Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Positive Lenten Practices


" In a flash, at a trumpet crash, I am all at once what Christ is, since he is what I am, and this Jack, joke, poor potsherd patch, matchwood, immortal diamond is immortal diamond."
Gerard Manley Hopkins


The word Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, referring to the lengthening of days in the spring. In Lent, our own spring cleaning and growth happens through personal encounter with Christ, says liturgical leader Sr. Margaret Mary Tapang, Sister Disciple of the Divine Master (a Pauline religious institute.) The word mystica explains the profound, dynamic spiritual experience that leads to conversion or metanoia, enabling us to spring to “life in Christ in the Spirit” (Rm. 8:2).  True conversion is nurtured by life centered on Christ: Eucharistic Master, Priest, and Liturgy. Prayer, reading of Sacred Scripture, and celebration of the Sacraments enable us to reach the goal of christification: “It is no longer I who live; Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). “God wants to rest in us, he wants to renew nature also through our conversion, he wants to make us participants in his divinity,” says Benedict XVI.

The rhythm of our daily life is so frenetic that we wonder if we even have “time” for conversion. Not to worry. God has time for us. God gives us his time by entering history with his word and his works of salvation, opening it to eternity and making time a history of covenant. Lenten liturgical time deepens our experience of mystica for an ongoing metanoia. Our Lenten sacrifice is to draw near to the One who loves us so much.

Here are some Positive Lenten Practices


Become Holy: In Hebrew, the verb to sacrifice literally means “to draw near” or "to make holy."  It is not up to us to renounce our lives, but it is up to us to draw near to the Lord Who makes us holy. [1]  The Spirit give us the perseverance to walk in newness of life so we can live in God. Father Guido, Society of St. Paul (another Pauline religious institute,) reminds us that Blessed Alberione insisted on positive sacrifice. For Alberione, all is oriented toward “developing one’s energies and putting them at the service of the glory of God and for souls ... [Lenten penance is] an effort to keep far from evil and to progress in virtue. It is renunciation, detachment, crucifixion, interior death. At the same time, it is a conquest, elevation, new life, true sanctification, resurrection, an education for the will, a setting out towards Heaven."


Prayerfully Read the Scriptures: The word of God is the creative power which transforms us into Christ. St Athanasius tells us, “The Word became man so that man might become God.” Is the word of God truly the nourishment we live by, even more than bread and the things of this world? Do we really know that word? Do we love it? Are we deeply engaged with God’s word to the point that it leaves a mark on our lives and shapes our thinking? Or is our thinking is constantly being shaped by all the things that others say and do? (cf. Benedict XVI). Here are two ways to deepen your love for God’s letter to us:

 •Sr. Margaret Mary Tapang, sddm, hosts a
Lectio Divina site for sacred reading of the scriptures: Breaking the Bread of the Word http://pddm.us/LectioDivina.htm

  •A Bible Enthronement ceremony in your home is a great reminder that God is present and active through his word. Here is a ceremony you may use: https://www.scribd.com/doc/255558676/Enthroning-the-Bible-in-the-Family

Adore and Give Thanks: The Latin term for adoration, ad-oratio, implies physical contact, a kiss, an embrace, all implicit in love. In Eucharistic adoration, we give thanks for a love which knows no measure. Eucharistic adoration is union with the living Lord and His mystical Body the Church (cf. Benedict XVI). The Second Vatican Council rightly proclaimed the Eucharistic sacrifice “source and summit of the Christian life.”  The gaze of the Church is constantly turned to her Lord, present in the Sacrament of the Altar, where she discovers the full manifestation of his boundless love. In Adoration, God works for our holiness. Saint John Paul II said in order to evangelize the world, we need experts in thanksgiving, celebration, adoration and contemplation of the Holy Eucharist.


