Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Beauty of Purgatory

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

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

In the Joy of the Faithful “YES”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pauline Cooperators in Culver City, CA

On the weekend of September 20-21, a group of twelve people attended the annual retreat for Pauline Cooperators in Culver City, CA, just outside Los Angeles. In the group were promised Cooperators, Cooperators in formation, and volunteers. I guided the retreat, while Brother Aloysius (Al) Milella, SSP, gave two presentations via recorded conferences on DVD.  

At the end of the retreat, each of the attendees shared what part of the retreat inspired them the most and it was amazing to hear the unique responses. Maria Siciliano, a member of the group in formation who will make her promises on November 23, said that the hour of adoration and the time of sharing were very meaningful to her. Jovy Lim, a longtime friend of the Daughters of St. Paul, was moved by Br. Al’s firsthand account of knowing Fr. James Alberione. He was in the room when Fr. Alberione passed away and he lovingly recounts that momentous event on the DVD. Teresa Connor, another member of the group in formation, said that the time set aside for quiet prayer really helped her to focus on deepening her spiritual life. 

Carol Anne Wright is a promised Cooperator who is housebound due to illness. We sent her the materials and the DVD so that she could participate from home. Upon receiving the package, she wrote: “Dear Sr. Marie James, the retreat folder and DVD arrived this afternoon. Thank you for sending it so quickly.  I have read through all of the materials and I am looking forward to watching the DVD a couple of times tomorrow. I guess you could say that I am thirsting for this Pauline retreat!”

The Culver City chapel was designed by Sr. Mary Stella, PDDM, and is named the “Chapel of Jesus Master.” The solemnity of Jesus, the Divine Master, is always celebrated on the last Sunday of October - this year, on October 26. The novena, which can be found on page 291 of the Pauline Prayerbook, begins on October 17. May Jesus, Divine Master grant us extra special blessings in this 100th anniversary year of our Pauline Foundation!

Christin Jezak, a promised Cooperator, Regina Aaron, a Cooperator in formation, and I staffed the booth at the Anaheim Religious Education Congress.  This year there were more than 35,000 people in attendance from all over the United States and even outside the United States such as Mexico, Guam, England, and Ireland.  The Society of St. Paul and the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master also had exhibit booths at the Anaheim Congress, so the Pauline Family was well represented!
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.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Holy Families–Beacons of Hope for a Troubled World

Opening Mass of 2014 Synod on the Family
The Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on “Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization” is now underway in Rome. It's attempting to discern the most effective ways to show the world the inherent beauty and value of the family rooted in Christ’s Gospel, which dispels fear and nurtures hope. World Communications Day, 2015 is also planned to highlight the family. Clearly, the Church is focused on the family as the vital cell of all societies. We are all invited to pray for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as our bishops seek new ways to meet the challenges our families face today.

We McMillans have always been struck by the manner in which God chose to save our broken world: through a humble family, just like the one in which most of us entered this world. There we learned to know right from wrong, to forgive and be forgiven, to share, to sacrifice, to grow into our adult selves, and to find our way in the world.  Christ could just as easily have come out of the desert, or come down in glory in a cloud. Yet God, in his infinite wisdom, saw fit that the Redemption of all humanity should have its terrestrial roots in the family.

Blessed James Alberione was graced with insight about the importance of the family in God’s plan for salvation when he envisioned lay groups, such as the Cooperators and the Holy Family Institute, as vital branches of the Pauline Family.  He saw in the Holy Family of Nazareth that perfect model for all families, and realized that the family would have to play a critical role in restoring what had been lost. Our Lord spent about ninety percent of his life in that little workshop of Nazareth, learning and growing in holiness at the side of Mary and Joseph before starting his public life. Before Christ had his first disciple he had already sanctified the family. How logical, then, that we too, should look to sanctifying the family as a critical part of building God’s kingdom here on earth.

As we strive to follow Christ’s Gospel, we share in the Church’s mission of sanctifying the world with a special emphasis on the family as a path to holiness. Many Cooperators and HFI members are fully in the world both as spouses and promised or consecrated lay persons, praying and working for the sanctification of all families and for the world through all families. It is precisely from this vantage point that we can be most effective by working to evangelize–through our lives and our actions.

There's something truly special about the family as a school, a path, of holiness, especially when founded in obedience to the urgings God places in our hearts, clothed in the grace of the sacrament of Matrimony. We personally could not have fully understood the importance of that grace in our marriage before facing the challenges of leaving our individual selves behind to create a new family together, or facing the sorrows and difficulties of life together. This is where we taught our daughters to go outside themselves and seek what is good for others, as our parents once gently urged us. This is where Luisa and I learned as spouses to set aside our selfish interests and to desire what is best for our beloved. This is where we all learn to practice patience, forgiveness, and sacrifice, and to be faithful and obedient to God, to our spouse, to our parents.

All these aspects of family life are immediately recognizable to everyone, yet it can be difficult to see them as tools of sanctification when we are in the midst of living the challenges of family life, with all the familiar drama, pain, and regrets that make up our human baggage. Yet the virtues we learn to practice are unmistakable if we take a moment to reflect on them: We see now the faith and hope God strengthened in us after we suffered multiple miscarriages and were still able to remain eager and open to the precious grace of co-creation to which God invited us. What parent’s heart doesn’t melt upon seeing their children practice true Christian charity, not because we told them to, but out of love? We don’t know how we could have faced some of life’s challenges without the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, strengthened in communion around the dinner table, in bedside prayers, and by loving each another despite our individual failings.

