Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Holding On to the Joy!


After the noise and drama of the Christmas holidays, we are now met with a kind of pause. We may feel the relief of having fewer tasks to perform and simpler schedules with which to cope. Or, we may experience a kind of depression at the sudden absence of all the celebratory activity and excitement. We may have feelings reflecting a mix of the two, or possibly just a sense of numbness. One thing is certain; this can be a quiet season which provides a rich spiritual pause to engage more deeply with the joys of Christmas. Such a contemplative effort can have rich spiritual rewards.


A Light to Dispel the Darkness
 Connecting more deeply with the meaning of Christmas will enhance one’s ability to hold on to the joy of the Christmas season throughout the entire year! The core of this joy is rooted in appreciation of the great gift of Christmas, which is the experience of Emmanuel, “God with us”. The Word is made Flesh; the grace of God has taken on visible human form; the Light has dissolved the darkness.
        Not only the Scriptures, but also the hymns, carols, and even the popular culture echo the Christmas story over and over, throughout the holiday season. While much of this is superficial, commercialized and unduly noisy, it does not take away from the fact that the best of the Christmas story still strongly permeates the culture, our society, our consciousness and our subconscious. When the Christmas Season ends, it can leave us hanging, especially when we have not gone beyond the superficial and material experience of the Christmas message.
        That message came from the heavenly angels to the lowly shepherds –
"Peace on earth..."
                "Good will to all..."
                                             "To you is born a Savior."
         This last part of the message is recorded in the name, Jesus (He who saves). January 3rd is the Optional Memorial to the Holy Name of Jesus. His name, which we honor above every other name, is a statement of his mission. He does so with the greatest of sacrifices in the ultimate display of agape, perfectly selfless, divine love. We, too, are called to emulate this love to the best of our capability in the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor, keeping the spirit of Christmas alive throughout the year.
The Great Gift of Christmas
 The great Gift of Christmas is God’s only Son, who has come to redeem us once and for all. The readings and celebrations in the Christmas liturgies foreshadow the events and salvation history we will contemplate during Lent and Easter. In His infinite love, the Father has given us His only Son. The preeminent response for this sublime Gift is thanksgiving in the form of our participation in the Eucharist. We kneel at the altar as the shepherds knelt at the manger. It is with great joy and wonder that we join our spiritual Mother, Mary, in contemplating the miracle of Christmas.
        In being born of Mary, Jesus shares in our humanness while we are given the opportunity to share in His divinity. From the Annunciation and her generous Fiat, the Blessed Virgin begins a life-long journey to become Mother of the faithful. During the Christmas Season, we celebrate the Feasts of Mary, Mother of God, the Epiphany of the Lord, and the Baptism of the Lord. With the birth of her Son, and through the years as his most faithful disciple, Mary lived the call to be Mother of God. This role made her, in turn, our own spiritual mother.
Great Joy Is Ours
 The Word has been made flesh and dwells among us. Salvation has been offered to all of humankind. In other words, salvation is being offered to each one of us, again and again, at every moment of our lives. The most appropriate response to this reality can only be a sincere prayer of thanksgiving. We can participate in that prayer of thanksgiving with every Eucharistic celebration. The question is: Do we (I) engage in the mass with enough spiritual depth to feel the joy of receiving, in my very being, the great Christmas gift of God’s Son? Is the joy of the Incarnation renewed in me with every Eucharistic liturgy?
        As members of the Association of Pauline Cooperators, we have the privilege to be a part of the Pauline Family, which provides a daily example to us of how to live perpetually in the joy of Christmas.

 Holding on to our Christmas joy will give us every opportunity to share in the redemption, to become true heirs as brothers and sisters of the Lord, and true sons and daughters of our joyful Mother Mary…

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish, but will have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

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Marie-Louise Handal has been a Pauline Cooperator based in Manhattan, New York City, for 15 years. She has participated in organizing and hosting a number of Pauline Family special events, media presentations, and educational programs in the New York Archdiocese and environs. 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.
        Her advanced degrees include a Master’s Degree in Theology from St. Joseph's Seminary, a Master of Science in the Foreign Service (MSFS) from Georgetown University, and a B.A. in Mathematics & Science from Hunter College. She is currently 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.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Year of Living Courteously



Welcome to 2017. 



Happy New Year!

