Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Home Sweet Home (Shifting Gears!)

I've been back from the Emirates for over a week now and pretty much over the jet lag (the "fall back" weekend from Daylight Saving Time sure helped!), so I wanted to share an update on how the ACYC actually went, along with a few of my extraneous experiences:

The actual event I went to the UAE for (the Arabian Catholic Youth Conference) was held in Ras al Khaimah, one of the seven Emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (of which Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the best known). RAK is a two hour drive through the desert from Dubai, and that desert was not quite what I expected. It was composed of orange sand that is more like powder than the sand of the seashore. And rather than seeing cows or horses from the car window, sure enough, there were real, live camels in the distance. Walking around the Church compounds the next day, I also spotted some lovely desert plants and interesting bird tracks.

But I was not there for sight-seeing. Arriving Thursday evening, I saw a great deal of preparation going on: a massive outdoor stage was rising in the courtyard between the Church and the parish house; young people were setting up a "Gethsemane Garden" for prayer in solitude; there was a pro-life exhibit, activity tents, and in the parish center, dorms were being equipped for the overnighters.
When the young people arrived (almost 1500 of them), I was enthusiastically greeted and welcomed into a thousand “selfies.”

Sr Bernadette Mary Reis of Vatican Radio had already interviewed the organizers (and the bishop of Southern Arabia), and once I arrived, interviewed me as well. I also became an unofficial photographer for Vatican news coverage of the event, providing all the photos featured on the Vatican site. (The young people were thrilled to pose for Vatican News!)

The participants came from all over the “Arabian Gulf” region, plus small numbers from Jordan and Lebanon. The delegates from Saudi Arabia, sadly, were unable to get their visas on time, but there were groups from Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar, and the bishop of Northern Arabia and Southern Arabia, as well as the Papal Nuncio for the Arabian gulf nations. The event was coordinated by the young adult groups of the UAE, all working together. This in itself is highly significant, because there are many distinct groups, some of them with roots in the home countries (for example, Jesus Youth from India, and Couples for Christ from the Philippines), so the collaboration among them was an important step forward for the church in the region.

I was one of four speakers brought in from other nations for the event. The others were John Pridmore (a converted enforcer and “entrepreneur" in organized crime who now lives in community in poverty, chastity and obedience), JC Libiran (a Filipino life coach), and Archbishop Christopher Prowse of Canberra, Australia. I was the only woman. (Next time, you can be sure, there will be a more balanced representation of the Church!)  A few days before, we had been interviewed by a tabloid newspaper, the Gulf News, for an article that would be strictly cultural, with no religious reference at all. (The article that was published especially focused on John Pridmore's colorful life, but it did include a photo of me with John and JC, so like it or not a “religious” angle was there!)

The conference began with an African drum procession, a proclamation, and an energetic (and superbly performed) dance routine. All the general assembly talks were held in the Church hall, which comfortably held the 1500, with room to spare for spontaneous dancing during the musical sessions in between talks and Mass.

Friday being the Muslim holy day, it is a weekly holiday and the day that most Catholics have free for Mass, so the Sunday liturgy was celebrated here on Friday, the first day of the conference. (People could register for one or both days; most opted for Friday.) Friday night there was a concert on a huge stage in the church courtyard; a number of local bands performed. On Saturday there was a slightly smaller crowd, but just as much energy. Hot-button questions were delivered to us speakers during a panel discussion, and the young people really engaged with the content. Afterwards, I was stopped many times for further questions and conversation--conversations that are now continuing via social media (this is forcing me to get much more active on Instagram!). In between, I continued to hand out holy cards of Blessed James Alberione, as well as information about the MY SISTERS program and our Discover Theology of the Body video lecture series (with a special discount code--you can use it, too: ACYC2018).

