Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Like Mother, Like....

Striving for Perfected Generosity of Spirit

As we draw near to Holy Week and the end of our Lenten journey, this year’s Church calendar presents us with the spiritually enriching feast of the Annunciation of the Lord. Every March 25, we are given a beautiful image to emulate – that of holy Mary, the pre-eminent disciple at the moment of her being called to be the Mother of the Lord. We, too, all called to holiness, are asked to humbly stand before the Lord and give our own fiat (let it be done) in imitation of our Mother’s great generosity and holiness. This seems especially difficult in a world where we work so hard to control our lives for personal happiness, security and material gain. With Lent, we have a season of reflection, penance, and prayer to help us examine our progress to allow Christ to live and love in and through each one of us. Who better to study and emulate than Mother Mary?
            In contemplating the personal call to holiness, I am reminded that the Holy Father has declared this the Year of Consecrated Life, until February 2, 2016. In a sense, all of us must consecrate our lives to the Lord, but this is a year of celebrating those whose fiats go a step further to formally and exclusively consecrate their lives with vows and promises to serve the Church. Like holy Mary in the Annunciation, members of the consecrated life also model the spirit of Christlike generosity to all the rest of us. Within the Pauline Family, we have a secular institute of laywomen who live out such a life of dedication.
The Pauline “Annunciationists” 

Among the Pauline Family’s ten members is the Institute of Our Lady of the Annunciation, a secular institute of laywomen founded by Blessed James Alberione in 1958 and approved by the Holy See on April 8, 1960. Blessed James beautifully described its apostolate as “the flower of true love of God and of souls: it is the fruit of an intense interior life. It requires a burning heart which is unable to contain or suppress its interior fire. The apostolate makes us God’s loudspeaker.”
The founder described Annunciationist lifestyle as follows: “You shall live at home, work in schools, offices, factories, and you shall carry out your witnessing within these institutions. You, however, shall be consecrated persons… You shall be ‘salt’ and ‘leaven’ in the contemporary world… You shall be consecrated to God and dedicated to the apostolate in the world and with the means of the world … in order that to all men and women Christ may be proclaimed, and to give Jesus Christ to the world, totally as He defined Himself: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
            In studying Blessed James’ words to and about the Annunciationists, I was especially struck by the beauty and power of his images in the above poetic description of their apostolate as the “flower of true love of God and souls … the fruit of an intense interior life … [and] a burning heart which is unable to contain or suppress its interior fire.” Mary in the Annunciation exemplifies deep love of God and souls in her generous fiat. Her own intense interior life could only have been the result of a rich prayer life. May these fruits flourish in each of our hearts and souls.
Centrality of the Eucharist
Blessed James emphasizes the importance of daily Eucharistic adoration in the prayer life of all Paulines. He has described it as the “heart of life and of apostolate, the sacrament of love, the sign of unity, and the bond of charity.” Here, again, he links the intense interior life of being one with Christ with an outpouring of love in the form of generous service to God and souls. As a Pauline Cooperator, I find the members of the Pauline Family truly inspirational. Over the years, I have found that studying the history of how the Pauline Family was formed has enriched my own spiritual life.

Beginning in 1914, as quite young people, Father Alberione and Mother Thecla answered their own calls to the consecrated life, and began the task of building up the Pauline Family we know today. Sustained by the rich prayer life Father Alberione advocated, they devoted decades upon decades to the service of God and souls. Even today, consecrated Paulines dedicate an hour or more each day to Eucharistic prayer. It is a beautiful reality that many of their Book & Media Centers have a small chapel for prayer throughout all hours they are open.
This emphasis on contemplative prayer is rooted in the lifelong spirituality and dedication of Father Alberione and Mother Thecla. Recently, I came across a composite picture (see above) which touched me deeply. Reproduced here, it shows very early portraits of Father Alberione and Mother Thecla (They look so young!) on the left, contrasted to a picture in their later years on the right. When I saw it, I was struck by the reminder that they made such great commitments at such an early age, and then faithfully lived out those commitments over half a dozen decades of apostolic work and Pauline family leadership. Their perseverance in such heroic work is truly impressive and inspiring. Emulating the faithfulness and holiness of Mother Mary, they have now become our parents, advocating for us in heaven.
Closing Prayer
Jesus, Master, Way, Truth and Life: Enlighten our minds and hearts, and guide us to live a life of dedicated generosity and ever-increasing holiness.

