Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Chicago, here I come!

A few months ago I mentioned the consolidation of several of our Pauline locations in the US, downtown Chicago being one that will be closing before year's end. That time is fast approaching: Our Michigan Avenue bookstore will be closing on September 24. A month later, on the feast day of Pope John Paul II, the convent will officially close. That's especially poignant for us, because the sisters arrived in Chicago in 1979, just in time to unfurl an enormous banner down the facade of the building to greet Pope John Paul on his motorcade down Michigan Avenue.

Several of us who served in Chicago will be coming in for the Mass of Thanksgiving on September 10 at Assumption Church (downtown on Illinois Street). I was asked to be the cantor for the Mass, which is scheduled for 10:00, to be followed by a reception. I hope that any NunBlog readers in Chicagoland will find a way to participate, to tell us what the Pauline mission has meant in your life, and to promise us your prayers as we move into a new (and unknown!) future where the media world is so much more challenging than it was in the 70's.

Friday, April 22, 2022

A Catholic thought for Earth Day

There's nothing new or New Agey in the Catholic tendency to see all creation as a kind of Temple: a house built by God and for God; a dwelling-place where God "rests the soles of his feet" (Ez 43:7). When God chose a people for himself and committed to remaining among them, he gave Moses explicit instructions about how to go about constructing a "tabernacle" or tent that would be God's dwelling-place. It was, as it were, a symbolic representation of the universe itself: the heavens and the earth. The same instructions were followed, with due adaptations, when Solomon built the first Temple in Jerusalem. Made of cedar, with doors of olive wood and fir panels as flooring, the Temple featured angels, palm trees, flowers and fruits carved into the walls and columns (and covered with gold). An immense bronze tub, called the "sea" represented all the waters of the earth. Embroidered with constellations and cherubim, a brocaded curtain of dark blue, red and purple set off the unapproachable Holy of Holies from the sanctuary the way the night sky seems to "wall off" the impenetrable Heavens from the earth. Even now many church buildings echo this sacred architecture, though the "Temple veil" separating Heaven and earth was torn, once and for all, from its inaccessible top all the way to the floor, at the death of Jesus.
"The Lord's is the earth and its fullness; the world and all its peoples. It is he who set it on the seas; on the waters he made it firm" (Psalm 24). 
The Temple has disappeared, as Jesus said it would, since we by baptism have become "living stones" of a new, no longer symbolic Temple. But the earth retains its value as a signpost for us Temples of the Holy Spirit.
"In the cosmic Temple, man is not living primarily in his own house, but in the house of God. That is why he knows he should revere those creatures who do not belong to him, that he can lay hands on nothing without permission. All is holy; the trees are heavy with sacramental mysteries."
Jean Cardinal Danielou, SJ

Thursday, April 21, 2022

#MediaNuns are #OntheMove

If you subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on social media, you already know: The Daughters of St Paul of the US and English-speaking Canada province are on the move. This means that some pretty big changes are ahead, changes that will reshape our physical locations around the United States so that we can be more nimble in our mission while continuing to live the religious life in all its vigor. 

In the video, you can listen to our provincial superior explain the basic outline, including the details of which locations will be closing and which will be receiving more sisters. It is so painful for us to even think of leaving cities and communities where we have been established (on average for 40 years) that we kept testing alternative approaches. Finally, though, the Holy Spirit has managed to make it crystal clear: We are to be like Paul, on the move for the sake of the Gospel. This has united all of the sisters. Plus, we are looking forward to being able to spread our creative wings a bit more than has been possible to us heretofore.

For more information, there's a website with information and FAQs (the header on that page shows me at age 23 in St Louis!); I hope you will also subscribe to our newsletter to stay abreast of all that is coming. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Venerable Father Antonini video (fixed!)

I don't know what happened to the code on yesterday's post that the video didn't go through, but I fixed it this morning, so here is another opportunity to learn about Venerable Bernardo Antonini, that lovable missionary to Russia whom I am recommending as a timely intercessor:

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

An Intercessor for Russia and Ukraine?

The news from Russia and Ukraine is so worrisome, especially with hints from both sides that churches are likely to be bombed during Easter services (which, for the Orthodox, will be this weekend). That led me to think of dear Msgr. Bernardo Antonini, who died during Holy Week, as the perfect intercessor.

Venerable Bernardo Antonini was a priest of the Diocese of Verona, a member of the Pauline Family (Institute of Jesus the Priest), and for the last twelve years of his life, fullfilling a lifelong dream, a missionary in Russia. During his years there, Antonini was like another Paul: he carried out a media apostolate, founded the Queen of Apostles Seminary (in Moscow), and organized events for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, traveling across the continent for the sake of the Gospel. The interactive map of his visitations across Russia, into Ukraine (western Kyiv), and into various regions of the former Soviet Union is enough to make your head spin. (Most glorious of all, those visits are still bearing fruit!)