When the conference was over, I had hoped to take some pictures of the desert (and the camels!) but we traveled back to Dubai late at night. All I saw were families on picnic blankets in the sand, having picnics by their cars... They do everything at night because the daytime is so blastedly hot, even now when (I was told more than once) the approach of “winter” temperatures means it does not get over 100ยบ during the day.

On my last day I had some free hours, so one of the organizers (a young woman who had participated in the "pre-Synod" meetings in Rome) took me to the ultra-deluxe Dubai Mall (replete with aquarium, ice rink, three-story fountain and other dazzling offerings). I also got to see the old style open market, the souk, where every merchant tried to tantalize me with their high quality Iranian saffron and other delicacies. I was tempted, but did not want to deal with any Customs agents on my way home—or any additional weight in my suitcase! (As it is, my trusty, battered Samsonite had to be delivered to an East Boston repair shop last week.)
And I'll never forget my ride on a traditional water taxi, the abra. This flat, little boat (seats 20?) with a putt-putt engine is steered by a pilot who stands in a kind of well at the center of the vessel, while we passengers position ourselves around him on a raised seating area. Fumes abound, and only an 8-inch ledge keeps passengers from sliding into the canal! (Needless to say, I was happy when we made it all the way to the dock—though disembarking without the boat being tied down was an act of faith!)

Now back in Boston I'm attempting to shift gears into Christmas concert mode: I can hardly believe that the choir will be assembling here in just two and a half weeks! (I have got a lot of practicing to do...)

If you are in a few hour's drive of any of our concert venues I hope you will consider making the trip; we are putting together a fantastic program. (Cleveland peeps: we are switching over to a Wednesday this year; couldn't make it for our usual Friday.)

An important message for our Boston-area friends: after last year's event when there was barely standing room in the chapel and we were nervously telling each other what to do in case of emergency, we are moving to a bigger and better location. The concerts will be at Fontbonne Academy's newly updated performance hall (in Milton). Tickets are on sale now.

Friday, November 02, 2018

All Souls Day and Preparing for Death is the release date for a rather edgy new book from Pauline Books & Media: Remember Your Death: Memento Mori Journal, prepared by Sr Theresa Aletheia during her year of daily Twitter posts according to the age-old #mementomori tradition.

Following the example of the saints (including our Founder, Blessed James Alberione), Sister Aletheia put a skull on her desk as a daily reminder that this life is moving toward a definite finish line, a point that is unknown to us but for which we can still prepare.

While I was in the United Arab Emirates for the ACYC, one of the speakers, Archbishop Christopher Prowse of Canberra, Australia, told the assembly (of almost 1500!) his "memento mori" vocation story: From age 8 to 18, he crossed through a cemetery to get to and from school. That twice-daily trek taught him, he says, "Life is short. Death is certain. And eternity is v-e-r-y long." In that light, any thought of dedicating his life to something as short-term as money or fame went totally out of the window. He found himself drawn to a life that would be in line with the eternal framework he was learning from his neighbors along the walk to school.

This morning during the annual Mass for the deceased members of the Pauline Family (celebrated in the community burial chapel), Father Mike Harrington of the Pauline Institute of Jesus the Priest commented that for many people preparing for death nowadays ought to include arrangements for prayers to be offered after our death. His parishioners cannot count on their non-practicing children or grandchildren to understand the importance of a funeral Mass or the place of prayers for the repose of the souls of the departed. He recommends making "advance directives" very clear in this regard: to specify that you want a funeral Mass to be offered, and possibly also to have Masses offered for the repose of your soul each year on the anniversary of death.

* * * * *

I have recently updated my healthcare proxy form, naming a different sister as my proxy (after transfer season, it just makes it easier if my proxy is nearby!); this is the form I use to make sure that medical decisions are guided by Catholic principles. It would be an easy enough thing to do to include with this form wishes for "after care" (in the strictest sense!) so that these desires are readily available in case of emergency. (Make sure that your proxy, family and primary care provider all have copies of the signed and witnessed document.)

