed Sacrament.

At that pioneering period, we were to grasp as Paulines that the Word had the power to open our eyes, to give us an understanding, a way of seeing things differently. Even then, the active agent in our vocational lives was to be the Word of God. It would have the power to change, to affect situations, and to resolve difficulties. In our developing mission we were to learn to act, preach and grow in persona Christi... the Scriptures, the truth applied.

Did even the earliest of our brothers and sisters understand how pioneering Father Alberione was in this for the Church of the then-new century?

According to him we were to be a family that propagated the Gospel in its unity and truth to everyone....and eventually to shout it from the rooftops.  But first of all, and above all, we were to be Paulines who knew and lived and felt the Master’s words.  Familiarity with his teachings was indispensable.  Others were to read them in our persons. And importantly for those primitive times, a spirituality that incarnated the Word of God would make us credible as modern evangelizers.  This would make believers of us and of our very humble, if innovative, mission.

To make this in-house identity translate into works of the apostolate, in 1921, only seven years into our founding, he launched the first ever Sunday liturgical bulletin, La Domenica. It carried the Gospel  of the Sunday, the readings, and a short explanation.  This in 1921. The format was copied extensively by Pauline foundations abroad and soon became just as highly valued as a parish aid for inculcating the Scriptures in so many different languages and cultures of the Pauline world.

Shortly thereafter, as well as in 1960, specific biblical publishing and distribution projects involved every member of the Pauline Family and depended to a great extent on the Cooperators for their success. “The Gospel in every family!” was the rallying cry that moved them to penetrate with the Word of God “all the strata of humanity…transforming [it] from within and making it new” (Evangelii nuntiandi, 18).

Echoes of this cry were heard at the Angelus message in St. Peter’s Square last month on Oct. 5, at the
opening of the Synod on the Family.  With “A Bible for every family…to be read often,” Pope Francis
announced that, to mark the centenary of the Pauline Family, the Society of St. Paul was offering a copy of the Bible as a gift to every family there. Fifteen thousand copies of the Word—a fitting tribute to the legacy of Father James Alberione.

Photo credits: 
M. Emmanuel Alves, FSP - Bible; www.alberione.info/operaomnia - Alberione; John Skeels - Aloysius Milella
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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, November 19, 2014

No Boundaries Exist for a Pauline

All Paulines are called to be way, truth,
and life for their brothers and sisters.
In the Constitution of the Daughters of St. Paul the following inspiring articles remind us of the no-boundaries mission entrusted to us: 

“Prayer gives rise to the apostolic dynamism that makes our zeal in charity visible. It enables us to discover the presence of Christ in history and leads us to understand people and serve them as the Divine Master did. Our meeting with Christ in prayer becomes a privileged moment in which we bring to him the hopes, joys and anxieties of the world, in order to adore, to intercede and to discern the new paths that the Spirit is opening to the Word. In this way, we offer all that we are and all that we do to the Father so that the people of our time will come to know Christ the Master Way, Truth and Life and so that, in and with him, we too will be way, truth and life for our brothers and sisters” (n.70, 73, 8, 74, 7).

All Paulines are called to be way, truth, and life for others. Our focus on prayer helps us rediscover our baptismal vocation that incarnates itself in the situations of our time. We pray to possess the tenderness and mercy of Jesus as we remain attentive to the signs of the times and to the new paths of humanity as authentic witnesses to Christ in a culture of communication.  Pope Francis tells us, "Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence" (259).*  As we become fully aware of how poor and inadequate we are to carry this out this mission our thoughts turn to the preferential option for the poor in Catholic social teaching. This preference for bringing the Gospel to the poor has been present in our Christian tradition since the very start. The Church has made an option for the poor which is understood as a special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity" (198). 

