Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Pauline Cooperator: A Very Real Presence in the Modern World

As Pauline Cooperators, we understand that we have a two fold commitment: 1) to strengthen our spiritual life through our Pauline charism, and 2) to take our apostolate of evangelization into the world, with emphasis on utilizing the modern communication tools of social and mass media. This we understand to our core, and we pray often for the intercessions of Mary, Queen of the Apostles and Saint Paul the Apostle to keep us always attuned to our special mission to evangelize through the media and to support the various Pauline family institutes. As foundational as this was and is to the Pauline Cooperator, our founder Blessed James Alberione was also very much aware of the tremendous impact the lay Cooperator could have through their very real presence in the world.
"Whatever you do, put your heart into it., as if it were for God, and not for man."
Col 3:23

Before we continue, let’s take a step back for a moment and evaluate the basic impact the Pauline Books and Media centers have had in our communities. First, of course, is the great wealth of spiritual materials that are present in these little oases of evangelization. Even greater still is the very real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in the Pauline chapels at the heart of our media centers. But there is a second part to the Pauline equation. That second part is just as important as our ability to evangelize. It’s the presence of our beloved Sisters, the Daughters of St. Paul, who use every grace-filled encounter to touch the life of each person who enters the media center and to share the love of Jesus with them. Whereas a person may never ever enter a Catholic church, they could very easily find themselves entering one of our Pauline book stores. Many of us can retell stories of conversion and blessings that started with a person entering the media center and being touched by the love and openness of our Sisters. These kinds of miracles happen every day.

With the Pauline Media Center in mind, we now can see the tremendous impact the Pauline Cooperator could have outside in the world. The Pauline Cooperator is like a mobile Pauline media center, taking the same two components of the media center into his/her daily life. The Pauline charism nourishes our faith, while our continued learning--through lectio divina, religious reading, and various studies--contributes to our spiritual foundation. But of equal importance are our daily encounters in parishes, communities, families, and our places of work. It’s this last element, the workplace, that I would like to explore in more detail.
Perhaps the most difficult of all places that a Pauline Cooperator penetrates is the workplace. This is the outer limits of the spiritual life, the “last frontier” we could call it. The reason for this is obvious. The workplace tends to be a place of business filled with goals, deadlines, production, manufacturing, educating, training, and turning a financial profit. Time is also a factor, where more and more workers are pushed to be as efficient as possible. Communication has been intensified and dehumanized into electronic emails. So where in all this chaos is the opportunity for the Pauline Cooperator to evangelize and spread the Gospel of Jesus, Master, Way, Truth and Life?