Fast from Self-Seeking:  Encourage one another! There is no human being who does not need encouragement, who does not need a person who smiles at them, who treats them as a son and daughter of God is to be treated. Fast from self-seeking in order to encourage others. Every word of encouragement or of consolation that I say is a word of the Spirit. In encouragement, we restore others, repair injury and ask pardon just as Jesus restored people to wholeness. God transforms and enters into our world so that there truly is a river of goodness greater than all the evil that could ever exist. God invites us to join Him, to leave the ocean of evil, hate, violence, and selfishness and to identify ourselves with Him and enter into the river of His love (cf. Benedict XVI). We fast from desiring what others have in the way of gifts and talents by encouraging the good we see. “Rejoice always,” advocates Paul, “pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”(1 Thes.5: 16-18). As we encourage others, our words become God’s Word.

Through Mass and adoration, we become Eucharist, blessed and broken for others. In meditating on the Scripture we grow into God's Word. In our fasting, we become food for the poor. Through our prayer, we continue to open ourselves to the experience of mystica for our ongoing metanoia.
Blessed Lent!

[1] Abraham J. Heschel, God in Search of Man  (Borla Press in Italian)


____________________________



 Sr. Margaret Kerry, FSP, 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, March 15, 2017

Butterflies in the Desert




And he was transfigured before them; 
his face shone like the sun 
and his clothes became white as light.
                                                  Matthew 17:2

Butterflies.  That is the image that comes to my mind when I meditate on the Transfiguration.  I think-- how wonderful it is, that the Lord allowed them to see His beauty before they had to witness His crucifixion.  I often struggle with the season of Lent.  I miss the Alleluias.  I reflect on my own temptations in the desert.  I see how clearly I have abandoned the Lord at times, even after years of seeing His work in my own life and the lives around me.  I especially struggle with the reenactment readings of the crucifixion and with having to yell, “Crucify Him!” despite my actions that yell that very thing at times.  I find it fascinating that the church often uses a chrysalis as an image of Lent, even more so since learning all that goes on inside of that seemingly dormant little creature.

I love butterflies.  In fact, I have several times ordered caterpillars in the mail in order to watch them transform.  I find it incredible that God can take some fairly ugly, worm-like creatures and create something as graceful and delicate as a butterfly.  I used to think that they just went to sleep in there and woke up as these beautifully transformed creatures-- no pain, no struggle, just easy beautification. They are so incredibly beautiful when they emerge from their chrysalis; but do you know the darkness and struggle they have to go through inside there, all on their own?  I think of the chrysalis like Jesus’ temptation in the desert, or even like our own earthly lives after the age of reasoning.  Like the butterfly, I believe we, too, have four stages of spiritual development: pre-birth, childhood, reasoning/growing with the Lord, and-- after we die-- transfiguration.  The majority of our life we are in the chrysalis stage of regrowth.

Did you know that while the butterfly is in that chrysalis it doesn’t just grow a set of wings? Did you know that most of what made it a caterpillar actually dissolves and turns into liquid, and then key components from that liquid are then formed into the butterfly?  Now that sounds painful to me.  It also sounds like our daily struggle to die to ourselves and let God mold us into the beautiful creatures He has called us to be.

I struggled this year, as I do every year, deciding what to give up for Lent.  I didn’t want to just do the typical chocolate or tv or something that didn’t really mean that much to me.  I thought about trying to have a completely empty sink every single day, but that one is still beyond me a bit.  What I decided on may seem silly to some but to me, it seems just right. I prayerfully reflected on where I felt I might need to let go.  I decided to give up shopping.  The only exceptions are groceries on Sundays and things that I need for others.  This may seem like a little thing, but I have a habit of getting things as soon as I want them; for example, stopping to get a baked potato at Wendy’s instead of planning out and bringing something home in advance.  Already this choice has been so freeing and has inspired me to be more innovative about what I am going to prepare.  I am hoping this change will disintegrate the part of me that feels compelled to rely on my own wealth to fulfill all of my wants, instead of letting God fulfill my needs.  I am also hopeful it will help develop my eyes to see where my money can best go to use and help others.  I can honestly say that it has already been very fruitful and rewarding.