Pages from the Past: Prayer (and Praise!) in Purgatory

Medieval burial in a Church floor

Ideally, there should be no difference (at all!) in our attitude or prayer between the life and the next—it is mean to all be love, wonder, praise, overflowing in benefits to others, in loving service, mercy, intercession… 

Purgatory shows what happens when things are left incomplete or only lived in a perfunctory way. It only expresses the incompleteness of the person’s praise, worship, faith and love: there is still a gap between the person and the love of God that is meant to penetrate every fiber of their being; there is still resistance or reservation. The person is incomplete in love, and we are meant to be perfect as the Heavenly Father.

Do I pray (and live) like I'm in Heaven--or in Purgatory?

"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, October 26, 2018

Pages from the Past: Aiming for First Place

In 2014-2015 I read quite a few books by James Alison, a kind of "translator" of Rene Girard's insights. I found both men's books very helpful in terms of the light they shed on the "innermost secrets" of our hearts in our untamed and unquestioned desires. That's what is behind this reflection.

James and John in today’s Gospel invite me to continue to reflect on Alison’s insights about desire. Jesus “suggests” to them His own desire: “to serve and to give his life.” He suggests to them his desire to drink the cup the Father has prepared, and stirs up their desire, “We can drink it!” Ultimately, isn’t he sparking in them an ardent desire for communion with him in his dispositions and his “fate”?

“Do not fear”: fear is the opposite of desire. So “do not fear” means “desire rightly.” Desire what is fully worth of desire—“I am with you.” Jesus says: Desire that communion with Me that I desire for you.

Thinking of Joseph in the carpentry shop with Jesus. Joseph, modeling the desires of the just man to the just One. There was no fear in that shop, no hint of a threat;  none of that sneaking discomfort of being weighed on arbitrary scales and found wanting. Joseph was not threatened by Jesus’ divinity, so perfectly expressed in his boyish humanity, open to learn and receive and be formed. What an honor, what a credit to Joseph, to be entrusted with modeling human desires for Jesus!

What about the sacrament of the present moment? How might that fit into this model? Precisely it means not desiring other than what is. How, though, is this kind of peaceful desire acquired?

James and John’s request clearly seems to be from desiring according to the mode of this fallen world. They bid for first places in the Kingdom. Maybe the step forward is that they asked openly. (“Ask and you shall receive,” Jesus had said.) 

Rather than let them scheme for possession through grasping, Jesus aims to correct their desires: He offers them a new (and very different) picture of what it means to be in the first place in the kingdom…will they still desire it? Yes! Because Jesus, whom they love, is manifesting it as his own motivation: not an outward rule, but demonstrating the way his own desires are turned so that they can "catch" the desire from him.

"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, October 25, 2018

ACYC Roster of Resources

Regular NunBlog readers, this post is support material from my talks to the participants in this year's ACYC, a gathering of Catholic young adults from the Persian Gulf region. You've seen my posts through the years on Theology of the Body, and followed the several projects I've worked on in that regard. Well, that was the theme I was asked to speak on. It's just way too big for 45 minute sessions, so I am providing these links as a way of continuing the conversation.

For ongoing spiritual formation with the Daughters of St Paul, join MY SISTERS, an online community with a variety of spiritual resources and twice-weekly video sessions by a rotating team of, well, my sisters! (This service is hosted on Facebook, so you have to be on Facebook to participate--but you don't have to actively "participate" in Facebook to be on MY SISTERS.)

T H E O L O G Y     O F    T H E     B O D Y

General resources on Theology of the Body:
Lots and lots of Theology of the Body articles can be found on the TOB Google+ Community page. You will need to request membership. Most of the sources I refer to are linked here. (Be sure to go to Sr Helena's blog for info on the newest films related to the sexual revolution and its profound and varied influences in our times.)