He died quietly in Kazakhstan on Tuesday of Holy Week 2002, after the Chrism Mass. 

A year and a half ago, when the world was pretty much under lockdown, the Pauline Spirituality Center in Rome interviewed by Zoom people who had known this man of God on the occasion of an important stage in the canonization process of Msgr. Bernardo Antonini, . I was so impressed by what I heard that I took it on myself to do an audio translation of the entire video (except for the clip from Italian TV, which far surpassed my ability to keep up). You can listen to the whole thing yourself in the YouTube video below. You can also read an article from a 2010 issue of our Cooperators' magazine.  

Here is my (unofficial) translation of the prayer for his intercession (taken from the website, should you wish to offer this prayer for the countries and peoples he loved:

Most Holy Trinity,
We thank you for having given us, in your servant Father Bernardo Antonini, the shining example of an ardent and active priest who put all of his special gifts at the service of the Church. In joyful obedience, he used every possible media to spread the light of the Word, and with all of his strength gave witness to your love for every creature.
We ask you to glorify this faithful minister of yours even here on earth, and, through his intercession, to grant us the grace that we ask:
Glory Be...

Holy Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles,
Grant that we, too, following your devoted son Father Bernard, may be always ready and available to serve God and neighbor.
Hail, Holy Queen...


Monday, March 21, 2022

Consecration of Russia and Ukraine to Mary

On March 15, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, March 25, during a celebration of Penance in St Peter's Basilica. The consecration will also be carried out simultaneously in Fatima by the "Papal Almoner," the Cardinal who is especially charged with being the Pope's hand of mercy to the needy. 

This will be happening at 5:00 p.m. Rome time, so it is eminently doable for us in the US to follow in real time on the Vatican's live stream. I suggest joining in from wherever you are to pray the Rosary or renew your personal consecration to Mary for all of the needs of humanity today, but in a special way for an end to the unfathomable situation in Ukraine.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Meat Friday

Friday, March 25, is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. Solemnities are the feast-day equivalent of Sunday; when they fall on a Sunday in Ordinary Time, the usual prayers and readings give way to the Mass of the Solemnity. 

When a Solemnity falls on a Friday, as Annunciation does this year, the common rule of Friday abstinence from meat does not apply, even during Lent. 

Here’s what Canon Law says:

 “All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church” (CIC 1250);  “Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities” (CIC 1251).


Some Catholics on social media jokingly highlight the coming Solemnity and the exceptional nature of its observance by referring to the exception as a “meat Friday.”  Enjoying a special meal on a Solemnity is a form of liturgical living; it lasts the body share in the joy of the great mystery the Church celebrates on that day. And the Annunciation is one of the biggest Solemnities there is: It is the day that marks the Incarnation of Christ in Mary's womb!

On a separate, but related note:

The Holy Father has asked the Bishops of the Universal Church to join him (in real time) in consecrating Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Friday. As soon as the prayer of consecration is made public, I will post it (or a link) here. In the meantime, Bishop Robert Reed, auxiliary bishop of Boston, has posted a lovely prayer in preparation for that occasion:

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Lenten Evening: The Cross and Joy

As the first event in my community's collaboration with the La Salette Retreat Center (Attleboro, MA) , I will be offering an online Lenten evening reflection this Saturday on "The Cross and Joy" (in other words, the Gospel according to St Paul!). 

It's going to be fairly simple: mainly me sharing reflections inspired by the song Paul loved to sing: the canticle of the "self-emptying Christ" in Philippians 2. Sign up here: 

Later in the year, I will be offering two more presentations; both of these will be two-parters, and will be image-based. The first set (in June) will be "The Life and Legends of Paul in Art" (something I first developed for the Year of St Paul) and then in October, a look at the Angelus through art based on five years of The Angelus Project. More info will be coming about those closer to the dates.

Monday, March 07, 2022

Fish on Friday?

Image by DanaTentis (Pixabay)
Every year when fasting and abstinence from meat become the communal penance you are sure to hear remarks about delicious seafood and how this is not much of a penance. This always sets my eyes rolling. There is no way to create a common practice to eat UNflavorful foods (though the Eastern Christians come close by eliminating all fats and all animals that seem to have bones in them including fish). But fasting and abstinence (which is fasting from a particular food group or several food groups) is not about the flavor of the food

The Church has an ancient tradition of fasting. Jesus Himself had said: "When the bridegroom [Jesus Himself] is taken from them, then they [his disciples] will fast" (Luke 5:35. In the Apostolic era there were two days of fasting every week on Wednesday and Friday. These days were chosen to distinguish the Christians from the Jews who fasted on Mondays and Thursdays. Fasting for Lent and Advent and around certain major feast days came later.

