Friday, July 31, 2020

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Discerning the News in An Election Year

We all know that the drive for more clicks and more visits is making news articles full of extreme headlines & language. The Pauline laity blog takes on this problem. How do we find accuracy in news? 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Gift of Being “Other-Oriented”

For those of you who know me, you know I tend to write and speak about radiance; how it is God’s light that shines through us, if we allow him to do so.  As I have reflected on and thought about radiance, I have asked different people what radiance means to them.  One woman described radiance by using a term that I absolutely loved.  She said that being radiant is about being “other-oriented”. Those two words, put together like that, pack a punch.

It seems like we are living in a time where being “other-oriented” is so critical.  Wearing a mask, keeping six feel apart due to COVID is certainly guidance to be “other-oriented”.  At the same time, the protests start as a consideration of others; their needs and rights.  What I observe however is that many things start by being “other-oriented” and then evolve into being about self.

Consider the protests.  Protests are for human rights, for fair treatments, and these are other-oriented. But along with the protests we have also seen riots. Looting, damaging stores and business are activities that seem to focus on self, I fear, not others. Keeping that "other-oriented" perspective is crucial. What causes humanity to move from focus on other to focus on self?  Perhaps the answer comes from Blessed James Alberione who offered "Humility is the keeper of the virtues." Without humility, other non-virtuous activities can happen, and quickly.

Lack of humility does seem to be at the root of some of the challenges we see right now.  In a world that encourages you to buy, buy, buy and that you “deserve” this or that, it is no wonder that people learn to think of themselves first and others second.  To truly be other-oriented, one needs to be humble and honestly put the needs of others before their own.  Christ was such a perfect example of this for us.  His guidance to us was to “love our neighbors as ourselves”.  He knew this would be difficult for us.

Humility is difficult and perhaps even more difficult when the world is in disarray, as it is today.  But, isn’t it in these strange and scary times that being humble and in service to others is so critical?  Yet, these are the very times that we want to hunker down and protect ourselves.  But, those who are in service to others, who are “other-oriented” are truly radiant stars, as Mother Thecla described.

 "God is a very good cameraman and will project the film of  our lives.  Let us be radiant stars."   
Mother Thecla Merlo, Daughters of St. Paul
During this trying time in our world, I am seeing beautiful, radiant souls who are letting God’s light shine through them.  I identify them because they are so “other-oriented”.  These are the people who are making masks and giving them away to senior centers, or the people putting thank you signs and gifts out for the delivery people, or those bringing food and meals to others.  I was in line at the grocery and the person in front of me inquired of the cashier, “how are you really, given everything going on here?”  The cashier lit up, someone truly cared about her and was being “other-oriented” by asking that question.

The thing about that little question is that it led to a big smile on the face of the cashier.  Someone cared, and that mattered.  Someone was being “other-oriented” in the moment.  Yes, we can require masks and social distancing.  However, I believe that being other-oriented cannot be required or stipulated; it is an inside job.  When we let go of our self-interest and truly see others, that is when God’s light shines through us and we can be radiant.

During these tough weeks with all that is swirling around us, what gives me hope is the radiance I see around me.  I look for those people who are “other-oriented” and I see God at work.  I cherish the many beautiful pieces of humanity I see, and pray that God will continue to open the hearts of many to take care of others during this time.

The once international corporate marketing executive is now an author, speaker and promised Pauline Cooperator who encourages people to live radiantly, letting God shine through them. Donna A. Heckler was blessed with a prominent career serving multi-billion dollar organizations and now focuses her writing at the intersection of faith and business. Donna’s award winning book "Marketing God: Inspired Strategies for Building the Kingdom" was just released in August 2019 by OSV and is a crash course for those passionate about their faith and looking for ways to share it effectively.

Recognized as a thought leader in brand and marketing strategy, she is co-author of the book The Truth About Creating Brands People Love. Donna penned the acclaimed book Living Like A Lady When You Have Cancer after her stage 3 cancer diagnosis. She worked through her treatments but worked even more at trying to live radiantly every day.

God now takes a front seat in Donna’s life as she shares her journey, her beliefs, her faith in her writing and speaking. Donna reminds us to sit quietly with God and to live radiantly despite what is happening in our lives, with God shining through every day.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

