Friday, May 11, 2018

A Perfect Storm of Novenas (Including Mary, Mother of the Church)

Here we are, the day after Ascension Thursday. (Yes, it was. Even if you are in a diocese that will celebrate Ascension on Sunday.)
  • It is the first day of the novena of Pentecost. (The original nine days of prayer were those days from the 40th day after Easter to the Jewish feast of Pentecost.)
  • It is the second day of the Pauline novena of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. (We celebrate her feast on the day before Pentecost.)
  • It is the day before the start of the novena of Mary, Mother of the Church. That feast will be celebrated for the first time this year on the Monday after Pentecost, thanks to Pope Francis.
What's a Catholic to do?

Well, here in the convent, we offered prayers to the Holy Spirit at morning prayer, and will sing our Marian novena in the evening. That will pretty much be our thing until next Saturday. You might consider something along the same lines. For example, you could pray a Chaplet of the Holy Spirit on the way to work, and a Rosary or other Marian prayer on the way home. Or you could pray with our sung Chaplet to the Holy Spirit* during one leg of your commute, and pray with our sung Marian novena (see video below) on your lunch break.

This is a sung Marian novena which is very suitable for preparing both for Pentecost and for the new feast of Mary, Mother of the Church. Confession: it is a section of our Pauline novena of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. You can find the novena texts we are singing here, along with supplemental Scripture citations and the official prayer for the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church.

Download the Chaplet to the Holy Spirit from your favorite online music store; an online music purchase supports your favorite Media Nuns!
iTunes: Chaplet to the Holy Spirit
Amazon music: Chaplet to the Holy Spirit

*This Spotify streaming link will probably work on a desktop, but on mobile devices, only paid Spotify subscribers can listen to a specific song. The same seems to go for Google Play, where the Chaplet is accessible only as part of a "radio" playlist. Sorry!

Pages from the Past: "No place to lay His head"

How did Mary feel to hear Jesus make that comment about having “no place to lay his head”? 

She had been that resting place; she had welcomed him in from the Father’s side! She laid him in the manger and raised him at Nazareth...but he left that home (and her) for the sake of the Gospel.

That is why he blesses those who leave home and father and mother and brother and sisters…for himself and for the Gospel.

"Pages from the Past" are randomish excerpts from my old journals. I process things in writing, so there were a lot of volumes, but here and there I found notes that were still pertinent or helpful. I got rid of the books (hello, shredder!) and typed up the things I wanted to save, whether for myself (mostly) or to share. 

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

The Drone Pilot's Guide to Eucharistic Adoration

I didn't want you to miss this article I wrote for the MY SISTERS blog.  Here's the first part, and you can continue on over at MY SISTERS. (Don't forget, using this link>> you can join MY SISTERS<< a private Facebook community, for the special Nunblogger discount of $8.95/month--but the first month is only $1 so you can see if this form of spiritual accompaniment is for you.)

If you can fly a drone, you already have a basic outline for a fruitful period of adoration.
Not all aspects of drone piloting lend themselves to the life of prayer, of course. (For example, we kid ourselves if we think we are the pilot when it comes to prayer.) But there a few of the key elements to flying that really can offer some guidance when it comes to how we might approach Eucharistic adoration (or other regular practices of prayer).
  1. Establish a home point.
This part is automatic for the convent drone. The tablet or phone is GPS-enabled and so calculates just where the craft is positioned before take-off. It even announces it: “Home point established.” After take-off, no matter how convoluted the journey, the drone can always return to home point and land there, even if I’ve completely lost it from view (been known to happen).
In prayer, I have found that having a personal “pattern” or rhythm establishes a home point for my heart. Nothing elaborate: just one or two set prayers or psalms that set the stage for all that will follow.  Just as the drone doesn’t take off from the same home point every single time, my first formal prayers of the Hour of Adoration aren’t absolutely invariable. I might use the same set of prayers for several months or in alternation with another set. But I don’t come up with something new every morning. I have a home point.
This is what the Church does, too, in the Liturgy of the Hours: the “Invitatory Psalm,” the first psalm of the day, is almost always Psalm 95, although Psalms 100, 67, and 24 may also be used. If in the course of your Holy Hour you find yourself mightily distracted, you can “return to home point” to renew your recollection and focus. Good news: a meaningful song or image can be a great “home point” for your prayer, too!
* * * * *
Read the rest (there are four more points!) on the MY SISTERS blog.  I need your input: I'm thinking of formatting the article as a printable PDF that can be distributed in adoration chapels. What do you think?