Paulines realize that poverty, our own and that of others, highlights our need for Christ, Way, Truth, and Life in more than just our material needs. It makes us want to be like him. "Jesus’ whole life, his way of dealing with the poor, his actions, his integrity, his simple daily acts of generosity, and finally his complete self-giving, is precious and reveals the mystery of his divine life. Whenever we encounter this anew, we become convinced that it is exactly what others need, even though they may not recognize it" (265)

The Pact or Secret of Success, written by Blessed Alberione, helps us encounter this anew: "We know that we are very weak, ignorant, inadequate, and incapable; instead, you are the resurrection and the life, our one and supreme good." Catholic social teaching calls us in a more immediate way to be aware of the vulnerable and least advantaged members of society. Pope Francis reminds us that poverty may also be manifested in a spiritual deprivation: "I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world. We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing" (273).

What can Paulines do for the poor? Brit Stack, a television producer and Pauline Cooperator in formation, reflects on the Pauline mission and the poor in her blog Lighting the Lamp:  


"Some of the sisters are already doing what they can…if someone comes to the media center, they’re given a bite to eat, something to drink, and told who can better help them. So we’ve taken care of their physical needs. What about the spiritual?....This is where I believe the best thing one can do is follow the well-known quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: 'Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.' LOVE is quite possibly the best way to evangelize and be testaments of God’s love for all. So that’s something.

"Another something: the children of the poor. In college, I was part of a group that would teach kids living in a trailer park about the Bible…We’d play outside, give the kids snacks, and then sit down with a Bible story. Why not take JClub Bookfairs to community centers or churches in the poor areas of the city?

"The poor of spirit can belong to any financial level. An example: the abused. Speaking as someone who knows people who were/are abused, many of them don’t actually trust there’s anyone who can help them. That means earthly or heavenly. The first thing needed is to form that bond of trust that someone can help them. Once trust has been established, it can be a bit easier to ask how they’re coping with the past. However, talking about religion and God might still be tough. So what can we do? We plant seeds. A small library of books and DVDs at a shelter can be beneficial. So too can be leaflets about forgiveness and how God loves us no matter what.

"While ministering to the poor is important, there’s also a need to educate the ordinary lay person who has the means to help the indigent. The Pauline mission is great for this—it’s evangelizing about our duty to love all as Christ loves us. The biggest and best way to carry out the Pauline mission when educating others about the poor is the development of books, films, and apps about Catholic Social Teaching. Also...stocking resource rooms and parish libraries in poor areas. These are just some examples of how one can involve the Pauline mission with ministering to the poor. There are several other ways: media literacy, economic discipleship, and teaching literacy classes. The list goes on and on." 

Brit concludes: "It has become my firm belief that the Pauline mission is rooted in helping the poor and it just hasn’t been fully realized. A recent post (Bernadette Boguski; September 10, 2014) on the Association of Pauline Cooperators Blog addresses this to an extent. It is not only the body that thirsts and hungers - it is also our souls. We often forget that we are a composite of soul and body. While some groups feed the body, the Pauline spirituality is in the unique position of having the resources to nourish both. Wouldn't it be great [if a Pauline Cooperator] put together a small booklet to feed the soul?" 
What are your thoughts about the Pauline mission and the poor?  
*All numbered quotes are taken from Evangelii Gaudiuum
Photo credits: Phivan Nguyen (Good Shepherd); Sr. Margaret Kerry, FSP
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Sr. Margaret Kerry celebrates 40 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), Sr. Margaret is working on a young adult book. You can reach her at mkerry@paulinemedia.com.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Telling Stories

My first post!  When initially invited to contribute to the Association of Pauline Cooperators blog, I was excited, and my first reaction was to quickly say “yes.” Then fear and anxiety set in.  Who am I to write for a spiritual blog?  I have no formal training in theology or writing.  Yet, as a wife, mother, and grandmother, semi-retired from the finance field, I knew I had many stories – “telling” stories – that strengthened my faith.  So, here I am and I have come to tell my story; well, at least one.

Last year, Pope Francis encouraged all young men and women to become evangelizers, even if they make mistakes. In 1 Cor. 2: 3-5, St. Paul tells us of his great fear of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus: “I came to you in weakness, fear and trembling, and my message and proclamation were delivered not with plausible words of ‘wisdom’ but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of the power, so that your faith would be based on the power of God rather than on human wisdom.”  St. Paul could not simply call upon his own skills.  He had to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.