Consider that, each time you step out of your own self-interest to do the smallest service for your spouse or child, you are sanctifying yourself, your family and the world. We families evangelize by striving to live the Gospel, and although we all do it imperfectly to some extent, it is in the striving that we are sanctified, and the world we touch is also sanctified. Let us pray that all families may recognize this awesome grace and fulfill their role as cradles of sanctification in our world. May God’s restoration flow through our families and shine brightly as a beacon of hope and love in a world plagued by shadows and fear.

Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod 
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate the splendor of true love; to you we turn with trust. Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families, too may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic Churches. Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection and division; may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing. Holy Family of Nazareth, may the Synod of Bishops make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God’s plan. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer. Amen. (
Jim and Luisa McMillan are members of the Holy Family Institute, which they entered in Colombia in 2000. They currently reside in Colorado with their youngest daughter, Maria, where they work as translators and interpreters. Their oldest daughter, Gabriela, is married and lives in New York with her husband, Fidel. Sara is currently attending graduate school in Michigan.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Opening Gifts of Pauline Spirituality

Holiness is living in Christ
as St. Paul lived Christ.
One of my favorite authors is Walker Percy. In his novels Percy presents flawed heroes that face crises of the human spirit and walk through the land of faith and despair on a search. Percy invites his readers to “wake up” to this search that breaks through everydayness: “Now in these dread latter days of the old violent beloved U.S.A. and of the Christ-forgetting Christ-haunted death-dealing Western world I came to myself in a grove of young pines.”[1] The search leads Percy’s characters to relationships that were there all the time. His protagonists experience coming fully to themselves. They awaken to the water that does not run dry, the food and drink that alone can satisfy. As a convert to Catholicism Percy struggled with questions post-modern Catholics are beginning to ask. His search led him to his own “place of nowhere” in Covington, Louisiana. This metaphor recalls losing ourselves in God to be true to our center (the mystical center or our inner bell [2]) and includes the reality that we are sent back into the community where God dwells[3]. 

Blessed Alberione tells us that all is gift of God.
Through the writings of Blessed James Alberione,[4] I have come to a deeper understanding of balance in the spiritual life. Alberione considered everything a gift of God that invited our unwrapping and response. The Gospel of John influenced Alberione’s spirituality: “We all live off his generous bounty, gift after gift after gift” (John 1:16).[5]  A Pauline charismatic element is to “know the gift of God.” Alberione opened all the gifts available to him: Scripture, great religious traditions in the Church, church documents, theology, the Eucharist, press, radio, television, etc. hoping to create a great synthesis in Jesus Master as he defined himself “way, truth and life” (John 14:6). Holiness consists, he wrote, in living in Christ as St. Paul lived Christ until we say it is no longer I who live, Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20).[6] Alberione sought and solicited the reunification of all sciences around theology, proclaiming the dignity of all branches of knowledge. According to him, whatever the subject studied, ultimately it was to study God, the author of all things, and of all the sciences which are the interpreters of created reality.[7]

Living our Pauline Spirituality
is a response to grace.
Spirituality integrates all that makes up our human reality that we may live in Christ and through Christ in the Trinitarian relationship for fullness of life. “The final reality with which we must all deal,” writes David Tracy, “is neither our own pathetic attempts at self-salvation, nor the horror of life in all its masks, nor even the frightening reality of sin in our constant attempts to delude ourselves and others; rather that final reality is the hard, unyielding reality of the Pure unbounded Love disclosed to us in God’s revelation of who God is and who we are commended and empowered to be in Christ Jesus.”[8] Grace is pure gift that transforms our everyday life. The Pauline spirituality is our response to this gift.

Sr. Margaret C. Kerry, FSP, celebrates 40 years of life and mission as a Daughter of St. Paul. She completed a Masters at Boston College School of Theology & Ministry. Sr. Margaret 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) Sister is presently working on a young adult book. You can reach her at

[1] Percy, Walker, Love in the Ruins, N.Y. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999, p. 3
[2] Rolheiser, Ronald, O.M.I., Course notes Boston College School of Theology and Ministry,
   Summer Institute, 2009.
[3] Ibid: “Christianity is by definition ecclesial.”  Also reference the chapter "A Spirituality of Ecclesiology,"
   The Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser, N.Y. Random House, 1999, p. 135 ff.
[4] Blessed James Alberione (1884-1971) Founder of the Pauline Family of Religious Institutes
[5] The Message Bible, John 1:16
[6] Alberione, James, S.S.P., Thoughts, St. Paul Editions, 1972, p. 49.
[7] Kaitholil, George, S.S.P., Jesus Way, Truth, Life, St. Paul Editions, 1984, p. 104.
[8] Tracy, David, On Naming the Present, N.Y. Orbis Books, 1994, p. 101.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


There is no new post this week, but there is a correction on last week’s “Lifting High the Cross.” The quote on the Creed was mistakenly attributed to journalist James Foley. It is by Elizabeth Scalia (“The Anchoress” The quote on prayer that follows in the same paragraph is Foley’s.