Wednesday, November 19, 2014

No Boundaries Exist for a Pauline

All Paulines are called to be way, truth,
and life for their brothers and sisters.
In the Constitution of the Daughters of St. Paul the following inspiring articles remind us of the no-boundaries mission entrusted to us: 

“Prayer gives rise to the apostolic dynamism that makes our zeal in charity visible. It enables us to discover the presence of Christ in history and leads us to understand people and serve them as the Divine Master did. Our meeting with Christ in prayer becomes a privileged moment in which we bring to him the hopes, joys and anxieties of the world, in order to adore, to intercede and to discern the new paths that the Spirit is opening to the Word. In this way, we offer all that we are and all that we do to the Father so that the people of our time will come to know Christ the Master Way, Truth and Life and so that, in and with him, we too will be way, truth and life for our brothers and sisters” (n.70, 73, 8, 74, 7).

All Paulines are called to be way, truth, and life for others. Our focus on prayer helps us rediscover our baptismal vocation that incarnates itself in the situations of our time. We pray to possess the tenderness and mercy of Jesus as we remain attentive to the signs of the times and to the new paths of humanity as authentic witnesses to Christ in a culture of communication.  Pope Francis tells us, "Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence" (259).*  As we become fully aware of how poor and inadequate we are to carry this out this mission our thoughts turn to the preferential option for the poor in Catholic social teaching. This preference for bringing the Gospel to the poor has been present in our Christian tradition since the very start. The Church has made an option for the poor which is understood as a special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity" (198). 

Paulines realize that poverty, our own and that of others, highlights our need for Christ, Way, Truth, and Life in more than just our material needs. It makes us want to be like him. "Jesus’ whole life, his way of dealing with the poor, his actions, his integrity, his simple daily acts of generosity, and finally his complete self-giving, is precious and reveals the mystery of his divine life. Whenever we encounter this anew, we become convinced that it is exactly what others need, even though they may not recognize it" (265)

The Pact or Secret of Success, written by Blessed Alberione, helps us encounter this anew: "We know that we are very weak, ignorant, inadequate, and incapable; instead, you are the resurrection and the life, our one and supreme good." Catholic social teaching calls us in a more immediate way to be aware of the vulnerable and least advantaged members of society. Pope Francis reminds us that poverty may also be manifested in a spiritual deprivation: "I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world. We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing" (273).

What can Paulines do for the poor? Brit Stack, a television producer and Pauline Cooperator in formation, reflects on the Pauline mission and the poor in her blog Lighting the Lamp:  

"Some of the sisters are already doing what they can…if someone comes to the media center, they’re given a bite to eat, something to drink, and told who can better help them. So we’ve taken care of their physical needs. What about the spiritual?....This is where I believe the best thing one can do is follow the well-known quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: 'Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.' LOVE is quite possibly the best way to evangelize and be testaments of God’s love for all. So that’s something.

"Another something: the children of the poor. In college, I was part of a group that would teach kids living in a trailer park about the Bible…We’d play outside, give the kids snacks, and then sit down with a Bible story. Why not take JClub Bookfairs to community centers or churches in the poor areas of the city?

"The poor of spirit can belong to any financial level. An example: the abused. Speaking as someone who knows people who were/are abused, many of them don’t actually trust there’s anyone who can help them. That means earthly or heavenly. The first thing needed is to form that bond of trust that someone can help them. Once trust has been established, it can be a bit easier to ask how they’re coping with the past. However, talking about religion and God might still be tough. So what can we do? We plant seeds. A small library of books and DVDs at a shelter can be beneficial. So too can be leaflets about forgiveness and how God loves us no matter what.

"While ministering to the poor is important, there’s also a need to educate the ordinary lay person who has the means to help the indigent. The Pauline mission is great for this—it’s evangelizing about our duty to love all as Christ loves us. The biggest and best way to carry out the Pauline mission when educating others about the poor is the development of books, films, and apps about Catholic Social Teaching. Also...stocking resource rooms and parish libraries in poor areas. These are just some examples of how one can involve the Pauline mission with ministering to the poor. There are several other ways: media literacy, economic discipleship, and teaching literacy classes. The list goes on and on." 

Brit concludes: "It has become my firm belief that the Pauline mission is rooted in helping the poor and it just hasn’t been fully realized. A recent post (Bernadette Boguski; September 10, 2014) on the Association of Pauline Cooperators Blog addresses this to an extent. It is not only the body that thirsts and hungers - it is also our souls. We often forget that we are a composite of soul and body. While some groups feed the body, the Pauline spirituality is in the unique position of having the resources to nourish both. Wouldn't it be great [if a Pauline Cooperator] put together a small booklet to feed the soul?" 
What are your thoughts about the Pauline mission and the poor?  
*All numbered quotes are taken from Evangelii Gaudiuum
Photo credits: Phivan Nguyen (Good Shepherd); Sr. Margaret Kerry, FSP

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


Maryann Toth said...

Sr., Thank you for this excellent article on Pauline spirituality and its mission. As lay Cooperators, we have many opportunities to support the mission. Would be interesting to hear from Cooperators and what activities they are involved in.

Sr. Margaret Kerry, fsp said...

What a great idea Maryann. Hopefully there will be some blog posts about activities APC members are involved in. It would be great if there was an APC community online as well.