With these thoughts (and fears) in mind, I would like to tell you about one experience that led me closer to Christ and to our Blessed Mother.  This article is dedicated to our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, who has had a life-changing effect on me.

In 2007, while visiting the Cathedral of San Juan, Puerto Rico, I encountered a woman praying fervently and devoutly in front of the statue of our Lady of Guadalupe.  I was so impressed that, even though I knew nothing about Our Lady of Guadalupe, I started to pray to her for a special intention.  My motherly intuition told me that my oldest daughter was trying to conceive.  Every day I asked for our Lady’s intercession; if it were God’s will, please bless my daughter with the gift of a baby.

Not even a month later, my daughter announced that she was expecting and her due date was December 9.  At that time, the date meant nothing to me.  While sharing my happy news with Sr. Maria Joseph, FSP, I learned that December 9 was the date of our Lady’s first apparition to Juan Diego.  I also later discovered that our Lady is known to be the “Protector of Unborn Children.”   She is wearing a dress typical for a woman with child.

My daughter gave birth on December 12 – the feast day of our Lady of Guadalupe!  Since I had no control over the birth date of my grandson, I can only believe that this was not a coincidence but a “God incident.”   My grandson is now almost six years old.  This experience left me with a feeling difficult to describe.  I often think of it during times of weak faith and then am immediately lifted up by our Blessed Mother.  This encounter has led me to a stronger devotion to our Lady.  As a Pauline Cooperator, I find this devotion to be especially meaningful.  Our founder, Blessed James Alberione, developed a deeply personal relationship with Mary and part of the charism of the Pauline Family is devotion to Mary, Queen of Apostles.

My daily prayers now include a prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe from the Queen of Apostles Prayer Book (published in the USA by Pauline Books and Media).  A beautiful prayer for meditation, it speaks to me and challenges me to be a better person.  I would like to share some of my favorite phrases and reflections:
  • Fruitful Mother of holiness – We look to Mary who possessed the fullness of holiness to help us along our path to holiness.
  • Teach me your ways of gentleness and strength – Do these attributes seem to be contradictory?  Mary, help me to be a woman of gentleness and strength with myself and others. 
  • Queen of Martyrs, whose Immaculate Heart was pierced by seven swords of grief, help me to walk valiantly amid the sharp thorns strewn across my pathway – Our Lady, I am sure, had the highs and lows of every mother.  The grief she experienced in witnessing her Son die is incomprehensible.  Let me walk valiantly and be strong as you were whenever I encounter a thorn in my life.
  • Help me always to seek the good of others – Rid me of faultfinding and negativity. As our Lord tells us, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
  • May I proclaim the loving solicitude of our Father in heaven so that the wayward may heed his pleading and obtain pardon – help me to be caring and compassionate as our heavenly Father, so that many who have turned away from him will feel loved and forgiven and will come home.
A simple visit to a cathedral positively impacted my faith and my life forever.  Who was this woman?  I will never know, and she will never know the influence she had on me.  This woman could have been you.  Our actions are also a form of witnessing and evangelizing.

The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is only a few short weeks away.  Let us all come to Mary with our intentions.  On November 18 we will celebrate the feast day of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul in Rome.  May they also lead us to Jesus as Mary does.

What is your story, your “Aha!” moment, that brought you closer to God?  We all have one.  Evangelize me by telling me your story in the “Comments” section below.
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Photo, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Maryann Toth

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


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Friends in High Places


Every March, as part of a group of health care providers from St. Louis, I travel to Catacamas, Honduras, to offer free medical care to those who need it most. We had already dedicated our gastroenterology team to Blessed Father Timothy Giaccardo, SSP, so we are the “Giaccardo GI Group.” Blessed Timothy was among the first Paulines to make his vows in 1921 and later became Blessed James Alberione’s vicar general, his right-hand man. In March 2014, I was especially grateful for Blessed Timothy’s intercession and saw myself why Father Alberione could entrust him with so much.