Fasting (and its sibling, abstinence) provoke feelings of hungerThey teach us. They are not merely penitential practices that aim that can be substituted equally well by another deed. What other deed evokes such hunger in the body that we physically learn what Deuteronomy 8:2-3 means? Probably it was such a one dimensional understanding of weekly Friday abstinence throughout the year as merely penitential that led to its being substitutable in the United States with a self-chosen penance, and thus for all practical purposes completely lost (along with all penitential associations for Friday—a  grievous loss indeed).

Certainly, people who go out of their way to feast on delicacies on Fridays are missing a big opportunity for growth, though there may be good reasons for creating a special meal on one or another occasion. 

We don't have to reflect too hard to realize that restricting one's diet on purpose is something that only the somewhat comfortable can do. Even now, meat is a luxury food item in many parts of the world. As soon as the average income goes up in an area, so does meat consumption. It's a sociological given that drives environmentalists and vegan evangelists crazy. So think of the situation centuries ago: Lenten rules about not eating meat on Friday would have only applied in real life to the rich! The middle-class would have rarely tasted meat (perhaps on a great feast day). And the poor? Fish and sea creatures, on the other hand, might have been more available (as long as the local duke did not lay claim to all that swam in the rivers). In other words, the "fish on Friday" practice meant that one day a week the Lord of the Manor came one notch closer to the people of his land, who experienced no change of diet (because they had nothing else to eat!).

Since the days of the Fathers of the Church, the money that would have been spent on food has been, through fasting, changed into alms for the poor; instead of feeding oneself, the Christian who fasted is able to provide for someone else. (That still works.) And fasting frees up time that would have been spent at the table for prayer! So the great Lenten triad of prayer, fasting, and works of mercy are linked even in the practical realm. 

Whether we are fasting/abstaining during Lent, or practicing the usual (if barely discernible) Eucharistic fast from all food and drink (but water) for an hour, fasting is meant to help us hunger for true food, “food that the Son of Man will give you, for on him the Father has set his seal; food that will nourish you for eternal life,” the only true food. That's not something we can provide ourselves! 


Fasting reminds us that no matter how well-supplied our table is, we can't really feed ourselves for eternal life. Fasting tells us, in a literally visceral way, that what we really need we can't get unless we go to Jesus. Thankfully, we have forty days of Lent to help us absorb the lesson!

Friday, February 18, 2022

Lent is coming!

I came out of hibernation to issue this alert: Lent is coming! That's right, back home in New Orleans, it is full-on Mardi Gras season, so Ash Wednesday is less than two weeks away.

Which leads to the question: What are you reading for Lent?

I would like to suggest one of my community's newest publications, one that is getting thoughtful reviews all over the place: MYSTERION: The Revelatory Power of the Sacramental Worldview.

I'll list the links here so you can get a sense of the book. I'm recommending it for Lent because Lent is a season for refining our sense of the presence of God, recognizing the ways God communicates with us nonstop through creation and the people and events of our lives. And that's part and parcel of the "sacramental worldview" in the subtitle. 

Here is the link for the United States  and for Canada (Canadian author!) use this link. Everybody else, just go ahead and use, you know.

Read all about it:

The Catholic Register (Canada):

Our Sunday Visitor:
Or listen, if that's what you do:

Cultural Debris:
Listen to this episode from Cultural Debris on Spotify. Father Harrison Ayre is one of the co-hosts of the podcast Clerically Speaking. I definitely recommend it as it is a favorite of mine. Father Harrion’s new book is Mysterion: The Revelatory Power of The Sacramental Worldview. We discuss the idea of sacramentality, the dangers of modernity and acedia, and the benefits of the Marian stance. Cultural Debris Patreon - Support the podcast! Fr. Harrison Ayre on Twitter Mysterion Pauline Books | Clerically Speaking Podcast   Cultural Debris on Twitter Front Porch Republic Archives
Podbean/Outside the Walls:
Father Harrison Ayre is a priest of the Diocese of Victoria in British Columbia and the author of a new book "Mysterion: The Revelatory Power of the Sacramental Worldview" published by Pauline Books & Media.We discuss worldviews and how to consciously shape the lens through which we see the world.

Dr Larry Chapp (I think he was the author's seminary prof) interviewing the author.