Photo: Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP
Marie-Louise Handal has been a Pauline Cooperator for the past decade. She holds a Master’s Degree from St. Joseph's Seminary, an M.S. in the Foreign Service from Georgetown University, and is a candidate for the S.T.L. from the International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton. She also holds a Certificate in Spiritual Direction from the New York Archdiocesan Center for Spiritual Development. Her professional work experience encompasses 20 years in international banking and finance, followed by a second career as a mathematics educator in Manhattan. Marie-Louise is a native New Yorker, born and raised in New York City.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lights to Guide Us – How To Grow Spiritual Friendships

If you ever find yourself stuck in the middle of the sea,
I’ll sail the world to find you.

If you ever find yourself lost in the dark and you can’t see,
I’ll be the light to guide you.
Find out what we’re made of, when we are called to help our friends in need.
You can count on me.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a friend as a person whom you like and enjoy being with; a person who helps or supports someone or something.  These lyrics from the Bruno Mars song, “Count On Me,” is also a definition of friendship–someone who will be there when we are lost, the light to guide us; we can count on them.  We have friends we meet with socially, Facebook friends whom we may never meet personally, childhood friends, neighborhood friends, work place friends, etc.  While these relationships are important, there is also the need for spiritual friendships, those friendships that go beyond our general interests.  A spiritual friend is one whose journey toward God mirrors our own–a companion who shares our faith and our longing for God.

Im at the center back.
After reading a pamphlet on spiritual friendship, I began to think of how being part of the Pauline family as a Cooperator has helped me to develop friendships that brought me closer to Christ.  It has given me the opportunity to develop friendships with the sisters, priests, brothers, and other lay people in the Family.  When struggling with a problem, I know I can always call a “Family” member who will be there for me.  I can count on them.  They have shown their friendship when life events necessitated speaking to or praying with someone.  They have been and continue to be lights to guide me.

Just recently a woman I met at a Cooperator Retreat, who is going through the formation program, asked me to correspond with her and share ideas on how to grow in holiness.  I was so excited!  That’s what friends are for!

In this busy world we live in, what are some ways to find and grow a spiritual friendship?  Very often, they are right in front of us.  Here are some ideas:

•    Perhaps a co-worker or neighbor will stand out as someone who shares not only our interests but our love of prayer.  Pick up the phone and make a lunch date.  Too busy?  Send an email, Facebook message or old-fashioned snail mail.  You never know what will happen.

•    Join or start a prayer group.  Years ago I prayed for help and support during a stressful health situation with my father.  In less than a week a friend invited me to a prayer group meeting.  Fourteen years later I still participate, and this group has fostered personal and spiritual friendships for me.

•    Our beloved saints can also be our companions along our journey; friends to turn to when we need a helping hand.  Like us, they are individuals who struggled and had their own gifts and weaknesses. 

Numerous resources about the saints are available:

•    The Classic Wisdom Collection of books published by Pauline Books and Media is an excellent resource to learn more about our saints.  Besides stories about many saints, the Daughters of St. Paul share their stories of how the saints impacted their lives and vocations.

•    The new Queen of Apostles Prayer Book, published by Pauline Books & Media, is filled with prayers to the saints for all of our intercessions.  Stay open for the ways in which our saints might connect with us.  A conversation may suddenly mention the name of a saint you may be praying to or a holy card for that saint might suddenly fall out of a book.  We all know about St. Therese of the Little Flower sending roses down from heaven as a sign of her intercession.  During Pope Francis’ recent flight in January to the Philippines he prayed to St. Therese for his trip and asked her to send him a rose.  He did not receive a rose but a picture of her.  He commented that, “instead of a rose she came herself to greet me!”
My copies look...loved.

•    The two Saints Alive! Collection, (The Faith Proclaimed and The Gospel Witnessed) also published by Pauline Books & Media, are filled with stories of men and women who can be our companions along the way. As stated on the back of the book, “this book is a pleasurable way to meet some of the people we hope to live with some day.”

•    We members of the Pauline Family, especially, recognize Blessed James Alberione as an excellent companion.  We look to him for guidance in the world of social communication.  Like him, let us bring the light of the Gospel to others.