Beloved: Bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.
He saved us and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works but according to his own design
                                                                    2 Timothy 1:8-9

I find great comfort in this second reading as well.  I think of it as a reminder that during those struggles of life to become the person God is calling us to be, even inside of the chrysalis, we are never alone or out of His mind.  I recently had contact with my first Spiritual Director, Fr. David Engo, whom I first met when I was only sixteen years old.  He was preaching a Lenten Mission in Rhode Island a few weeks ago, but I think God’s lessons began on the ride down there.  The location was about an hour from my house, so it gave me lots of time to reflect on where I was when I met Fr David, as well as how far God has brought me since then.  What amazed me most was how the struggles felt looking back on them now.  The areas of my life that were the most painful and difficult to face years ago were now just a memory, like a completely healed wound.  There are still some scars, but even those are fading with time.

At the Mission, Fr. David preached about the “JOY” that consumes you when you live a life of relationship with Christ, and my cheeks hurt from smiling so big, because I knew exactly what he was talking about.  I never in a million years thought I could be this incredibly happy in life.  I spent many years in a deep depression and struggled with self-hatred and self-harming behaviors.  When I met Fr. David, I found out that suicide is a sin.  Go figure.  I had thought “Thou shall not kill” meant everyone else, not me.  So I spent years praying every night that God would just end my life, because I couldn’t see any possibility of anything good coming from it.  Now, I am so grateful for some prayers not being answered the way we want them to be at times.


Although there are still some things about myself that I would like to go on the list of dissolvable
items during my transformation, I can see the beauty He is creating within me, making the times of darkness much more bearable.  Knowing He is by my side, holding me and Loving me every single moment, amazes me.  So, as we continue this journey through the desert, allowing ourselves to be transformed, let us hold on to the reality that it is through the struggle of the chrysalis that the butterfly gets everything it needs to fly. Let us remember that even in the darkest moments of life, we are never alone.

______________________________

Christine Dufresne has been a Pauline Cooperator for 2.5 years. Originally from New Bedford, MA, she served at a mission in Kentucky for 16 months before settling in Waltham, MA. In addition to being a foster parent, she has been working with children in various ways for the past 20 years, helping with the children's program on retreats and with the Holy Family Institute group in Boston, and is currently a nanny for several families. She serves as a Eucharistic minister in her home parish of St. Mary’s in Waltham and visits the hospital monthly to bring Scripture and Communion to patients in the eating disorders and behavioral management wards.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

"The truth is, we all have someone to forgive(1)," writes R. Scott Hurd, in the very beginning of his life-changing book Forgiveness: The Catholic Approach ("Forgiveness"). The following is Scott's list of people we may need to forgive; the comments in the parentheses are my two cents.

1. Rude drivers (very appropriate for those of us who live in Massachusetts)
2. Spouses (thank goodness for Sacramental Grace - that is all I have to say!)
3. Friends (they can hurt or betray us, or over time may become our "frenemies")
4. Bosses (those who steal our ideas, treat us unjustly, or are just plain grumpy)
5. Bullies (even as adults we can find ourselves faced with cruel people)

But Wait, There's More!
I would add:

1. Ourselves (often the hardest person to forgive)
2. God (It is okay to admit this, He will not send down lightning to smote you for being honest.
Furthermore, let's face it: He already knows you are angry. If He created your brain, don't you think He can also read it!?)

We cannot begin the healing process if we do not first acknowledge that we need to forgive, and then identify who that person is. I have encountered people at my retreats and presentations on forgiveness who admit they really can't think of anyone they are angry with. However, when I start going through this list, I often see that light bulb moment as someone comes to mind. Usually, the welling of tears and nods of agreement come when I mention needing to forgive ourselves.