You can find all of Pope John Paul's TOB talks in the original (somewhat haphazard) translation online. (The talks were translated week by week by different staffers at L'Osservatore Romano, so there are many inconsistencies. Nobody knew, after all, that he was delivering a 400-page book with its own internal unity! They thought it was just six or so themes he was covering in sequence.)

The Big Book: A critical translation by Michael Waldstein was prepared that made use not only of the official Italian text of the talks as given in St Peter's Square, but also Pope John Paul's original Polish manuscript, tracked down with Sherlock-Holmesian devotion!

Theology of the Body Institute
Ruah Woods
Theology of the Body Evangelization Team (TOBET)

Theology of the Body writers, thinkers, and presenters
  • Christopher West @cwestofficial
  • Bill Donaghy @BillDonaghy
  • Sister Helena Burns @SrHelenaBurns (with her recommended Theology of the Body resources)
  • Angela Franks @theologianmom
  • Sister Miriam James @onegroovynun
  • Jason Evert @jasonevert
  • Damon Clarke Owens @damonowens
  • Timmerie Millington @timmerie
  • Jonathan Doyle @beingcatholic1
  • Matt Fradd @mattfradd
  • Michael Grasinski @MichaelGras
  • Debbie Staresinic @tobrosary
Intellectual approaches to questions related to Theology of the Body and its themes:
Discover Theology of the Body (10-part video lecture series; introduction and overview to the full set of Pope John Paul's talks). Use discount code ACYC2018. I wrote the study guide; download it here.

Books for general readership (there's a comprehensive list on Sr Helena's blog)
Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights from Pope John Paul's Love and Responsibility (by Edward Sri)
Theology of the Body Explained (by Christopher West)
Theology of the Body made Simple (by Anthony Percy)

Scholarly books
Love and Responsibility (new critical translation by Grzegorz Ignatik): ebook available
Understanding Love and Responsibility (by Richard Spinello)
Theology of the Body in Context (by William May) 
Called to Love: Approaching John Paul II's Theology of the Body (by Carl Anderson and Jose Granados) 
Divine Likeness: Toward a Trinitarian Anthropology of the Family (by Marc Cardinal Ouellet)
Mystery and Sacrament of Love: A Theology of Marriage and the Family for the New Evangelization (by Marc Cardinal Ouellet)
Crossing the Threshold of Love: a New Vision of Marriage (by Mary Shivanandan)

Humanum Review, Volume 2. Identity and Difference: the Gender Debate

Contraception and Natural Family Planning
There are too many resources and recommendations to list here. Join the TOB Google+ group. But for a summary about why Pope John Paul called these "two irreconcilable approaches" to family planning, read Sr Helena Burns' article.

For a helpful website on women's health with articles and links in the areas of natural family planning and fertility awareness, see  This is not a "Theology of the Body" resource per se, but it reflects a view of the person that is consistent with TOB principles.

Issues around homosexuality
Two short films with personal testimonies
Desire of the Everlasting Hills (also offers a study guide)
The Third Way: Homosexuality and the Catholic Church

Organizations that are in full communion with Catholic Church teachings and pastoral principles:
Courage International: Catholic organization for persons looking for support, fellowship and communion in striving for holiness through chaste living.
EnCourage: a ministry within Courage dedicated to the spiritual needs of parents, siblings, children, and other relatives and friends of persons who have same-sex attractions.

Gender and Transgender Questions
Sr Helena Burns has posted two videos by Dr Michelle Cretella on gender dysphoria in children. The videos are followed by a long list of related links.