2016 was a year of extraordinary happenings, including the most divisive presidential election any of us can remember. What can we expect from 2017? I make three easy predictions:

· more divisiveness

· more terrorism

· more media wars 

I hate that the first three things that came to my head were all negatives. Yet this negativity has been much on my mind. We cannot end terrorism, but the other two are within our power to affect. We Paulines have a particular vocation for using social media in the service of the Gospel. It is beyond time for us to take that vocation seriously. We are not just consumers of information, but distributors as well. The social phenomenon that Blessed Alberione called "the bad press" is proliferating online. The "good press" needs to lead!

But first, an inquiry. Why do we use social media? What are we looking for? There is a quote,
incorrectly attributed to Chesterton, that goes, "... the young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.[1] " In a similar vein, a William Butler Yeats poem contains the lines:
"But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;[2]" 

Both sayings point to an odd truth: our longing for love—for God—is ubiquitous. Even the rawest pockets of our experience conceal a secret desire to connect to the beauty and goodness of the Most Blessed Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are a fallen race, yes. But our Redeemer has already come. Every moment of every day, He is entering and transforming the pockets of disorder in our wounded world. And while there is nothing innately disordered about social networking, it doesn't take long to see that virtual reality contains enough cesspools, brothels, and conversational war zones to keep an army of poets busy around the clock. (And that's not just the secular sites—Catholic spaces are rife with nastiness too.)

So much of social media is seductive. We relish the positive reinforcement we get when somebody praises our thoughts or "Likes" our postings. We love it when we can demolish our interlocutors with the perfect zinger. We are addicted to snark. We enjoy seeing the things we hate ridiculed—and how easily that turns into enjoyment of ridicule of persons who espouse the things we hate! 

Or perhaps I only speak to my own social media sins. Conscious of Blessed Alberione's exhortations, I do try to approach social media with the thought of receiving from—or contributing to—the goodness in the world. And often I do. But other times, my mind craves relaxation and mischief. I scroll impatiently past profitable posts in order to roll around in the mud and snark. I'm not proud of it. And I know I'm not the only one. What's a Pauline to do?

When I read Alberione on a regular basis, what strikes me is his unswerving passion to offer Jesus Master to the world. For that, he had to have called upon a bedrock of personal holiness and prayer. How seriously do we take the responsibility to acquire personal holiness ourselves? Do we think it is beyond our reach? From our Founder we know that the Tabernacle is the academy of holiness, and that we are to approach the Presence without fear while holding to a penitential heart. Beyond this, a treasury of helps exist to aid us in our efforts.

I suggest that COURTESY be our watchword for social networking in 2017.

Courtesy
noun, plural courtesies.
1. excellence of manners or social conduct; polite behavior.
2. a courteous, respectful, or considerate act or expression[3].

Let's practice courtesy when we communicate, but even more let's give others the courtesy of attending to the good that they are trying to express. Let's stop wallowing in snark. There is beauty untold on the Internet, and goodness. There are pockets of words and images that captivate us, challenge us and draw us into the heart of reality, which is God's Creation with all His beloved creatures.

I suspect that courtesy in social networking involves more sacrifice than we usually give it. "Mortification of the senses" is a spiritual exercise that has fallen out of favor. Used in social media, it can promote courtesy by focusing us away from the Siren's call to instant gratification. An indulged mind can get sloppy about courtesy. I recommend we practice sacrifice a bit. Ignore the pressing urge to connect to social media when we're craving excitement. Wait awhile. Turn to another item on the to-do list. I think it will help us live mindfully, and so courteously.

I'd like to end with some words of encouragement from Blessed Alberione:

"This will be a wonderful year for us if we spend it at the school of the Divine Master. The greatest knowledge in the world is the knowledge of God and the knowledge of Christ... We have progress to make. Just as school time comes around every year, and we have to attend classes—but not to learn the same things—so every year we go ahead, we progress in our knowledge of truth, of doctrine and of science until we reach the 'perfect age,' which means until we reach the fullness of our union with Jesus Christ in heaven. Life is our preparation for that blessed eternity, for that perfect life, which awaits us after this one.[4]" 

[1] Although almost universally attributed to Chesterton, this quotation originated in the 1945 novel, The World, the Flesh and Father Smith by Bruce Marshall. In the book Miss Dana Agdala, the attractive young author of the book Naked and Unashamed, asks Father Smith how he can bear celibacy. Fr. Smith replies that the beauty and pleasure of women's bodies cannot compare with "walking with God in His House as a friend . ”She replies that this is just as she always thought:“that religion is only a substitute for sex.” To which Father Smith responds, " “I still prefer to believe that sex is a substitute for religion and that the young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.” (Stanton, Glenn. FactChecker: C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton Quotes, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/factchecker-c-s-lewis-and-g-k-chesterton-quotes.)