Let’s take a breather and slow down. Because that’s exactly what we as Pauline Cooperators have to do if we are to make any headway in the workplace. The opportunities to spread the love of Jesus are there, but it just takes patience and humble action when the moment arises. The first thing we can do is to be a witness to the teachings of Christ in everything we do at work, including our moral integrity and our fairness and gentleness with others. We can be beacons of light to our fellow coworkers, spreading positive motivations and encouragement. Taking the lead from the Pauline media centers, we can also use our workspace and offices to plant little seeds of faith through sacramentals and Catholic religious items. I always have my Catholic wall calendar up in my office along with a statue of one of the saints. It usually becomes a talking point for me when a coworker asks about the statue with curiosity.
Being a positive presence in the workplace, however, does not consist only in the witness of one's way of life or the religious objects in one’s office. “A true apostle looks for opportunities to announce Christ by words addressed either to non-believers with a view to leading them to faith, or to the faithful with a view to instructing, strengthening, and encouraging them to a more fervent life,” says the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity.
But how do you do this in our mostly secular world without scaring coworkers away or instigating heated arguments? This is tricky because the Cooperator will encounter atheists, agnostics, Protestant evangelicals, and even those who are just against organized religions. The Cooperator will also encounter the “nones”, those who profess to have no religion.
The key to this encounter hearkens back to the second great commandment given to us by Jesus. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This applies to our fellow coworkers as well. Do we truly treat our coworkers with love and compassion? We should start each encounter with our coworkers by listening. And then when the time is right, we use our personal experiences and encounters with Christ and the saints to faith share. This is where our Pauline charism will really come into play. By faith sharing and sharing our personal experiences, we can start to bring down the defensive barriers and open up the hearts of our coworkers to the immense love of Christ. The conversion of hearts will be subtle, sometimes you won’t notice it at all. But the rewards can also be bountiful and visible. I personally have witnessed the conversion of one of my coworkers to Catholicism through faith sharing encounters and the grace of God.
The same miracles of faith and the love of Jesus that happen everyday in our Pauline Media Centers and bookstores can happen everyday in our workplace, families and communities. We as Pauline Cooperators can be that mobile media center as envisioned by our founder Blessed James Alberione, utilizing the means of communication and social media, and also through our very real presence in the world to spread and live the Gospel of Jesus, Master, Way, Truth, and Life.
-----------------------------------------------
Preston Medeiros has been a Pauline Cooperator since September 4, 2016 and is a parishioner at Immaculate Conception Church in Ewa, Hawaii. He is married to his wonderful wife Jarsen, and has 3 children and 2 grandchildren. Preston has a B.A. in History and is an avid reader of Theology. He is one of the first four Cooperators to make their promise in Honolulu, Hawaii. He credits the Pauline Charism along with the Grace of God in bringing and sponsoring his coworker Michael into the RCIA program and soon fully initiated through the Sacraments into the Catholic Church.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

"I’ll Push You" — Loyalty, Love, and Friendship

How often do we consider, in the midst of the frenetic pace of our lives, the relationships we have built throughout our life’s journey? Too many times relationships fail because we do not have time to commit to them or we lose ourselves in the work we do, our financial concerns, or the seeking of name recognition by society. Watching the documentary film, I’ll Push You, flattens all excuses we may have for not taking time with the people we love and care about. It shifts our priorities at their core, making us consider our own examination of conscience. At least, it did that for me.

Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck from Boise, Idaho, have been friends since they were little children, best buds for decades, just like blood brothers. They both married, had children and continue to live near each other so their families are like close relatives. Justin was diagnosed with Multifocal Acquired Motor Axonopathy, an extremely rare neuromuscular disease that affects the hands, arms, feet and legs, leading to paralysis. It slowly progresses causing severe disability over time. The film is based on the book these two friends wrote together called, I’ll Push You: A Journey of 500 Miles, Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair, detailing their experience of journeying the Camino di Santiago de Compastella.  
Justin recalls how he had seen a program about the Camino and asked his friend Patrick if he would go with him to journey the ancient pilgrimage route across Northern Spain. Without hesitation Pat said yes and their journey began. For the first two weeks of the journey, another friend, Ted Hardy came with them since they started at the foot of the Pyrenees in the French town of Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port. This was the most strenuous climb through the mountains. One pushed while another pulled Justin on his wheelchair uphill over rocky, muddy terrain. Making it through the first day of the pilgrimage was grueling and determined the entire trip. Everything had to be done for Justin—eating, bathing, dressing. He said that living with the disease is a challenge but he tries not to let it get the better of him, but rather, “it shapes the way you see your life.” A sign is seen on a wall in his home at the beginning of the film that says, “Love will save the day.” That is exactly the message of this amazing film. Patrick’s tender love for his best friend reaches down deep in the emotions of all who watch this friendship played out on this journey. He sacrifices everything to help his friend. And for Justin, he lets go in utter trust to be helped and taken care of by Patrick.
This film made me consider the passage in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 5 where Jesus was teaching in a room and some men carrying a paralytic tried to bring him before Jesus so he can heal the man. There was a large crowd, so these men carried the paralytic up to the top of the roof, opened up the tiles in the roof so as to lower the paralytic down before Jesus. I have always reflected on the love of those friends who did not stop at any obstacle put before them. They wanted Jesus to heal their friend and so found a way to make that happen, and Jesus blesses their faith by healing their friend. This is exactly what I reflected on while watching this beautiful film. Patrick would do anything for Justin. He loved him and wanted what was best for his friend and the Lord blesses him for his extreme generosity. After Ted had to return home when the two weeks were over, Patrick became fearful of how he would continue on the rest of the Camino alone with Justin. The Lord blesses him with the help of many other pilgrims along the way.

