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.


Margaret Charles, fsp said...

Thank you for this article which enhances the Pauline charism! Sr Margaret Charles
PS This is the third message I am writing so hopefully three don't show up! The others didn't seem to post.

Maryann Toth said...

Thank you, Marie-Louise, for your beautiful article and reference to our call to personal holiness. I completely agree with your comment about the members of our Pauline Family as being truly inspirational!