•    St. Paul, whose extraordinary conversion story led so many people to Christianity, is a personal favorite.  He never met Jesus personally, yet “saw” him.  Like St. Paul, I want to “see” Jesus.  I pray to St. Paul to show me the way to a more personal relationship with Jesus.

•    St. Joseph, whose feast day we will celebrate tomorrow, is a powerful intercessor, the “faithful cooperator in our redemption,” as the Pauline prayer manual describes him.  With him as our companion, we can imitate his humility and ask him to walk with us in our day-to-day struggles.

Why not use the remaining weeks of Lent to “adopt” a saint or start a friendship with someone to walk with you on your journey?  Share with us your story of a spiritual friendship or how you would like to develop one for yourself or another.  To quote St. Thomas Aquinas, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”

“Keep smiling, keep shining, knowing you can always count on me, for sure.  That’s what friends are for” (Dionne Warwick, “That’s What Friends Are For”).

Photos: Maryann Toth

Maryann Toth has been a Pauline Cooperator for six 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 currently accompanies a candidate in the Cooperator formation program. She participated in a Pauline Cooperator pilgrimage to Italy in 2010.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How To Live Lent and Easter With Kids...and Love It

Read to Your Bunny
All of us love our children more than anything in the world. In their first years we feed them so they grow. We bring them to the doctor so they are healthy. We strap them in car seats so they are safe.
    But the most important thing in the first years of life is the growth of the mind and spirit. This is when a child learns to love and trust, to speak and listen.
    After a child turns two years old, these things are very difficult to learn or teach ever again. Trusting, singing, laughing, and language are the most important things in a young child’s life.
    And so they must come first for mothers and fathers, too, because we can never have those years over again.
    Every day, make a quiet, restful place for twenty minutes. Put your child in your lap and read a book aloud. In the pages of the book you will find a tiny vacation of privacy and intense love. It costs nothing but twenty minutes and a library card.
    Reading to your little one is just like putting gold coins in the bank. It will pay you back tenfold. Your daughter will learn, and imagine, and be strong in herself. Your son will thrive, and give your love back forever.

I first came across this lovely piece of advice almost fifteen years ago, then posted it in the children’s corner of our Pauline Books & Media (PBM) Center in San Francisco. Here and there I noticed people stop to take it in. Apparently Rosemary’s nudge to get a library card didn’t deter them from buying a book. Whether you buy or borrow, your role as parents (and grandparents!) in a child’s early learning, is indispensable especially when a book about God’s love for us is included in the cuddling.

That story is easy to tell at Christmas. But during Lent? How do you get past the horror of the Crucifixion? Sometimes that will depend on what images kids have already been exposed to in their churches and homes or what movies they’ve seen, or what they’ve encountered through their older siblings. In any case, you’ll want to reassure very young children that nobody will do that to them, so that they feel safe.

How do you explain the tragedy of sin to a little person, who has no concept of it yet? Before reading, you may find it helpful to demonstrate to pre-schoolers the separation that sin causes, by coaxing them to try and jump to you from an unreachable distance. Since only the cross can span that distance, the book you’re about to read to them will tell them how Jesus used the cross to do just that. Or you can let the story say whatever it does without the prep work.

1.    Keep it simple. For infants and toddlers, once you find an appropriate book, it will be enough to look at the pictures together, reading a few words here and there to tell the basic story. Pre-schoolers will be able to understand more and will eventually want to “read” you the story in their own words. One of the best books I’ve ever seen for this purpose is PBM’s The Road to Easter Day. Pain in the illustrations is muted, and joyful colors are vibrant. Every page introduces the next part of the narrative, from Palm Sunday to Jesus’ appearance on the way to Emmaus, as another step “along the road, along the road, the road to Easter day,” conveying the sense that any sadness, while real, is not the end of the story.

2.    Combine the story with an easy activity or craft. For older kids, The Stations of the Cross coloring and activity book or My First Easter Sticker Book does the trick. The sticker book also simply and happily announces that, “Because Jesus loves us and died for our sins, heaven is open to all of us!”

One of the best activity books around, though, is The Lent-Easter Book —182 pages of stories, games, puzzles, recipes, and crafts that assist parents or teachers in passing on the season’s Catholic traditions. This spiral-bound treasury also suggests ideas on holding faith conversations with five- to nine-year-olds and with ten- to fourteen-year-olds.