At one point, a whole group helped so that Pat had to let go of the reigns, literally. He had to let others help him push Justin along the route and take care of his needs. As Justin reflects, “When you deny someone to help you, you deny them that joy in life.” And the Camino, as one young woman puts it, is not only about you, but is about the other people you meet along the way.

It’s hard for any independent human being to ask for help. And sometimes hard to give that help. But, in the end helping another benefits ourselves and also the persons we are helping. We become less self-centered, less focused on our own needs and concerns, and we then open our hearts to love. Giving of ourselves expands us. It transforms our worldview and allows us to see that what is really important in life are our relationships, the people who bring color and interest to our lives. Investing in our relationships brings joy and happiness. This is the message of this powerful film. Giving time and attention to those we love means more than any material gift or experience. Love truly changes the world. Love alone will save the day.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sr. Nancy Usselmann is a Media Literacy Education Specialist and Director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies, Culver City, CA. She is a member of the Daughters of St. Paul and has degrees in Communications Arts and Theology and Arts. She has extensive experience in the creative aspects of social media, print media production, radio and video production as well as in marketing, advertising, retail management and media administration. For over 20 years, Sr. Nancy has given numerous media literacy workshops, presentations and media retreats around the country. She is a member of NAMLE (National Association for Media Literacy Education), SIGNIS (World Catholic Association for Communication), and a contributing theologian at THEOCOM (Theology and Communications in Dialogue). She is present on Twitter @snancy, Snapchat, Facebook, Vine, Instagram and www.bemediamindful.org. She is a contributing writer to the Fuller Theological Brehm Center’s Reel Spirituality website: http://www.brehmcenter.com/initiatives/reelspirituality/film/articles/.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

CHANGE IS GOOD!



"Change is good!"

These are the words printed on a shirt I got recently from the Life is Good store. This time of year is my favorite time of the year, especially since I live in New England. Not just because it's my birthday or the time of my favorite holiday--Thanksgiving--but because it is the time of change. Too often in life we feel like we must run from change, fear it, or fight against it, when honestly changing is what it means to be alive. Another great thing about fall is the Feast of Jesus the Divine Master, Way, Truth and Life, which falls on the last Sunday of October and is one of the major feasts of the Pauline family. My ability to change my view of God has been in great part due to my being part of the Pauline family.

M.C. Escher, "Relativity", 1953
This definitely isn’t the way I have always felt. In fact, I have spent most of my life feeling like a figure in one of M. C. Escher’s paintings, such as "Relativity." As if my life were a series of staircases not going anywhere in particular, with someone out there changing the rules over and over just for fun. I have always loved the way Escher's pictures seem to break the rules. But lately I have realized that this lack of rules leads to the people in his paintings being perpetually stuck or trapped.  Without change, we too are just making our way around pointless paths that never really lead us anywhere we want to go.

If I am going to tell you about my understanding of Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life, and my relationship with Him, then I probably should start briefly by explaining what my life was like without it. I grew up in a Catholic family, the youngest of seven children, with two hard working parents. My parents were from the generation that thought that if you decided things were okay, then they were--a philosophy that I have never been able to find peace with. My Dad especially was distant out of fear of continuing a cycle of abuse that he had experienced.