"Without exception, we’ve all been hurt by others; without exception, our faith invites us to forgive those who hurt us."(2)

The Power of a Good Confession

Many years ago, I went to Confession very angry with a situation and the one person in particular that I felt was responsible for the whole mess. I purposely sought out a priest that was also a friend, because I was seeking more for validation for my anger than to be forgiven of my sins. I sat down facing my friend, ready for consolation in this situation...and instead, I got this:

Priest: You know what you are, Allison? A monkey with an orange.
Allison: Well, interesting Father, I've been called many things, but have to say this is the first for this particular moniker.
Priest:  Let me explain.
Allison: OH, please do!
Priest: There is a story that says in Africa, the natives use a technique to catch monkeys. They hollow out one end of a coconut and they put an orange inside. The monkey puts his hand in the coconut and when he makes a fist to grab the orange, he's trapped. The natives will pull a string attached to the other end of the coconut and capture the monkey.
Allison:  Something tells me you aren't going to support my not forgiving this person?
Priest: No, for your own good, and the good of that other person, I won't be backing you on this one.  

Coming to Terms with my Orange

Over time I became so comfy with my orange that I forgot how to let go and even FEARED the consequences if I were to let go. In letting go, I wondered if I would be handing that person a victory over me or something even worse. If I forgave them without an apology or punishment, would I be letting them "off the hook"?  Certainly, I could never do that--right, after all they had done? No, this orange was mine and with that, I tightened my grip.

Only Hurting Myself

But really I was only hurting myself.  Perhaps I held on so long because there was a part of me that felt at fault and was no more able to forgive myself than those others involved. Obsessing over the situation, instead of turning it over to be covered by God's grace, was certainly not helping nor changing anything. As R. Scott Hurd notes in "Forgiveness," recent scientific studies confirm the healing power of forgiveness. They conclude that people who forgive live longer, healthier, and happier lives; furthermore, he reminds us, when we can't forgive, "we also deny ourselves God's forgiveness," and "the abundant life Jesus invites us to share." 


What Is In It For Us?

As a kid I suffered from awful stomach issues. I had a battery of tests. The final diagnosis was a 'nervous stomach'. My young life was in turmoil, and because I could not properly process my feelings they manifested themselves physically within my body. The mind is a powerful thing, and those repressed or obsessed behaviors and feelings can emerge as physical ailments. Jesus did not come to leave us slaves to this world or even our own minds, he came to give us an abundant life. Forgiveness, especially when coupled with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, can be incredibly healing.

Scott Hurd punctuates this healing with this wonderful quote from Pope St. John Paul II: "The liberating encounter with forgiveness can be experienced even by a wounded heart, thanks to the healing power of God, who is love." Forgiving and being liberated doesn't happen overnight. A heart filled with bitterness, malice, and rage is not capable of living an abundant life. It is indeed liberating to let God transform your heart and to open yourself to experience forgiveness.

What Else Was I Failing to Do?

Once I acknowledged the real struggle I was having with forgiving, I followed through on my penance–which, by the way, was praying for that other person.  Although I wanted to pray, “Dear Lord, change them,” I realized Father T was teaching me how to forgive, heal and move on with this important step. Instead, I prayed, “Lord, please bless this person with every grace and blessing I would ask for myself and more.” This simple act worked miracles on my heart. My life was no longer consumed by painful memories and bitterness. By cooperating with the grace of God, my heart healed and learned how to forgive.



(1) and (2) Hurd, R. Scott  Forgiveness: A Catholic Approach. Boston, MA: Pauline Books and Media, 2011.


_______________________________

Allison Gingras is founder of www.ReconciledToYou.com (RTY); and host of A Seeking Heart on Breadbox Media (weekdays 10 am ET.) Allison is a writer and inspirational speaker. She is a contributing author in The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion; and in a CareNote from Abbey Press entitled, "Good Enough Parenting." She presents the Catholic faith lived in the ordinary of everyday life through her experiences and humor.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Do Not Worry About Tomorrow: A reflection on Matthew 6: 24-34


Has the world gone crazy?  Left vs. Right.  Governments vs. People.  Pro-life vs. Pro-choice.  Native Americans vs. Oil Companies.  ISIS vs. The West.  Son-in-law against mother-in-law…

WAIT!