Jeffrey Mathews, M.D., and Mario Castro, M.D.
Early in the week of our trip, Dr. Mario Castro (a pulmonologist) saw a cachectic* man who was thought to have lung cancer. He had a cough, weakness, and weight loss that would not respond to antibiotics. A chest X-ray showed a mass in his right lung. Mario needed a bronchoscope, and Jim, our equipment expert, had brought a bronchoscope that worked with our GI equipment just in case such a need would arise. Mario performed a bronchoscopy and saw a foreign body lodged in the right lower lobe of the man’s lung. Unfortunately, after two hours, Mario could not remove it. Usually he would have dozens of instruments to choose from to facilitate removal of a foreign body from the airway, but not this time. He hated to stop, because he knew the man would die if it were not removed. Even if the patient would have had access to a thoracic surgeon to operate, he was too weak and cachectic to survive such a surgery. 

Our GI team had brought some equipment, but the equipment I had to remove foreign bodies was for GI scopes, and much too large to fit through the working channel of a bronchoscope (the diameter of the channel is 6mm, so an instrument has to be less than 6mm in diameter to fit through the bronchoscope). The few snares and biopsy forceps that fit through the channel were ineffective in moving the mass.

Jim went through every piece of equipment we had several times. So did the nurse assisting Dr. Castro. I then went through every piece of equipment we had and found nothing suitable.

I returned to the OR to tell Mario. He was visibly upset at the thought of stopping the procedure without helping this man. Mario asked me, “Are you praying?” I was embarrassed to say no, so I simply said, “I will.” I felt so humbled and helpless at that point. As I looked down, I saw “GIACCARDO GI” where we had it stitched above the pocket of my blue scrub shirt. I prayed aloud, “Blessed Father Giaccardo, please help this man. We are entrusting this mission to you, and we need your help so we won’t have to just let this man die. Please help us to help him. Amen.”

I returned to our supply room, and sitting on top of all of our equipment was a 5.5mm diameter Caesar foreign body removal tripod. None of us had seen this in all our searches. I ran it into the OR. Mario slid the tripod through the bronchoscope, grasped the foreign body, and successfully removed a large molar that we later learned the man had lost in his sleep months earlier without knowing what had happened to it.

Our patient began to finally respond to his antibiotics. By the end of our mission week he looked and felt tremendously better. Thanks be to God through the intercession of Blessed Father Timothy Giaccardo.

The entire mission team now has a great devotion to Blessed Father Tim, and it looks as though next year our entire mission team, not just the GI Group, will be under his patronage.

The Pauline Family has many Blesseds, Venerables, and Servants of God, including Father Giaccardo. One of the many reasons I am so happy to be a Pauline Cooperator is that these incredible men and women are now part of my family, the Pauline Family, and I know I can call on them in my times of need. If you have a need to entrust to Father Tim’s prayers, send me an e-mail (jeffmathews@yahoo.com) with your mailing address, and I’ll be happy to send you his relic and a prayer card asking for his powerful intercession. (I won’t keep or use your address for anything else.)
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* Emaciated, due to serious illness.
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Jeffrey E. Mathews, MD, has been a Pauline Cooperator since October 11, 2009. He and his wife, Carolyn, live in St. Louis, MO, and consider themselves blessed to have three sons and two daughters, two of whom still live at home. Dr. Mathews has a love for languages. He has studied French and Chinese in the past, and he is currently studying to become more fluent in Spanish.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Beauty of Purgatory