[2] Yeats, William Butler. "Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop"; The Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/43295.

[3] Dictionary.com, http://www.dictionary.com/browse/courtesy .

[4] Alberione, James, quoted in: Daughters of St. Paul, Living and Celebrating the Advent-Christmas Seasons, St. Paul Editions, 1982, pp 18; 107. 


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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, December 28, 2016

IN GOD WE TRUST



“Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.”… He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, "Out of Egypt I called my son."

When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” … He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazorean.” (MT 2:13-15, 19-23)

Do you ever find yourself struggling over a life decision that will affect your future, and perhaps that of your family? We all face these crossroads-type decisions at least a few times in life in relation to big issues: marriage, career, moving, health, education, etc. What do we rely on when making these decisions that will affect our future and that of other loved ones? Where do we find strength, courage, wisdom and faith to trust that our decisions will work out? Do we turn to God for guidance in prayer?
The gospel reading for the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus reminds us of our utter reliance on God and His Divine Providence. Joseph had earlier been told by the angel not to divorce Mary and that her Son was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  This gospel, from the Fourth Sunday of Advent, also tells us that “all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet [see IS 7:14] Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son…” (MT 1:18-24).

We sometimes wish we could have the clarity that a surface reading of these Gospel passages seems to relate: when Joseph was faced with big decisions, he slept on it, and the answer was given to him by an angel of the Lord. No agonizing or making lists of pros and cons, no weighing the impact on family stability, finances and future. He had someone to point him in the right direction. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a trusted advisor like that?

We think that the deeper meaning in this string of Old Testament and Gospel readings is the abiding and constant reliance on God demonstrated by Mary and Joseph in forming their family, first of all, then in seeking out and saying yes to God’s will as they were able to understand it throughout their lives. Mary’s Fiat, Joseph’s decision to marry Mary despite the apparent problems, his anxiety over finding a place for Mary to give birth, being hunted by Herod’s soldiers and having to leave everything they knew and everyone they loved; and all this while caring for a newborn infant you’ve been told is God’s own son. We would have felt an overwhelming sense of pressure and responsibility in such situations, wouldn’t we?

Yet they were able to place all their trust in God, and were guided ultimately to Heaven. The Bible doesn’t tell us they avoided suffering or anxiety by relying on God. But in doing His will, we can see that their obedience helped to repair that original sin of disobedience in the Garden of Eden.  This work of redemption was perfected by our Lord in his Passion, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension, of course, but we can see how God invited His beloved creation to participate in restoring the relationship damaged by original sin. Mary and Joseph were both given a choice, and in saying yes to God, they earned their place in Heaven and our special devotion to them as models to be imitated.

The Bible readings cited above tell us that all these things took place so that scripture might be fulfilled, but we doubt that Mary and Joseph would have had that kind of a view of what was going on in their lives. They were likely too busy living them to fully understand their place in the larger history of salvation. We can learn from this that we, too, do not need to fully understand every aspect of God’s plan for us in order to make a choice and opt to rely on God. In fact, it is in choosing despite — or beyond — what our intellects can fathom that we demonstrate our reliance on God and His Divine Providence.

Jim’s dad once counseled him that there are some decisions that are too important to make with the head alone. Reliance on God asks us to step beyond what we can know with human certainty and have faith in God’s promise of Heaven to us. Our Divine Master told the apostles that he was preparing a place for them, and by extension, for those of us who follow in faith and perseverance through the narrow gate. By turning to God in prayer when faced with difficult choices we practice that reliance on God that will help trace our path to eternity in Heaven.

Blessed James Alberione wrote that “God wished to restore all things in Jesus Christ and He decreed that Jesus should begin his work presenting to all families a perfect model in the Holy Family of Nazareth…and so the work of restoration began from the family.” (Statute of the Holy Family Institute, ch. 1) As we are reminded on this Feast of the Holy Family that our work is to consolidate that restoration first in our own families and then amplify it out into the world, let us take heart in the examples of the Holy Spouses Mary and Joseph and in their reliance on God above all.