Wrong Gospel.

There are many things to fix and our Church is a Church of action.  At the end of Mass, we are invited in words, more or less, to “Go in peace and announce the Gospel of the Lord.”  We offer gratitude for this mission: “Thanks be to God!”  You pick yourself up from the pew, walk down the aisle, grab a bulletin, say hi to Father, walk out the door and then…

Remember the Gospel.  It has great advice and guidance for times such as these.  Christ opens with a punch: “No one can serve two masters.”  You must first choose in which direction you will walk and there are only two paths.  You either walk towards or away from Jesus. Choose carefully for the first decision affects all the rest.

In this thought experiment, let’s choose Jesus.  He continues in the Gospel as though he knows our choice has been for him anyway:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not much more valuable than they?
                                                                                               Matthew 6:25-27

These words of Jesus are often easier said than lived.  If we truly believe Jesus is who he says he is, however, then we must believe he will fulfill all he promised.  He is trustworthy.  We give up our worry so that we may place all our trust in him.

Having placed our trust in him, he gives us our task:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.
                                                               Matthew 6:33

How do we bring about the kingdom?  It begins in our everyday lives; towards our family and friends, in our dedication and hard work in our employment, and in using the talents God has given us for the greater good.  There is nothing any article can explain or tell you.  It must be lived and reach its fulfillment in a relationship with him who has been found trustworthy.

My Catholic grade school principle, a religious sister, had a great phrase about things that weren’t our business: that’s not your cross to pick up.  Too frequently, we overburden ourselves with worries we cannot do anything about.  When pride drives us we wind up doing more harm than good.  Discerning how to advance the kingdom often means discerning when to step back and not act.  Let Jesus, he who has been found trustworthy and who knows and loves you so well, select your cross.

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.
                                            Matthew 6:34

____________________________



Kellen O’Grady is Director of Liturgy & Music at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Hastings, Minnesota.  He will complete his Masters degree in Catholic Studies in May 2017 and chairs the Association of Liturgical Ministers for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.  He has a reputation for enjoying the finer things in life from hipster cocktails to dance and yoga.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Starving for Beauty

It wasn't the airplanes, it was Beauty killed the beast.

Do you recognize the movie quote? It is the last line in the 1933 black and white version of King Kong. On a recent cruise I identified it correctly to win a classic movies trivia competition. It's not a hard quote to guess for a movie lover. But it did get me to thinking. 

Beasts come in all sizes and shapes. Many of them are beasts that come out of our hearts, “for from the heart come evil thoughts …, lying, and slander (Matthew 15:19).” Our national landscape seems to be crawling with this type of beast since the recent presidential election. People of opposing politics have taken to social media, the airwaves, and the streets to advance their points of view. Nothing unusual about that. But this time, ugly words and ugly demeanor seem as common as dirt. I have been watching with unease, and I'm not the only one. The world seems to be tipping towards chaos with the weight of these beasts of the heart. Is it possible that Beauty is the force that can slay them?

In his book Jesus Shock, Peter Kreeft writes this about Beauty:
Beauty is one of the three foods of the soul, the three most vital human needs, along with Truth and Goodness. These are the three things we all want infinitely and absolutely. They are the three attributes of God that our very nature tells us about. They are the three ideals that raise us above the animals. They are also the three personality traits of Jesus in the Gospels that stunned everyone: His hard, practical wisdom; His warm, compassionate love; and His fascinating creativity and unpredictability. He was not only true and good, He was beautiful.[1]

Bignonia capreolata by Stan Shebs,
permission WikimediaCommons
I came across these words when I took up Kreeft's book during a Visit to the Lord in an adoration chapel in Farragut, Tennessee. And as often happens when I pray before the Blessed Sacrament, everyday words took on an aspect of illumination. I was flooded with warmth and stunned with sudden insight. 