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Paul's prison song and the "convicting of sin"

Today we have the memorable reading from the Acts of the Apostles where Paul and his missionary partner Silas, like him a Roman citizen, are summarily arrested, beaten and imprisoned in Philippi. In the middle of the night, while the two apostles are praying and singing hymns to God, a well-timed earthquake sets them and everyone else free (temporarily, at least). The upshot is that the jailer and his family are baptized that night, and the next day the two unjustly imprisoned citizens get a public apology before leaving town.
The responsorial psalm, Psalm 138, highlights the prayer of Paul and Silas in that dungeon: "In the presence of the angels I will sing your praise." Then in the Gospel, as we continue to listen to Jesus' "Farewell Discourse" with the promise of the Holy Spirit, Jesus tells us that when the Spirit comes, that Divine Spirit will "convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation."
Pope John Paul dedicated no little space in his encyclical on the Holy Spirit to that passage, parsing out what it means for the Spirit to convict the world concerning (a) sin, (b) righteousness, and (c) condemnation, but...I confess I have yet to understand what he meant. I did, however, come across some years ago a passage by one of my favorite authors, the Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann, who wrote on this very subject in a way that ties together all three of the Scripture texts from today's Mass:

The Church convicts sin through her thanksgiving. Through which she recognizes the vital lessons of evil, the source of sin as unthankfulness, as man's falling away from the 'hymning, blessing, praising, giving thanks and worshiping' through which he lives—for man, and in him all creation, knows God and has communion with him. Not giving thanks is the root and the driving force of ... pride ….
(He says much more, but it will have to wait for another occasion.)
Paul and Silas, "hymning, blessing, praising, giving thanks and worshiping" in the Philippi jail were "convicting sin" through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit manifested that through the sign of an earthquake. That "hymning" in the midst of our own everyday activities, or even our daily sufferings, confesses that Jesus has already won the victory: we are not deceived in giving thanks and praise before the full experience of that victory has been bestowed on us.

Is the great sin of omission of our time a lack of praise? Can Jesus say of our generation what he told the Pharisees on that first Palm Sunday: "If these fall silent, the rocks and stones will cry out?"

Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Copyright 1984. Released under new license, CC-BY-SA 3.0

Friday, April 20, 2018

Paul, the "Vessel of Election"

Parmigianino's rendition of today's reading.
The dramatic road to Damascus story is today's first reading at Mass, but you won't hear Saul (Paul) referred to in the classic words as a "vessel of election." Instead, the lectionary goes with the more prosaic "chosen instrument."

For years, I was all right with that. Our Pauline prayerbook continued to say, "You are a vessel of election, O St Paul the Apostle; preacher of truth to the whole world" and things like that, reflecting the older usage. It was kind of a best of both worlds scenario until this morning when it struck me that a "vessel" is a container. If Paul is "a vessel of election to carry My Name..." that hints that he is filled with the Name, the Person of Jesus. And this vessel does not just transport the Name, the Person of Jesus: it makes him available everywhere. There is a hint here of "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (cf. Col 1:27) that just doesn't come through if Paul is an "instrument."

I did a little homework on this, and, yes, it is true that the Greek used in Acts 9 (σκεῦος) is translated in Wiktionary as "vessel, implement." So the "instrument" thing is perfectly legitimate. It just strikes me as reductive and detatched, whereas the word "vessel" offers much richer possibilities, more consistent with a genuinely apostolic spirituality in which the message and the messenger are profoundly united.

By our Baptism, we are more than "instruments" to bring Jesus to the world: we are vessels, to contain him and pour him into the waiting hearts of "Gentiles and Kings and the children of Israel." Just like Paul.

You are a vessel of election, O St Paul the Apostle:
—Preacher of truth to the whole world.

