It was a wonderful time to spend with fellow Cooperators as well as with other members of the Pauline apostolate. Upon arriving at the conference center, we were presented with the latest revised edition (2016) of the Handbook for Pauline Cooperators. It’s subtitle is, “Co-Workers in the Gospel”. With the Conference weekend ahead of us, what a perfect time it was to re-read the Handbook as part of a personal review of our individual participation in the Pauline mission!
It had been quite a while since I last read the Handbook from cover to cover, and I was happy to have the time to do so -- away from everyday responsibilities and distractions. I was particularly inspired by the words of Blessed James Alberione and by the excerpts from scripture which were included to illustrate and explain the vocation and apostolate of Pauline Cooperators.
The Handbook likens Cooperators to the seventy-two disciples described in the Gospels who were sent out by Jesus to travel far and wide to evangelize others. This flattering description of our vocation was a strong reminder of the importance of our evangelization work. Pauline Cooperators focus their media and communications activities on assisting Christian formation, promoting Eucharistic adoration, and offering liturgical animation. Just as is the case with today's Cooperators, Saint Paul chose his own collaborators from a wide variety of countries and backgrounds – men and women; free-born and slaves; married and single; priests, bishops, but mostly lay people. They each had their own special talents and abilities to contribute to the mission. (Handbook, pp. 10-11)
However, the underlying foundation must be personal holiness and fearless determination to discern and complete the mission to which we are each called. Blessed James reminds us that:
“The Pauline Family aspires to live integrally the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Way, Truth, and Life, in the spirit of Saint Paul, under the gaze of Mary, Queen of Apostles.… Life in Christ and in the Church is sought. The spirit of Saint Paul is revealed in his life, his letters, and his apostolic mission. He is always alive in the dogma, morals, worship, and organization of the Church. The secret of greatness is to model ourselves on God, living in Christ.” (Handbook, pp. 2-3)
In spite of such glorious images, living up to the Pauline calling can be very difficult to accomplish. Many of us struggle against putting our efforts on a back burner due to the demands of our personal responsibilities, cares, and fears. Reading the Scriptures tells us that Saint Paul’s own collaborators experienced such struggles, and a few even fell short to the point of giving up and abandoning Paul.
This past Sunday’s second reading offers assistance and encouragement in such struggles as we Cooperators labor in the Gospel field. The reading was from the beautiful second letter from Saint Paul to his disciple and protégé, Saint Timothy (2 Tm 2:8-13). It was written toward the end of Paul’s life. He emphasized that although he is a prisoner, in chains, the word of God which he shares is not chained. No matter the challenges we all meet in being faithful to the Pauline mission, we must have the faith and hope to break the bonds of these temporal restrictions to live this mission as fully as possible. In this letter our father, Saint Paul, speaks not only to Timothy, but also to each of us. These words are a gift to us, especially in those times when everyday distractions interfere with our work in the fields of spreading Gospel message.Paul urges his followers to persevere, to never give up in bringing salvation in Christ Jesus to all who can hear the message of the Lord. Overt joy permeates these writings. Yet, this letter is reputed to be the last letter personally composed by Paul, in the shadow of those last days as he awaited what would be his likely execution by the Romans. How inspiring that there is no fear in this letter!
There is, rather, strong affirmation of Saint Paul's belief that if we die with Christ, we will surely rise to reign with him in Paradise. Even if we are unfaithful, Christ remains faithful to us, giving us every opportunity to redeem ourselves and, further, to allow our Lord Jesus Christ to live fully in each of us.
May we allow the Holy Spirit to live fully in us…
“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Gal 5: 18-25)_________________________
Marie-Louise Handal has been a Pauline Cooperator based in Manhattan for over a decade. 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 education includes a Master’s Degree from St. Joseph's Seminary, the Master of Science in the Foreign Service from Georgetown University, and a B.A. in Mathematics & Science from Hunter College. In addition, 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. Her professional work experience encompasses 20 years in international banking and finance, followed by a second career as a mathematics educator. Marie-Louise is a native New Yorker, born and raised in New York City.