Beauty. Could the Beast-slayer be right there in front of my eyes? Beauty. The contemplation of it moves human souls of every flavor. Its joys are universal to every seeking heart. It transcends politics, religion, nationality, gender and class in the pleasures it brings. What did my epiphany mean? Could it address a debate I had been having with myself since I was a teenager?

I first saw the movie Doctor Zhivago in 1966 when I was sixteen years old. It has haunted me over the years. I have wrestled internally with the values that the three men in Lara Antipova's life personified. Komarovsky (Rod Steiger) is the sensualist. Pasha (Tom Courtenay) is the political idealist. Zhivago (Omar Sharif) is the poet. As a Catholic, it has been easy for me to reject the sensualist's way of life. But over the years, I have found myself wondering which of the other two men is a better model for a disciple of Christ. Pasha was an activist for social change; he wanted to make society a better place for all to live. Zhivago wanted only to be left alone to create art out of language. But of what value is art to the poor who are starving?
'Black with goodness of orange' by Amannainani
"The picture describes the breakup of couples
and the bad feeling" writes the artist;
pain transformed to beauty.

Peter Kreeft suggests that in his earthly life, Jesus manifested aspects of both the poet and the activist. Indeed, his detractors even found him fleshly enough to call him a sensualist. But where do I fit in? In my lifetime, I have been both an activist and a wordsmith. Now I am a Pauline Cooperator. I am pledged to "become all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9:22)," for the sake of my True Love. And this Love of my life is also Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier, and Lover of all the flawed and wonderful people who share this earth with me—friends and enemies, family and strangers.

Kreeft urges Christians to get serious about beauty. "Modern man is rejecting Christianity not because it looks stupid or wicked but because it looks boring: dull, hokey, embarrassing, 'square,' sissified, bland, repressive, platitudinous, preachy, dreary, 'weary, stale, flat and unprofitable.' "[2] I don't feel any of those things about "mere Christianity," and I am downright staggered by the supernatural actualities described by the Catholic Church. I am regularly reduced to tears by its resplendent beauty. But I recognize that my religion does look boring (or worse) to some of the very people I hold closest to my heart. What can I do to bridge the gap and address the contradiction? 
In that adoration chapel, I realized that I have a long-standing habit of intellectualizing beauty, a habit that has not served me as well as I have imagined. My heart contains all of the aspects personified by Lara's three lovers. But I have not been equally open in disclosing them--and the gift of one's authentic self is a vital part of evangelization. I am mostly Pasha when I am doing serious work--community activism, committee work, communication. I turn into Komarovsky at play time. But I mostly keep Zhivago out of sight and safe in my interior being, where I reveal him only to my closest friends. There he is not vulnerable, there he will never be laughed at. But is this enough? I don't think so--not for a disciple with a Pauline and Alberionian calling.

Beasts are abroad, prowling and seeking the destruction of souls. Beauty may be the Beast-slayer that crosses every division between human beings. I don't, as yet, know how to serve Beauty with as much fervor as I have consciously served Truth and Goodness. But I resolve to learn.  

[1] Kreeft, Peter. Jesus Shock. Beacon Publishing (2012), p.53

[2] Ibid, p.54

________________________________________


Rae Stabosz has been a member of the Association of Pauline Cooperators since 2003. She and Bill Stabosz, her husband of 46 years, have six sons, three daughters, ten grandsons and eight granddaughters. Rae retired in 2007 from the University of Delaware, where she was a technology and media specialist for 27 years. She is co-founder and past president of The Society of Catholic Scholars of Delaware and proprietor, since 2004, of the Pious Ladies Bookmobile.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Prayers for Pauline Pray-ers



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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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 are blessed with three sons and two daughters (two out of college, two in college, and one in high school). Dr. Mathews, a gastroenterologist, is trying really hard to improve his Spanish for his annual medical mission trip to Honduras.