Pages from the Past: the Spirit of Sacrifice

From a book of Carryl Houselander (emphases mine): 

“If Christ is growing in you, you are growing towards sacrifice. If the spirit of sacrifice is not growing in you, Christ is not growing in you, no matter how ardently you may think of him or how eloquently you may speak of him… A sacrifice is not, as so many people imagine, a mortification; it is not something that is meritorious according to its degree of unpleasantness; on the contrary, in real sacrifice, there is joy which surpasses all other joys, it is the crescendo and culmination of love…. When we make a sacrifice it is always thus, we have to give something up, not because it is a bad thing—for more often it is a good thing—but the offering of ourselves is a complete offering, it means a whole attention, a whole concentration, a whole donation.” 

"Pages from the Past" are randomish excerpts from my old journals. I process things in writing, so there were a lot of volumes, but here and there I found notes that were still pertinent or helpful. I got rid of the books (hello, shredder!) and typed up the things I wanted to save, whether for myself (mostly) or to share. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Called to Sanctity [[UPDATED May 5]]

Among the letters and photos saved among the boxes on top of my armoire is one from a priest who had been involved with the parish Holy Name Society during the years of my father's leadership on the national level. It is a letter of condolence to my mom upon Dad's death, and it includes the line, "I am convinced that Jim was a real saint!"
Pope Francis this week is telling all of us that "real saints" is what we are all meant to be, and in his new document, "Gaudete et Exsultate" (Rejoice and Be Glad), he takes the time to show us what this entails. He also points out some of the major obstacles, both time-tested and more novel (the danger of "verbal violence through the internet," for example), and the fruits of genuine holiness: those works of mercy we spent a year meditating on.

I can't say much more than this, because I haven't had a chance to actually read the whole document myself. But I did want to give you a timely link.

Our Sister Lorraine is right now preparing a downloadable study guide; as soon as that is available I will add the link to this post, so keep checking back (or checking Twitter @nunblogger for the link). 

May 5 UPDATE: Here's the link for the free study guide for Gaudete et Exsultate by our own Sr. Lorraine!

Saturday, April 07, 2018

"First to Mary Magdalene"

Mark's Gospel ends with a brief summary of the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus, starting with the very first: "to Mary Magdalene." It has become popular of late to make much of the fact that this flies in the face of patriarchy, and what are we to make of it, given that the Apostles were not the first ones privileged with the news of the Resurrection, but had to receive it from a woman, and so on.

It is true that for much of history, at least in the West, Mary has not received her due as "Apostle to the Apostles," and first evangelizer of the Resurrection. Thankfully that is beginning to change, as especially manifest in Pope Francis' raising her liturgical observance to the level of a Feast, on a par with that of the Apostles. This highlights the importance not only of Mary Magdalene, but of the lay apostolate in the Church which by its very nature ought to be more extensive than that of the hierarchy (which is at the service of the lay apostolate).

But today another thought came to me about the priority of Mary Magdalene in the order of Resurrection witnesses and the fact that the Apostles at first had to depend on her word for the news before the Risen One appeared to them and commissioned them explicitly to go into the world and proclaim the Gospel.

"Noli me tangere" from the workshop of Peter Paul Rubens.
What if Mary Magdalene is "first" yes, because she is a woman, not that this has anything to do with patriarchy or roles of men and women in the Church, but because this makes her a type or living symbol of the Church itself, the Bride of Christ who receives everything from the Bridegroom and "delivers" it to the world? Indeed I think John goes out of his way in hinting at this: the setting of the appearance in the garden evokes the Song of Songs, and when the Risen Christ appears, he does not first address his disciple by name, but as "Woman." Three other times in the Gospel of John a woman was addressed this way, and always in a context that can be seen as spousal: at Cana, at the well in Samaria (in the Old Testament the well was often a place where marriage partners met for the first time) and at the Cross, when the "Woman" was given a son. Now, in the Garden of a new creation, the Woman is entrusted with the Gospel: to be given to the Apostles, but meant for the world.

That the Apostles receive the Gospel from the Woman-Church demonstrates that they are not in charge of the message. They have received it; they are its stewards, docile to the Church in receiving the Gospel and, we can say, also in receiving the tradition which interprets the Gospel.

If that is the case for the Apostles, much more for ourselves! We close the Easter Octave tomorrow, continuing for 40 more days to celebrate the Resurrection in anticipation of the descent of the Holy Spirit, the one who equipped the Apostles to "go out into the whole creation" with the message they received "first from Mary Magdalene."

Friday, April 06, 2018

Pages from the Past: "Come to Me"

“Come to me, all of you… 
I will give you rest.” 