As a little girl this was confusing to me. Why didn't he want to be around me? What was wrong with me? These thoughts accompanied by my own negative experiences led me to a place of darkness and depression. At the age of ten I first attempted to end my life, and I would attempt two more times before I was 16. This relationship with my father also affected my relationship with God the Father; I began to see him as distant and uncaring and watching me waiting to catch me doing something wrong. Of course, my view of God the Father couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The author and Father Beiting
I think the changing point in my view of God the Father got its beginnings in a small town in Appalachia Kentucky. I lived in a mission for 16 months as the driver for a blind 88-year-old priest. It was through my time there that I first began to see how God saw me as his beloved daughter. I was independent and stubborn. I had a very hard time letting other people help me. I was afraid that it would make me weak and then later, when they weren't around anymore, I would be even more vulnerable and not safe. I was afraid that love would make me weak because if you love you get hurt and I was tired of getting hurt. The problem is if you don't love, you still get hurt. You're not denying yourself suffering but denying yourself the consolation that we have between our sufferings. God changed my heart and taught me how to love Father Beiting, a beautiful thing! In that process, I learned how to love my father and how to love God the Father. More than that, the process of learning to love Father Beiting taught me how to let my father and God the Father love me. Again, what a beautiful thing!

I know that the feast we celebrated last Sunday was for Jesus the Divine Master. But for years I thought that I could survive on just having a relationship with Jesus, that I could ignore him being part of the Trinity, always connected to God the Father. By ignoring that relationship, I was ignoring the perfect example of love shown by Jesus Master. I was creating God in my image of him rather than allowing him to create me in his image. Once again, I say change is good and I'm so grateful that God changed this distorted view that affected so many areas of my life--even my will to live! I love life now, I treasure every moment, every breath, every opportunity that God has given me to love others and to allow them to love me in return.

There is a prayer that I recently discovered in the book of the prayers of the Pauline family. Every morning, I love to start my day with this prayer:

Divine Heart of Jesus, I offer you through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of the Church, in union with the Eucharistic sacrifice: my prayers, actions, joys and sufferings of this day, in reparation for sins and for the salvation of all men and women according to the special intentions of the Superior General, in the grace of the Holy Spirit, for the glory of the heavenly Father. 


After this, the custom is to pray an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be. In conclusion, you pray:

I adore you, my God, and I love you with all of my heart. I thank you for having created me, made me a Christian, kept me this night, and led me into the Pauline family. I offer you my actions of this day: grant that they all may be according to your holy will and for your greater glory. Keep me from sin at all evil. May your grace be with me always and with my dear ones. Amen.


So I guess my advice on this Feast of Jesus the Divine Master would be for you to assess your own life and your relationship with God the Father. Allow Jesus to show you--as he has shown me--what it means to be a child of God. Now whenever I pray the Our Father, I imagine, Abba, Daddy, I see more of a Father Beiting loving figure, a much truer image of Who God really wants to be to us. I challenge you to allow Him to change you and make you look more like He sees you. You will be amazed. My greatest prayer is that every person finds a Way to allow the Truth to bring them into a full and complete Life in Jesus's name. Amen!

_____________________

Christine Dufresne has been a Pauline Cooperator for 3 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.  Most recently she has graduated with her Associated Degree and has gone on to pursue her Bachelor's and Master's in the Human Services/Art Therapy fields.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Stuck in L.A.; or, What is Jesus asking you to lay down your life for?

We are excited to offer our first Video Log entry, or "vlog"! It won't be our last. 

Christin Jezak, a Pauline Cooperator who works in media as an actress, producer, and writer, left the East Coast for L.A. a few years ago to pursue her career. How is it working out, using her talents to follow Christ in the heart of the entertainment industry? Click below and find out.


________________________________________________

Christin Jezak has been a Pauline Cooperator since 2012. An actress, playwright, and producer, she strives to do theatre which inspires, uplifts, and stirs society. She created, and has performed worldwide, Person-to-Person: A Mother Teresa Project, including a performance at the Official Youth Festival of World Youth Day 08 in Sydney. Christin holds a M.A. in theatre from Villanova University, where she was seen in such plays as The Tempest, Urinetown, and Our Town.  In 2003, she started a ministry called Immaculate Art Ministries, which toured Massachusetts and beyond. She earned her B.A. in theatre from Bridgewater State College and was seen in such roles as Bella from Big Love and Berta from Pippin. She is represented commercially & theatrically by Angel City Talent and has been seen on Jimmy Kimmel and a GrubHub Superbowl commercial.