Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My True Treasure

A well known legend about St. Lawrence of Rome has persisted since the third century. As deacon in Rome, Lawrence had the responsibility of distributing the Church's alms to the poor. Thinking that Christians had great riches, the prefect of Rome, a greedy pagan, demanded that Lawrence hand over to him all of the Church’s treasure. Three days later Lawrence returned but instead of bearing with him piles of gold and silver, Lawrence led a great multitude of the blind, lame, leprous and poor of the city. He lined them in rows before the prefect and announced, “These are the treasures of the Church.” Holy Lawrence understood well that these people were the face of Christ, a reflection of God the Father’s love and as a result were worth more than anything else he could ever present to the Prefect. 
This prompted me to think about what I might do if I was asked to assemble the treasures in my life. I thought immediately of the members of the Pauline Family: consecrated men and women who have dedicated their lives to serving God and his people. Blessed James Alberione, founder of the Pauline Family, at the first light of the twentieth century, “felt deeply obliged to prepare himself to do something for the Lord and for the men and women of the new century with whom he would spend his life” (Abundantes divitiae gratiae suae, #15). Furthermore, Alberione believed that in the new century generous people would experience what he was feeling and that together they could combat evil with good. In the years that followed, right up to the present day, thousands of generous souls including clergy, religious and laity have walked in his footsteps and brought the Gospel message to a world in need. Each new member that has taken up this mission has been a gift to the Church and, I can say without hesitation, a precious treasure in my life. 
The summer of 2014 has helped me to understand ever more deeply the value of this treasure. I have participated and will participate in a number of celebrations, such as silver and golden jubilee anniversaries of Paulines who have dedicated many years to the mission, as well as new professions that are a blessing for today and a promise for the future.
The summer began in early June with two Pauline celebrations in New York. The first marked the 100th anniversary of the official founding of the Pauline Family. Guests from various parishes joined with members of the Pauline institutes on this happy occasion. Everyone had reason to celebrate, as we all could attest to the countless ways that the Pauline Family has brought the presence of Christ into our lives. 

Fr. Edmund Lane and Fr. Ignatius Staniszewski
The second event commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of priestly ordination for Father Edmund Lane and Father Ignatius Staniszewski. These two priests of the Society of Saint Paul have faithfully served the Pauline mission in various roles. Fr. Edmund has been a longtime editor and publisher for St. Pauls and a pioneer in using personal computers for the apostolate. Fr. Ignatius has served in a number of capacities, from being a teacher and formator at the seminary to being a publisher and editor of books and magazines. The gems these men have offered over these past fifty years has been their wisdom and pastoral sensitivity in the dissemination of religious materials through various social media.
A few weeks later in early July, I led a day of retreat for members of the Pauline Holy Family Institute. This Institute is an organization of Catholic couples and those who are widowed who wish to live their lives in a more consistent, God-oriented way. The goal is the sanctification of family life. They commit themselves to allowing the love of Christ to reign in their hearts and in the hearts of their children. The retreat day included Holy Mass, Eucharistic adoration, spiritual talks, religious themed games, a family barbecue, and great fun. Two families that were central to its success were the Fedaks with their ten children and the Jakubs with their nine. By consecrating their own lives to Christ in the Holy Family Institute, Dave and Kate Fedak and Rob and Keisha Jakub place Christ at the center of their lives and teach their children to do the same. In this way, while raising their children to enjoy typical activities of kids in our society, such as sports, dance, music, and art, they become the first witnesses of faith to their children. They also have helped me as a priest become more dedicated to serving families, the domestic Church.
Fr. Michael Harrington with the Fedak and Jakub Families
As August began, I participated in another jubilee celebration. This time it was for the Daughters of Saint Paul. Sr. Mary Domenica Vitello, Sr. Sharon Anne Legere, and Sr. Barbara Gerace celebrated fifty years of religious profession, while Sr. Nancy Michael Usselmann and Sr. Maria Grace Dateno celebrated twenty-five years. These sisters have been instrumental in my own vocation. It was their energy and commitment that first attracted me to the Pauline life. They have served in countless ways: as book store and media center managers, local community superiors, vocation coordinators, media workshop presenters, and much more. However, even more importantly, they have been my friends, helping me to draw closer to Jesus, the Way, Truth, and Life. Each sister brings her unique gifts to the Pauline Family. They are pearls, emeralds, and rubies that fill up the Pauline treasure chest.
Sr. Mary Domenica Vitello, Sr. Barbara Gerace, Sr. Sharon Anne Legere, Sr. Nancy Michael Usselmann, Sr. Maria Grace Dateno with Bishop Richard Lennon
Finally, at the end of August, I will participate in one more Pauline celebration. Two young women, Sr. Cheryl Galema and Sr. Theresa Noble will make their first profession of vows. I have watched them grow as postulants and novices, along with Sr. Julia Karina, who will be making her first profession in September in Mexico.
Postulants, novices, and junior professed sisters with Sr. Rebecca Hoffart (director of postulants ), Sr. Carmen Pompei (director of novices ), and Sr. Donna Giaimo (director of junior professed )
I have witnessed how they have jumped in with both feet onto the Pauline path of discipleship. They remind me that Jesus keeps filling up the Pauline treasure chest. As much as we keep taking from it, it will never be empty.
St. Lawrence presented the poor and weak of the city of Rome as treasures, because he recognized that they were an antidote to the problem of corrupt and selfish leaders who saw worth only in material pleasures. I consider the Pauline family members, including the Cooperators, as treasures, because in their desire to live in a spirit of poverty, chastity, and obedience and in their commitment to apostolic zeal, they are illuminating the world with the presence of Christ and in their own way offering an antidote to our media driven society that seems to have largely forgotten God. They remind us that there are things far more precious than automobiles, houses, and electronic devices. Treasures in heaven: things we should value and want to have, because they come from God, bring us close to God, make us better people, and prepare us for our eternal reward.

Click on "Comments" below and tell me who or what your treasures are. 
Fr. Michael Harrington is a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and a member of the Pauline Institute of Jesus the Priest. An economics and political science major, he worked in finance for five years, before entering the seminary in 1994. He was ordained in 2000 and has since served the Church as parochial vicar, state chaplain to the Massachusetts Knights of Columbus, and for the past several years, assistant director of the Office of Vocations and director of the Office of Outreach and Cultural Diversity. Fr. Michael made his first profession of vows in the Institute of Jesus the Priest on November 22, 2009.


Sr. Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP said...

Some things I "treasure" are not worthy of the word, but on my better days, I treasure silence so that I can actually think and feel, even if what I think and feel pushes me hard to be a better person and more faithful to my commitment. I think that's because ultimately, I most treasure the Gospel and my friendship with Jesus.

jeffmathews said...

I absolutely loved this blog post! As I reflect on who or what my treasures are, the most important seem to be the relationships I value most, especially family (including Pauline Family), friends, patients, coworkers, and sometimes strangers that God brings into my life. Many of these relationships bring me ever closer to Jesus, our Divine Master. I pray I can help bring others closer to Him as well.
Thank you, Father Mike, for your tremendous Pauline witness. You are a solid onyx Rosary in my Pauline treasure chest!