3.    Allow books to teach our little ones to pray and live justly. The cross, backlit by the resurrection, casts its shadow across all of Lent. During this reflective time, even children can find in the cross their own reasons for growing in prayer, virtue, and awareness of others’ needs. Books can help them do that.

Primary-age kids are keenly sensitive to the pain of Jesus, especially when they understand how he suffered to forgive and heal them and the whole world of their sins and the sins of others. With its simple, colorful pictures, I Pray the Stations of the Cross stirs their empathy for Jesus’ redemptive suffering and connects that empathy with compassion for others. The Stations of the Cross in My Pocket is a pocket-size version of almost exactly the same text, with a more ornate art style.

Children’s Way of the Cross cleverly leads intermediate readers to imagine themselves right there with Jesus, then to listen to him by means of a passage from the Bible, then finally to respond to his love with a sentence from a Psalm. Expressive pen and water color renderings bring the Via crucis to life.

Of course, Lenten prayer would not be complete without the celebration of the sacraments. The Sacrament of Reconciliation in My Pocket is a pocket-size guide to celebrating the rite and includes an explanation of Reconciliation, a simple examen of conscience on the Ten Commandments, prayers, and a short glossary.

4. Fun historical fiction for kids, ages 6-9, weaves together time travel, biblical culture, and faith values in Discovery at Dawn, the latest in a series on the life of Jesus. Three modern-day siblings are transported back into time, meet the risen Jesus, and discover the ultimate meaning of giving up something for others.

If you need more resources go to You'll find descriptions of PBM titles for kids, book guides, interviews with authors and illustrators, plus spiritual gems for parents and educators. Take a peek, too, behind the scenes at what goes into our kids' books.

For ways to share your finds with other families, look into J-Club, the only Catholic book fair for schools and religious education programs, that couples as a fundraiser.

Looking for something different? Vatican II’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions asserts, “The Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today” (n. 4). Yet blaming Jews for Jesus’ death persists among Christians. So PBM offers My Jewish Friend (on sale until Easter for $2.95. Regularly $14.95). It’s a fictional account of two boys, one Catholic and the other Jewish, who explain their beliefs and rituals to each other, and so grow in their own faith and in mutual respect. The narrative is vividly illustrated and masterfully interwoven with information about both Catholicism and Judaism.

Had we not sinned, Jesus would not have died to forgive us. Even so, we could have sinned from our first breath until our last, and still we would not have caused Christ’s death. Love did that. His love. Christ “loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). All the books we’ve talked about here say that very thing in one way or another. There could be no greater story to read to your little Easter bunny.

Photo: Mary Emmanuel Alves, FSP
Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP, originally from San Francisco, has been a Pauline evangelizer since 1973 and has worked in various phases of the mission of the Daughters of St. Paul. Since attending the nine-month Charism Course in Rome in 2012-2013, she is now based in Boston, where she serves on the provincial Cooperator Team in the area of ongoing formation.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Called To Be What We Are

In Jesus Paul saw the fulfillment of the invitation: “Be holy as I am holy” 
“When Paul was absent, he wrote you letters, and if you study them carefully, you will be able to be built up into the faith that has been given to you, ‘which is the mother of us all’ (Gal 4:26)....” 
Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna to the Philippians 3:2-3 (60-159 A.D.)

Paul still encourages us after all these years. Each time we prayerfully read his letters we find them “alive and active” (Heb. 4:12); activating our holiness and alive with the graces we require. At the beginning of the fifth chapter of Ephesians, Paul invites us to “Be imitators of God” (5:1). Through his letter to the Corinthians he tells us we are holy and he addresses us as such: “To the holy ones…called to be holy” (1 Cor. 1:2). Paul knew that we are already created in God’s image and likeness (Gn. 26-27).  He also knew that we fall short of being the image of God (Rm. 3:23). In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus asks us to “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Mt. 5:8). Fr. Norm Langenbrunner explains:
“The Greek word Matthew uses is teleios, often translated as perfect. Paul uses the same term in First Corinthians where it is translated as mature(2:6) and complete(13:10). Mature implies ‘full growth. Is this what Jesus is implying? The Hebrew word for teleios is ta’am ‘to be complete, be duplicated, to be a twin.’  Jesus is urging us to be a spitting image of the Father. God’s completeness far surpasses a human’s. In the context of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is saying ‘Grow up! Go for it! Be all you can be!’ We’ll never be as perfect as God but we can be complete.”
In Jesus Paul saw the fulfillment of the invitation: “Be holy as I am holy”  (Lev. 19:2). Paul remembered the promises God made through the prophets:  “I will pour out my spirit” (Ezek. 29:39; Zech. 12:1). All of God’s promises find their yes, their fulfillment, in Jesus. God is faithful, good, true, and beautiful and brings all to life; Jesus reveals God’s love and what it means to be fully human. “Yes” has always been in Jesus (cf. 2 Cor. 1:18-22).  To become what God is calling us to become, we live in the manner Jesus did. When we are faithful we reflect God’s glory. To make that possible, God has established, anointed, and sealed us with the Spirit.