Jesus is saying, “Come home to me.” 

We rest when we are at home.
Home is our resting place, a secure place.

"Pages from the Past" are randomish excerpts from my old journals. I process things in writing, so there were a lot of volumes, but here and there I found notes that were still pertinent or helpful. I got rid of the books (hello, shredder!) and typed up the things I wanted to save, whether for myself (mostly) or to share. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Pages from the Past: Good Friday

“Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me to drink?” There is a whole revelation in that question, above all how it shows that in the “cup” Jesus saw the Father; in drinking it, as if from the Father’s own hand, he was commending his spirit to the Father. It was his trust in the Father that enabled him to drink it at all.

So it is my hope to receive this disposition (and the “mind of Christ”) and to acquire that spirit of trust and faith that does not focus on the external circumstance, but on the present One behind the externals, that he will live that trust “to the end” in me.

"Pages from the Past" are randomish excerpts from my old journals. I process things in writing, so there were a lot of volumes, but here and there I found notes that were still pertinent or helpful. I got rid of the books (hello, shredder!) and typed up the things I wanted to save, whether for myself (mostly) or to share.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Time to Say Goodbye(s)

We are about to enter the Paschal Triduum, revisiting the final hours of Our Lord's earthly life and the beginning of that mysterious new risen life that was announced at the empty tomb. John's Gospel uses this as the stage for Jesus' "Farewell Discourse," a three-chapter long summation of the Gospel, rich with promises (promises that are mysterious as the empty tomb,  until the Spirit comes). And just as in these days, Jesus is saying "Farewell," so is our community.

Last year, we experienced two deaths within two months, one anticipated and prepared for with vigils kept in turn, and one that, while not entirely unexpected, came rapidly, in a decline that lasted only a matter of hours. And likewise this year, within about the same time frame, we kept watch with Sr Charitas for weeks until the Master came, while on the Feast of St Joseph, he came at night for Sr Mary Philomena shortly after the initial signs of any distress. The especially beautiful thing about the "order" of these departures is that Sr Charitas and Sr M Philomena had been roommates on the
infirmary floor and sat next to each other in the dining room. When Sr Charitas seemed unresponsive to invitations to eat, it was Sr M Philomena who, perceiving her distress through the deep fog of dementia that had marked her final years, would pat Sr Charitas' hand and encourage her. Sometimes she would just stroke Sr Charitas' hand and say to her, "You are my friend." How lovely that Sr Charitas would precede Sr M Philomena in death, but that her friend would be the next sister called to eternal life!

Sr Mary Philomena was another of our intrepid missionary sisters, from a family in northern Italy that had already produced a Franciscan missionary priest. Another sibling also became a Daughter of St Paul, assigned for many years to our hospital community outside of Rome. (You can imagine how close the two sisters were!) Both of these siblings predeceased Sr M Philomena (and in recent years, it was heartbreaking when she again realized that her sister had died); she still has many relatives in the Verona area. She was a simple, straightforward person. "Without guile," Jesus would say. Like Sr Charitas, Sr M Philomena loved life and she loved people. She also loved flowers, and as long as she was able she tended the garden plots (or plants) where she was stationed.

We said our final goodbyes this morning at her funeral Mass. And just after the provincial superior had offered her own words of remembrance, as we were preparing to sing the last invocations, word came from the infirmary: at 102, Sr Mary Augusta (the oldest Daughter of St Paul in the world) had taken her last breath.

You might remember that we did a small fundraiser before Sr M Augusta's 100th birthday to help equip the infirmary floor with a TV room. In these last months (but really, only since turning 101), Sr M Augusta had been slowing down; it was the flu that hurried her to the gates of Heaven. A beautiful soul with a winning smile and a willingness to cooperate in any way she could: we are going to put her to work full time, especially for her dearest intention of vocations!

So here at the motherhouse we are quite immersed in the Paschal mystery of death and resurrection (as am I as my recovery with Ramsey-Hunt Syndrome continues one nanometer at a time). May that grace truly fill our minds and transform us inside and out, mind, will and heart!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Apostle of Ireland (with a wink of the Irish eye)

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Last year the History Channel released an accurate (if tongue-in-cheek) video short about one of my favorite saints (I call him "the Saint Paul of Ireland"). Enjoy!