A doctrine of hope: purgatory and the holy souls
My late brother, a Catholic priest, was born on November 2, and my mother used to refer to him as her “poor soul,” as he was born on the feast of All Souls.  I envy him that he was born on such an important feast.  As a priest, he loved All Souls Day because...it is the one day in the Church year when priests can wear black!  But that doesn’t mean it is a sad day.
I have come to share his love of this feast day of the Church, as it reminds us of one of the most beautiful teachings of our faith, the doctrine of purgatory.
Now, a lot of people don’t like to talk about purgatory, and I have encountered some Catholics who think the Church stopped teaching this doctrine, or that it is an antiquated belief held only by little old ladies. I, for one, am grateful that God in His mercy provides an opportunity to achieve the perfection that may be lacking in a holy soul at the time of death.
The analogy I like to use with people who have difficulty with the concept of purgatory is to ask them to name a famous person they greatly admire or would like to meet.  Now imagine that you are working in the garden, filthy with dirt, grime, and perspiration, and the said person arrives at your doorstep wanting to have dinner with you.  “I can’t meet them like this, I have to clean up,” you might say.  Well, purgatory gives us the opportunity to ‘clean up’ so that we can meet Jesus in perfect splendor.
What is purgatory?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes purgatory this way:
All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. (CCC1030).
“…the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”  Hmmm.  This reminds me of a quote from the Confessions of St. Augustine: “Heaven is not heaven except to the holy.”  I had never thought about that before.  An unholy soul would not be happy among the perfect, any more than a mischievous child on the playground would want to associate with the well-behaved kids.  
Praying for the holy souls
The Catechism goes on to talk about praying for the holy souls in purgatory:
An Angel Frees the Souls of Purgatory, Ludovico Carracci, 1610
“This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore (Judas Maccabeus) made atonement for the dead that they might be delivered from their sin.” From the beginning, the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.  The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.” (CCC 1032)
The souls in purgatory are often referred to as ‘holy.’  They are holy because they have been deemed worthy of salvation.  But despite true contrition and forgiveness in confession, atonement for the damage done by our sins is needed.  The best example I can give, which you may have heard, is of the feather pillow.  Imagine that your unkind word or sinful act is like a feather pillow that has been opened in the wind; while you may be truly sorry for what you have said or done, and have been forgiven, you can never know where your words were repeated, how your actions have affected countless others, and what damage you may have done, any more than you can retrieve all the feathers that were released when the pillow was opened.  If we go into eternity with this woundedness, blessed are we who can be healed in purgatory!  The prayers and good deeds of our loved ones when joined to the sacrifice of Jesus and offered on our behalf, are the “medicine” we need for this healing.
As the communion of saints that we are, the doctrine of purgatory gives us hope that we can assist one another on our path to salvation, not only during our earthly life, but by praying for those who have died and are enduring their final purification before sharing in that ‘beatific vision.’
Blessed James Alberione wrote the following prayer for the holy souls in purgatory, which also includes an intercession to help us in using the media for evangelization in our world.  His prayer is as follows:
Jesus, Divine Master,
I thank  you for having come down from heaven
to free us from so many evils
by your teachings, holiness and death.
I plead with you on behalf of the souls who are in Purgatory
on account of the press, films, radio and television.
I am confident that these souls, once freed from their suffering
and admitted into eternal glory,
will intercede with you on behalf of the modern world,
so that the many means you have granted us
for elevating this earthly life
may also be used as means of apostolate
and life everlasting.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.
As I shared in the beginning of this post, my brother is no longer with us. He died suddenly 15 years ago, and I pray that he is sharing in that beatific vision.  He so believed in praying and offering sacrifices for the holy souls in purgatory. The prayer cards distributed at his funeral offered this quote from St. Thomas More, which beautifully conveys the unity that we share with the holy souls in purgatory and the hope that it gives us:
“Pray for me, as I will for thee, that we may merrily meet in heaven.”
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Bernadette Boguski has been a Pauline Cooperator for over 20 years. She is a member of St. Columbkille Parish in Parma, OH, where she serves as a Eucharistic Minister, cantor, and member of the music ministry. Bernadette holds a degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and currently serves as the development director for Womankind, a nonprofit agency providing free prenatal care and support services for pregnant women in need.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

In the Joy of the Faithful “YES”

Photo: www.pddm.us
October 26 is the solemnity of Jesus the Divine Master. Jesus Master-Shepherd is the Father’s totally “consecrated one.” Blessed Alberione started to pray in 1908 that a religious family might come into being – a family that would completely belong to Jesus the Divine Master, present in the Eucharistic Mystery. We – the congregation, Pious Disciples of the Divine Master (PDDM) – are the blossom of his prayer and dream.