In Chapter 5 of his letter to the Romans, Paul describes this good news as the Spirit poured into our hearts. The nature of love is to spill over. The Spirit, according to Paul, is God within us speaking the language God understands. Our very identity is the temple of the Spirit where God dwells (Church). Benedict XVI writes: 
“If Christ Himself is inside me and I inside him, the two of us are not separate individuals. This is where the doctrine of the Body of Christ begins, because we are all Christ Himself.”
Live in us so that we may
overflow with you
 and radiate you.
We can know the truth about ourselves and the truth about others in Jesus’ attitudes and way of being (cf. Caritas in veritate). “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). This is an empowerment of the Spirit. Blessed Alberione's Invocations to Jesus Master contains this petition for holiness: “Jesus, Way of holiness, make me your perfect imitator. Jesus Way, render me perfect as our Father in heaven. Jesus Truth, may I be light for the world. Jesus Life grant that I may live eternally in the joy of your love.” 

Lectio Divina Praying with the Word of God

TRUTH. Read Eph. 4:11-13. Blessed Alberione tells us that without Christification there is no authentic proclamation: “Your own identity with Christ is the indispensable premise for being able to preach. The entire Pauline life and mission is an act of proclamation” (Fr. Silvio Sassi, S.S.P.).

WAY. Meditate:  The Vatican II document Lumen gentium confirms our call to reflect God’s holiness. Through each of us the Church makes Christ present. The same Spirit who anointed Jesus has anointed us – we have been “Christed” or christened at Baptism as priest, prophet, and shepherd-king. The word “anointed” (Greek: Christos “the anointed one”) appears six times in reference to Jesus in the New Testament. In Lk. 4:21 Jesus quotes Scripture saying that he is the awaited Christ: “God has anointed me…this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” In the letters of Paul the word “anointed” appears once and in reference to our anointing. “He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts” (2 Cor. 1: 22).

LIFE. Pray: Christening, also known as Baptism, literally means “to bring to Christ.” Let us thank God for the gift of Baptism and the indwelling Spirit of God.

LIVE. Act:  The first work of the Pauline and the first task of the Pauline Family is to be an image of the Father in the Son, the image of the invisible God, firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:15) through the Spirit. This conformity to the Master is our response of love to the love coming from the Father: “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Rom. 8:5).

Jesus Master, we thank you for having made yourself our model. You left us examples of the highest perfection. You invite us to follow you on earth and in heaven. We contemplate you during your earthly life. We place ourselves in your school. Draw us to you. Fill all our powers with yourself. Spill your love into us. Live in us so that we may overflow with you and radiate you. (cf. Blessed James Alberione, Prayers of the Pauline Family).

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

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lenten Tune-Up

At this time of year our thoughts turn to how we will walk this 40-day Lenten journey with Christ toward Jerusalem, the cross and resurrection. People often ask “What are you giving up for Lent?” While the notion of self-mortification for purification of the body and spirit is useful, we find that it’s sometimes too easy to get trapped into viewing Lent through a negative lens of denial, when it has the potential to offer us so much more growth. Then there’s the perennial problem of what to give up? Unhealthy habits, a quick tongue, unedifying media use, a prayer life in a bit of a rut?  Of course, we all have areas where we can do better, but where to begin?

At the McMillan homestead his year, we’re approaching the Lenten season by tuning up our Pauline car. In Abundantes divitiae gratiae suae, Blessed Alberione summed up Pauline spirituality neatly by using the example of a car (actually, back then it was a “cart”) that runs on four well-balanced wheels:
“The whole person in Jesus Christ, in view of loving God completely by means of one’s intelligence, will, heart and physical strength. Nature, grace and vocation: everything for the apostolate. A cart that runs on the four wheels of sanctity, study, apostolate and poverty.” 
By focusing our spiritual, intellectual and physical energies to grow in these four aspects of our spirituality we follow God’s will for all Paulines to make Christ the Divine Master, Way, Truth and Life ever more visible in the world. This is an excellent way for us to grow in communion with Christ and in our Pauline vocation—an excellent touchstone for examining our progress and making resolutions to improve as faithful Paulines.