Here are two talks on "Gender and LGBTQ" by Sr Helena:

Porn Addiction Recovery Resources, Programs and Information

  • RECLAIM Sexual HealthCombines brain science and insights from Theology of the Body in a process of confidential, online, anonymous professional help for unwanted sexual behaviors.  A service of the Diocese of Green Bay, WI. (RECLAIM also offers bulk quantities of business card sized "confession cards.")
  • Integrity Restored: Restoring the Integrity of Those Affected by Pornography
  • Novo: Free 30-day video program for overcoming porn addiction with the help of Theology of the Body (includes free code for 30-days of Covenant Eyes; see below) and/or the Victory App (below).
  • Fortify Program: a pornography addiction "detox" program that includes instructional videos, in-depth personal inventory to get at the root causes of the addictive behavior, personalized "battle strategy" and a way to track the trends in one's online behavior. One-time fee (ages 21+)available; free for ages 13-20
  • CovenantEyes  Internet accountability and filtering. Monthly fee (also provides free downloadable e-books on the brain science of porn addiction and on church-based action).
  • x3Watch.comprograms for accountability partners; mobile-compatible. Annual fee. Basic and Premium level services.
  • The Victory App developed by LifeTeen; includes daily check-in, journaling and password protection. iOS or Android.
  • Fight the New Drug Created by and for young adults
  • Truth About Porn New site featuring academic research about the harmful effects of pornography.
  • The Porn Effect
  • Catholic Answers website covers issues with a special focus on teens' and parents' needs. Link leads to a short starter list of articles related to porn use.

Available from Pauline Books and Media: Cleansed, a Catholic Guide to Freedom from PornAdditional Articles about Internet Porn Addiction and Recovery

Recommended Books

Cleansed: A Catholic Guide to Freedom from Porn, by Marcel LeJeune
The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality behind the Fantasy of Pornography, by Matt Fradd

Monday, October 22, 2018

Pauline in Arabia

The first blessing on my trip to the ACYC in the United Arab Emirates came when it was time to leave for the airport. The designated airport van in the convent was blocked in the garage, so an alternate vehicle had to be found (thankfully, that's not too hard on a Saturday evening). It was the "St Paul" car! I took that as a sign that St Paul himself, and not just the car under his patronage, wanted to have a special part in this world adventure.
The long flight was completely unremarkable, except for its silence. All 300 or so of us managed to rest throughout, although for me it was in bits and starts. Certainly it is not comfortable to be squeezed into a window seat, unable even to stand in place because of the low overhead bins. (I reaped a real benefit this morning, sleeping well and rising naturally at my usual 5:30 hour despite the 8-hour time difference!)

My second bit of adventure was at check-in when I learned that the carry-on limit for Emirates Airlines does not include a "personal item." You can either take a roll-aboard or a backpack/purse, but not one of each. So I had to squeeze as much as possible into my backpack while the agent checked me in. Thankfully, I was allowed two check-on bags, and had only planned for one, so my almost-empty wheelie case went, with a hope and prayer, into the cargo hold. It came out fine; my much-traveled and world-weary Samsonite, not so much:

The ACYC coordinator and a husband-wife team of volunteers met me at the airport with flowers and treated me to dinner at the hotel restaurant. I had a fabulously delicious Arab fish preparation, along with samples from the communal platter ("Sister is a foodie!"), and a Korean businessman who is staying at the hotel insisted on treating us all to dessert: "Turkish delight" (it really was).

Mass this morning was at a parish that has four daily Masses. The 7:00 morning Mass had several hundred worshippers (ten Communion stations). At the sign of peace, the assembly first responded to the priest with a bow ("and with your spirit") and then, hands still folded, solemnly bowed to each other. It was lovely. The parish has a school, high school (some students were at Mass in their uniforms), perpetual adoration chapel (with a closet for people to leave their shoes outside)--the monstrance and host are enormous--and an outdoor Lourdes grotto (above, with the mosque across the street in the background). There are ministries and special services for the many different ethnic groups that make up the local Catholic Church: Tamil, Malay, Filipino...

Today (can it already be the 22nd and the Feast of St John Paul II?) I have a bit of free time, so I said my morning rosary while taking a walk (in as much shade as I could find) from a sidewalk over a highway with a direct view of downtown Dubai and its distinctive skyscrapers. My host will take me to see some of the sites later.