As we celebrate the Pauline Centenary, we also celebrate opportunely the 90th anniversary of the PDDM foundation. And by a gracious coincidence, this is also the 40th anniversary of my total consecration to the Divine Master. Another member of our PDDM community here in Fresno is also a jubilarian. Sr. Mary Crucis D’Amico is celebrating her 70th anniversary of religious profession. Last August 17, 2014, Sr. Crucis and I renewed our vows in the presence of the members of the Pauline Family, relatives and friends. At the end of the Eucharist presided by Fr. Mike Goonan, SSP, I spoke briefly on some experiences and insights on religious life. Here are some of the thoughts that I shared that day:

Oblation – the spirit of sacrifice
Immolation is the spirit of religious consecration. One day in 1949, Sr. Mary Crucis was about to leave for her mission in the U.S.A. She was given an hour to bid her family goodbye. Her dad was toiling in the field. He was informed and started to run. But he could not run fast enough. He saw the bus winding down the mountain trail. He wept and cried: “Figlia mia, non ti vedrò più!” (“My daughter, I will not see you again!”) He passed away and never saw his beloved daughter again. Of course, the way she radically left her family is no longer done today. In most religious congregations, the members are given proper time to bid goodbye to their families.

In 1956, our founder, Blessed Alberione, wrote on a holy picture to Sr. Mary Crucis: “Keep faith in the salvation of your dad; there are many reasons to believe that it is so. I celebrate Mass on his behalf. Now this is what you should keep in mind: I will see him in heaven. I would like to secure myself of a beautiful place there.” This is the joy of religious consecration; there is sacrifice, yes, but also the assurance of eternal life if we correspond to the grace of God. Our loved ones, too, share in this promise. In a way, like the obedient, faithful Abraham, we too hear the Lord say, “All the families on earth will be blessed through you” (Gn. 12:3).

Generativity – the need to transmit the charism to the next generation
In the recently concluded Pauline annual retreat led by Fr. Mike Goonan, he underlined the duty to remember the good we have received from the older generation and the duty to care for the next generation.

Personally, I see the beauty and mystery of the generation of the Pauline-PDDM charism being actualized in the “here and now.” Here in this sacred space of the convent’s chapel are four generations: I was one of the formators of Sr. Nympha many years ago when she was a postulant in Mumbai, India. She is my “spiritual daughter.” Now Sr. Nympha is assigned here in the States as formation mistress for postulant Lesley. In a sense, Lesley is my “granddaughter.” And I wish to recognize the presence of Lesley’s “great-grandmothers” – my novice mistress Sr. Tiziana and Sr. Rosario, my formator when I entered the convent when I was an aspirant. From them I have learned the values and imbibed the spirit that shaped my Pauline-PDDM character. 


Indeed, the desire to generate “life” and transmit the charism is deeply ingrained in us. If this is true for religious life, this is likewise true for family life. Love and life are generated and transmitted in families.

Thanksgiving
Sr. Crucis and I celebrate “the gift of persevering love” in the context of the Pauline Centenary celebration. We therefore say: “To all who have strengthened us in the gift of persevering love and to all who have shared in the joy of a faithful YES, our heartfelt gratitude. Together with Mary, Mother of Joy, we give glory and praise to God, whose action in our consecrated life is sheer grace.” 

_________________
Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang, PDDM, entered the congregation in 1970 and made her religious profession on December 8, 1984. She has a doctoral degree in Liturgy from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome. She now lives in Fresno, CA, where she prepares the weekly pastoral tools, “Lectio Divina” and “Eucharistic Adoration Guide.” These can be accessed through the PDDM website: www.pddm.us. She is a recipient of the Pope’s award: Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.
Photos: Divine Master - www.pddm.us; family - Sr. Mary Emmanuel Alves, FSP