We wish you all a blessed Christmas season and a spiritually fruitful 2017.

___________________________



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 3 daughters ranging in age from 15 to 32 and one granddaughter.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Presents, or presence?


After returning home from a couple of hours of Christmas shopping, feeling pretty good about crossing at least a few things off the list, I read the daily meditation from the book “God Calling” by A. J. Russell.

Purchase here
“Give to all you meet, or whose lives touch yours, of your prayers, your time, your love, your thought.  You must practice this giving first.
Then give of this world’s goods and money, as you have them given to you.”

Perhaps, during this Advent season, we might reflect on the gift of our presence, rather than the gifts of our presents.
We are living in a world in which we have distracted drivers, teens with neck problems from texting on their cell phones, and schedules that never stop.
When was the last time you gave someone the gift of your presence?

In his book “Mother Teresa’s Prescription for Happiness,” Dr. Paul Wright spends a lot of time on this subject.  A successful cardiologist, he was caught up in the busyness of life when he reached out for spiritual guidance from Saint Mother Teresa.
During the time he spent with her, she taught him to focus on only the person in front of him, and to block out thoughts about other things on his schedule, other demands on his time, etc.  To give the gift of his time and attention, to be present to the person before him at that moment.  It changed the way he practiced medicine and it changed his life.

When was the last time you focused on the person in front of you, really listened without distraction? Or when was the last time you were the recipient of someone who really listened to you, where they made you feel like you were the most important thing to them at that moment? What a gift to be able to give and receive someone’s undivided attention!


Easier said than done, right?  How much simpler it often seems to write a check, make a donation of goods, or give something tangible, than to give of our time and attention.  To make someone feel important, listened to, and loved, is perhaps the greatest gift we can give.

We must pray for the grace to be great givers, of our time, our attention, our very selves, and yes, of our resources as well.  We have the perfect teacher in our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist, who is physically present to us at the Mass and in Eucharistic Adoration Chapels throughout the world. He is always present and waiting for us, willing to give us His undivided attention, to listen to our praise, our thanks, our contrition and our petition.  He is the greatest giver, for He loves us beyond our own understanding, and gave EVERYTHING to win us back, even dying on a cross.  He cannot be outdone in generosity.

As we get closer to the celebration of the Lord's Nativity, perhaps we can consider what the gift our presence, rather than our presents, would mean to those we love.  Pray for the ability to be a great giver of your time, your talent and your resources.
Our God did not come to earth in royal robes on a throne; He came to us as an approachable, adorable babe in a manger. He waits for us to approach, to adore, so that he can give us the gift of His presence, so that we may receive the graces to give the gift of our presence.


_________________________

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, December 14, 2016

Advent Reflections and 6 New Culver City Cooperators


Advent is one of my favorite times of the year.  It is a time for watching, waiting, listening, and contemplating.  I love to watch the season change from long bright sunny days to shorter days with cooler crisper air and deeper sleep at night.  Waiting is not easy for me and our fast paced electronics filled culture feeds my desire to know now what the future holds.  Advent is a time that slows my pace down and invites me to savor the moments and ponder in gratitude the gifts of each day.

My copy of the Mary of Nazareth DVD
One of my favorite quotes from Scripture to meditate with speaks of Mary: “And she pondered all these things in her heart”.  Mary is my Advent companion and friend.  I look to her and seek to learn how she prepared for the coming of Jesus.  She listened to the voice of God in prayer, in the message of the Angel Gabriel, in the words of Elizabeth her cousin, and in every moment of her life. 

If you have not seen the movie: Mary of Nazareth, I invite you to watch it during Advent and to especially focus on the scenes leading up to the birth of Jesus.  Mary is portrayed as a strong woman of faith and the actress Alyssa Jung did a marvelous portrayal of showing Mary as both deeply faith filled and deeply human.  We were privileged to host a screening of the movie in Culver City three years ago and Alyssa came to answer questions and share with us her experience of playing the role of Mary.  She drew on her own experience as a mother and she let that experience guide and direct her in the role.  The movie Mary of Nazareth is one that often plays in my imagination when I hear the Advent readings and I am grateful for the gift of a deeper faith and contemplation that it has blessed me with and I wish the same for you!
  