The first wheel, sanctity, refers to our prayer life, which includes any obligations or promises of prayer we may have made, the frequency with which we seek this intimate communication with God, and the quality of our prayer. By quality, we mean sincerity, openness, vulnerability…in essence, the love behind our prayer. Is there some aspect of our prayer life that could use some attention this Lent?

The second wheel, study, gets at what Blessed Alberione called the sanctification of the mind, seeking communion with “the mind of Christ”(1Cor 2:16). Study and meditation on the Gospels and the letters of St. Paul are important for all Paulines, but we might also consider other types of intellectual growth. This could be professional development in our careers, learning a new skill or even starting a formal academic program of study toward a degree. Whatever it is, its goal is sanctity and the apostolate.

The third wheel, apostolate, is the personal testimony we give to those we encounter. As Pauline Cooperators you have a very tangible apostolate of evangelization, but again, we can think more broadly: How well do we personify Christ in our apostolate of life, in the family, at work, in our parish, and to the strangers we meet? As St. Francis is often quoted as saying, “Preach the Gospel always, and, if necessary, use words.” How do our lives preach what we believe as living testimony of our faith?

The fourth wheel, poverty, has a particular Pauline meaning when used by the Founder. We lay Paulines cannot forego the burdens of financial obligations and money management, but we should always strive not to become overly attached to riches, lest we end up as the young man in Matthew 19:24 who walked away sad when our Lord told him that, to reach heaven, he needed to let go of all his wealth. For lay Paulines we should seek the proper administration of the blessings and talents we have been given, remembering to put them, along with our lives, at the service of God’s kingdom. We have to make provisions for the future, provide for our children, and make a decent home within the scope of our possibilities, but we must ensure we are not enslaved by what should be a means to an end and is too often an end in and of itself in this world. Do we show our gratitude by giving the Lord the first fruits of our labor?

Stations of the Cross, Lourdes, France
We’re making a special effort this Lent to return to a practice we found very helpful in the early days of our Pauline life: the joint evening examination of conscience. While we typically conduct our examinations individually during the day, as spouses we’ve found it incredibly enriching to come together for our evening prayers and voice our examinations of conscience before God and each other. Hearing each other place before the Lord all that we had attempted, and perhaps failed at doing during the day, as well as the joys and stumbles we had along the way, never fails to bring us closer to one another, and helps heal any discord that may have arisen between us during the day. (It’s hard to carry a grudge when God is present, while your spouse expresses remorse for an unkind word or action.) This practice helped us weather many storms in the early years of our marriage, and got us through many sorrows together over the years.

If you really want to step things up this Lent, we invite you to consider praying and meditating the Founder’s “Heroic Act of Love” in our prayer book. It is a wonderful example of the paradox of the wisdom of God and folly of man that so often trips us up. Can we truly mean what we ask for in this prayer? It’s a wonderful subject for a Eucharistic Visit during Lent or a reflection after the Stations of the Cross. Of course, the “Secret of Success,” also in the prayer book, turns to the Master Mechanic to keep the four wheels aligned.

May the Lord share the extraordinary riches of his grace (Eph 2:7) with you this Lent.

Credit: Images downloaded from Flickr and used under Creative Commons License

Jim and Luisa McMillan are perpetually professed members of the Holy Family Institute, which they entered in Colombia in 2000. They reside in Colorado, where they work as translators and interpreters. They have three daughters ranging in age from 13 to 30 and are expecting their first granddaughter in April.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Movies for Lent

As I write this blog post, Lent is just around the corner, and by the time you read it, Lent will be here! Lent is a time for walking closely with Jesus. We are invited by the readings at Mass to look deep within to see where we could re-align our life so that it reflects more of his life.