A Marvelous Exchange: Salvation Beyond Our Wildest Dream

Christ does not put himself alongside a person’s life but by right penetrates that person to his or her intimate depths: he is more us than we are ourselves. Father Forlai
Right now, Christ is not only with us during the Covid19 crises, Christ is transforming us into an icon of his life and presence. At prayer in chapel one day I knew I needed help to recapture my patience and to surrender my feelings of anxiety. My co-novice, Sr. Julia Darrenkamp, told me about a book that she said contained a treasure trove of insights for our spiritual life. I purchased a copy of Mary, Mother of ApostlesIt is about "Christ lives in me;" it is about salvation beyond our wildest dreams. It is a book you will spend a lifetime with. If you want to know why Mary is about Jesus, this is the book for you. If you already have devotion to Mary, be prepared to wonder if you really did until now.
I realized this was not a book to read alone. Each sentence opened new horizons of the meaning regarding Mary’s motherhood. Her motherhood was that wonder of a “yes” pronounced in full not only to God but also to us, until Christ is formed in us. 
St. Paul wrote; “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). After just a quick read through this book I have my suspicions that Paul picked up that saying from Mary.
In only one Facebook invitation to join me for a Zoom Book Club, twelve participants signed up. During my hour of adoration, the idea of a guide took form. Along with a copy of the book, a reading guide was sent out to participants with a date for our first weekly Zoom book club.
Here are some of my favorite quotes (I have underlined most of the book). This book has helped me to focus on Jesus during these times of quarantine and facemasks, and incessant hand washing (which usually reminds me of Hamlet’s mother). As I meditate on each passage in preparation to share with the book group, new insights arise.
The risen Jesus still incarnates himself, still gives himself in the Eucharist until the end of time, healing ills even today. He still speaks to us as to disciples – weeping, suffering, praying, loving without interruption. This is possible because I freely offer myself to him, saying, ‘Lord, I am sad, come yourself to live your sadness in me. I am consoled. Come in me to live your gratitude to the Father…’ A well lived Christian existence is that of the baptized in whom Christ relives all of his mysteries.
The Holy Spirit works this marvelous exchange that makes us contemporaries of Jesus.” This is not due to our effort or strength, “earthly events of my life are changed into Jesus’ and his eternal and glorious mysteries are exchanged with mine. We stand before a marvelous reality that makes us exclaim with St. Paul, ‘It is no longer I who live, Christ lives in me’ (Gal. 2:20)."
 This video book review is a meditation in itself: 
We still patiently bear the burden of the old self while we are here on earth. We live in continual surrender and conversion.
Mary always entrusted and abandoned herself into the hands of God. Her trust grew as she closely followed the events of her son’s life in a crescendo of abandonment that reached its summit on that day of Calvary. Mary grew in the grace she already possessed. St John Eudes, someone Father Alberione based much of his Eucharistic spirituality on, spoke of the Sacred Hearts not in the plural but in the singular -- the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary. Little by little as we offer the Master hospitality in our inmost being, we arrive, without even realizing it, at the point where we ourselves are the guests, nourished and hidden in God (Col 3:3).

Sr. Margaret Charles Kerry, FSP, celebrates 45 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. Sr Margaret is superior and manager of the Pauline Center in Charleston, SC.  She is also coordinating wonderful Pauline Cooperator groups in this region.  Author of three books: St Anthony in the Encounter the Saints series, Strength in Darkness: John of the Cross and Live Christ; Give Christ: prayers  for the new evangelization.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Reflections on the Present Times

As we dig out of the last few months of chaos, I am trying to take some time to re-examine what has happened in my spiritual life. I have undergone some unprecedented (should we ban that now overused word?) challenges. In ways large or small, we all have mourned some loss or experienced a new pattern which has shaped us into new ways of being. I offer some reflections which may spark something from your own life. We are all in this together, as members of the Body of Christ.

Working at a Church in a Pandemic
I am a music director at a parish in Minnesota which finds itself figuratively halfway between the metropolitan area of the Twin Cities and Midwestern farm country. I mourned the loss of community Triduum liturgies. I felt a panic to do something, anything, to fill the vacuum left in the wake of isolation and quarantine. Our pastor did something very counter-cultural. He asked us to stop and not do anything. Instead of starting online ministry in a flurry and adding to the cacophony, he invited us into the silence and solitude the shutdown provided to be attentive to the voice of God.

I, personally, became reacquainted with the Liturgy of the Hours, something which provided much greater fulfillment than watching Mass online. When we did begin to live-stream liturgies, I remembered that liturgy is a work of worship, an act to be done. Each liturgy became its own prayerful experience instead of continually thinking ahead to the next project or looking down the road. The pandemic taught me to pray in the present and to bring that presence to work.

Watching My City Burn
I live just over five miles from the epicentre of our global racial reckoning, the place where George Floyd was murdered. I will never forget waking up at 3:30 a.m. to the smell of my city on fire, nor will I forget the feeling of fear that surged in my body each day as night fell, unsure of what would happen in the hours to come. Following the release of the 2018 grand jury investigation on the cover-up of the abuse of 1,000 children in Pennsylvania, I remember thinking how I would burn the beauty of St. Peter’s Basilica to the ground if it would fix this problem. Perhaps my city of ashes would finally fix the racial injustice burned into our nation by slavery. I certainly pray the suffering of so many will not be in vain. I have learned of my own blindness. I will now speak where I am called to speak and act where I am called to act. I will, above all, listen to the stories of those who are different than me. As a Catholic musician, I encourage you to explore the music and story of Mary Lou Williams. I had the pleasure of performing her music in 2018. I wrote some reflections on her which you might find useful on Medium.

“To the deaf you shout and to the blind you draw large startling figures.”
All my creative energy which might have been spent on choirs has been refocused on a project I have wanted to start for quite a while. I’ve noticed the ‘spiritual but not religious’ set likes to treat well-loved books as something sacred. Riffing off this idea, I am starting a Flannery O’Connor study group at my parish where we read deeply into her short stories. Her devout Catholicism and Southern Gothic writing style portray a vivid and real picture of the world and the lives of her characters. I am looking forward to seeing what will happen when we gather together, socially distant of course!

Kellen O’Grady is Director of Liturgy & Music at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Hastings, Minnesota. He holds a Masters in Catholic Studies and is currently working through the Cooperator Period of Inquiry.