Six New Pauline Cooperators in Culver City

On Sunday October 30, 2016, we celebrated the Feast of Jesus, the Divine Master with a Mass and Dinner.  During the Mass we had five of our six cooperator candidates make their cooperator promises.  On Sunday November 27, 2016, we celebrated the First Sunday of Advent and the day after the Feast of Blessed James Alberione.  During the Mass, we had the sixth cooperator candidate make his promises and I introduce each of them to you below:

                                         Teresa Conner

Teresa Conner has known us for 20 years.  She is a newly retired nurse and she will be moving to Virginia in December.  Teresa is looking forward to meeting the Pauline Cooperators in Virginia and she hopes to volunteer regularly at our Pauline Book and Media Center in Alexandria Virginia.

                                          Mary Latini

Mary Latini is a parishioner at St Mark’s in Venice, California.  She attended our Bishop Barron DVD “Catholicism” classes as well as the series of classes by Fr Gaitley.  Mary was drawn to deepening her Spiritual life and when I invited the attending members of the various courses to join the inquiry group of Pauline Cooperators, Mary signed up!

                                          Joanne Morrissey

Joanne Morrissey is a retired Catholic grade school teacher who was also attending the variety of formation classes at Pauline Books and Media and seeking to deepen her spiritual life.  She has generously offered her time and talent in assisting us with Cooperator meeting preparations and more recently with Christmas Card mailings.

                                                 Peter MacNicol

Peter has known us for 20 years.  The Sisters and the Pauline Books and Media Center were his primary resource during his RCIA journey into becoming Catholic in 2000.  Peter is an actor and finds the Pauline Spirituality and Mission to be a source of inspiration and support.  He is a friend, supporter, volunteer and benefactor to us in Culver City.

                                          Amelia Tagle

Amelia Tagle was born and raised in the Philippines and she is a cousin of Cardinal Tagle.  She knew the Daughters of St Paul in the Philippines and she felt drawn to the Pauline charism.  Amelia also attended one of our Book Center courses and when I invited her to join the inquiry group, she also committed to the Pauline cooperator formation.

                                          Theresa Limtiaco

Theresa Limtiaco is a parishioner at St Augustine’s in Culver City. Theresa was born and raised in Guam. We often see her at Church and she also attended our courses and events in the Book Center seeking to grow in her spiritual life.  She is a Confirmation Catechist and she was seeking to also grow in her knowledge of the Catholic Faith so that she could share it with her students.

                                         5 New Cooperators on October 30, 2016
                                         Feast of Jesus Master

                                          1 more New Cooperator on November 27, 2016
                                          First Sunday of Advent and Pauline Family in LA
                                          Celebrates the Feast of Blessed James Alberione


                                         Sending Forth: "Receive the Gospel, Live the Gospel,
                                         Take the Gospel to the World."


(Patricia Conklin also joined the Pauline Cooperators from Charleston, SC November 27, 2016)

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Sr. Marie James Hunt entered the Daughters of St Paul community in 1981.  She is currently missioned in California where she is the local superior of the Culver City community.  Sr. Marie James is also the West Coast Coordinator of the Pauline Cooperators.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Pray for Us Sinners, Pray for Our Saints

Our Pauline Family has several beloved founding members who have gone to their final rest and whose cause for canonization has been introduced in the Catholic Church. Today we begin a bi-monthly feature asking that these Paulines be glorified in heaven, as we ask them to intercede for us on earth. 

After this week, look for this feature to appear on the right column of this blog, every first and third Friday of the month.
Blessed James Alberione

Prayer for the canonization of Blessed James Alberione
________________
[1] We invite you to join Paulines around the world in praying for the complete healing of Christina Dangond, the daughter of members of the Holy Family Institute, from all of her cancer.
Most Holy Trinity, who has willed to revive in the Church the apostolic Charism of St. Paul, revealing yourself in the light of the Eucharist to Blessed James Alberione, founder of the Pauline Family, grant that the presence of Christ the Master, Way, Truth and Life, may shine in the world through Mary, Mother and Queen of the Apostles.
Glorify in your Church this apostle of the new evangelization, and raise up men and women open to the "signs of the times" who, following his example will use the modern means of communication to lead all of humanity to you.
Through the intercession of Blessed James grant me the grace that I ask for at this time, [1]. 
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.