Here at Pauline Books and Media in Culver City, we offer monthly Movie Bible Nights. During Lent we offer Lenten Film Retreats at local parishes. Just as we can learn from reading and reflecting on Scripture, a spiritual book, or a life of a saint, so too can we learn from watching a movie and reflecting on it with others.  Perhaps a Movie Bible Night or a Lenten Film Retreat could assist you on your Lenten journey.  Maybe you would like to lead a Movie Bible Night in your parish or with your family and friends.

Last year, one of our sisters stationed here in Culver City, Sr. Jennifer Tecla, prepared the monthly Movie Bible Nights by choosing a theme for the year – “The Social Teachings of the Catholic Church.”  She found Scripture passages to accompany each theme and chose a movie that showed the social teachings in action.  For example, in November she chose the Social Teaching about the “call to participation,” and the movie that paired with the teaching was The Butler.  She then selected the Scripture passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians (Col. 3: 12-14). 

The format for a Movie Bible Night is as follows:
1. Open with a prayer and the reading of the Scripture passage;
2. Introduce the movie and invite the audience to watch closely for themes on the “Call to Participation” (or whatever theme is chosen for that week);
3. Watch the movie;
4. Take a 10 minute break;
5. Return as a group for a sharing on prepared discussion questions;
6. Close with a prayer.                                      

This year we were invited to lead a Lenten Film Retreat again at St. Augustine’s Church in Culver City. Two years ago we used the movie The Way, starring Martin Sheen and written and directed by his son Emilio Estevez.  It shows the journey of four pilgrims walking “the Way” to St. James in Campostela, Spain. On the first night of the Lenten Film Retreat, we watched the movie together as a group. We also provided a Lenten display of books, movies and music for sale during the retreat. The following four weeks, we returned to St. Augustine’s for group sharings about the film using clips from The Way and prepared discussion questions. The booklet of discussion questions was prepared by Sr. Rose Pacatte. Because these retreat times were in the evening, the parish provided soup and bread.  We called it a “Lenten Soup and Cinema Retreat.”  Throughout the retreat we provided symbolic items that tied in with the movie such as rosaries, Bibles, holy water, shells, etc. We were also able to offer the retreat in both English and Spanish by preparing the materials ahead of time and having a translator from the parish work with us.  This year we will be using the movie The 100 Foot Journey.

If any of you are interested in leading a Movie Bible Night or a Lenten Film Retreat, please contact me at and we can assist you with details, suggestions, and prepared discussion questions. Don't worry if you don't have a formal media literacy background. A working knowledge of the Bible and of the faith are important. Most people have watched enough movies to offer a thought or two on how a film connects with the Word of God. What's important for you as an organizer is the ability to moderate a discussion or find someone to help you.

What are your favorite movies to see during Lent?  Here are some answers from local Southern California Pauline Cooperators:

Maria Siciliano recommends The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur.  She says:
“In Ben Hur, our protagonist, played by Charlton Heston, has a brief and amazing encounter with Jesus on the cross.  You can feel the powerful spiritual connection that takes place between them during those moments. Both movies show the power of God over man - even though Moses (in the Ten Commandments), initially a powerful Egyptian prince, is cast down when his Jewish identity is revealed.  He rises higher than any earthly prince because of the strength and power of God. It's interesting because both stories involve princes (both played by Charlton Heston) who lose their earthly powers, but come back with God's help to be princes in God's kingdom”.

Shellie DiSpirito likes to watch Philomena during Lent because it is a compelling story about a mother finding out the truth about her son who was given up for adoption.  It is a story of forgiveness and reconciliation. She also recommends The Time Traveler’s Wife.  Shellie says, “I like this story because the main character was able to travel back in time but also return to reality,  The movie demonstrates how life goes on in the midst of difficulties.”

Irene Inonog loves to watch Passion of the Christ during Holy Week each year.  She says that it helps her “enter into the experience of Holy Week in a deeper way by reminding [her] in image what Jesus suffered out of love for us.” She also enjoys watching Leonardo Defilippis’ production of John of the Cross, because he was a saint who longed to be with God and he endured the dark night of the soul with great faith, hope and love.

Sr. Marie James Hunt entered the Daughters of St. Paul community in 1981 from Alexandria, VA. She received her M.A. in human resources from DePaul University in 2003 and served as provincial councilor of the Daughters' US/ESC province from 2008-2011. She is missioned in California, where she is the manager of the Pauline Books and Media Centers in Culver City and San Diego. Sr. Marie James is also the West Coast Coordinator of the Pauline Cooperators.