This evening, I will be going to one of the other emirates to meet the young adult leaders for a conversation about modesty. I think today's Saint will guide the discussion, since he has some terrific insights in Love and Responsibility, as well as in Theology of the Body! I am bringing gift books (Theology of the Body: Some Thoughts and Reflectons, and The Genius of Womanhood) for the participants. (Truth to tell, it was the weight of the books that probably caused the broken wheel on my suitcase.) (By the way, both books are on sale, so this would be a good time to order them for yourself or as a gift for young adults.)

Counting on your prayers for an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit during this week!

Monday, October 08, 2018

New Pauline Sisters in the USA

This weekend our fellow Pauline community, the Sisters of Jesus the Good Shepherd (nicknamed the "Pastorelle" sisters because of their pastoral mission), celebrated the 80th anniversary of their foundation. And on that very day, October 7, the first Pastorelle sisters arrived in the United States to begin their mission here! It is a day I have long prayed for, and pestered God (and the Pastorelle sisters themselves) for.

Even better? Their first US community is serving in Chicago!
New arrivals taking a Chicago selfie (in the Bean, of course!)

Blessed James Alberione first got the idea for a community of "parish sisters" in 1908 when he was a newly ordained priest serving for the first (and only) time in a parish. He quickly realized that there were services that were absolutely necessary in pastoral ministry, that were essential to the "shepherding" role of the parish priest, but which could only be carried out by a woman. Typical of Alberione, he applied his prodigious intellect to the problem, interviewing scores of parish priests, reading the Church Fathers in the light of his question, scanning Church history and noticing the key role often played by women, especially women who collaborated with priestly ministry. By 1912 he had written a substantial book, "Woman Associated with Priestly Zeal."

In the years between 1912 and 1938, Alberione was consumed with establishing the first "printing school" (1914) and getting his first women's group (us) off the ground (1915) while surviving World War I and tuberculosis. In 1924 he got the second women's group started with two young women: they became the first Sister Disciples of the Divine Master, entrusted with a more contemplative life (where possible, they maintain perpetual adoration, and each sister makes two Hours of Adoration instead of one--the second Hour being their spiritual contribution to the apostolic mission of the other congregations). Their outward work focuses on the liturgy in two directions: service to the priesthood and in the area of liturgical art (vestments, statues, even architecture).
Their emblem: the front has "I am the
Good Shepherd" and the reverse,
with Mary at the foot of the Cross,
"Behold your Mother."

Can you see where this is going? If, for Alberione, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, he was going to establish religious congregations that likewise mirrored that divine self-description. The Daughters of St Paul (with our brother congregation the Society of St Paul) especially image Jesus as Truth, by spreading the Word of God. The Sister Disciples are the image of Jesus the Life, through their liturgical apostolate, since the life of grace comes to us especially through the Liturgy and above all through the Eucharist. But for over twenty years, Jesus as "Way" was not fully imaged in the Pauline Family.

That is where the Pastorelle sisters come in. As "shepherdesses," they "guide" people along the "paths of righteousness," leading them to Jesus. They go out to the peripheries, as Pope Francis loves to say, to find the lost or wounded sheep, and they care for them in the name of Jesus and the Church. They bring the pastoral care of the parish "out" to where the people are, where that care is needed. And so, while all the other congregations and institutes in the Pauline Family honor Jesus as "Divine Master" (Maestro: Teacher or "Master" in the sense of consummate expert), the prayers written for the Pastorelle address him as "Master and Shepherd." While the other institutes in the Pauline Family address Mary as "Queen of Apostles," the Pastorelle invoke her as "Mother of the Divine Shepherd." while the other institutes call St Paul our father and protector, the Pastorelle sisters look to two fathers: Peter ("feed my lambs")  and Paul.

So this is a very exciting week for the Pauline Family as a new Pauline congregation takes root in the United States. Please pray that the sisters (I think they are all Filipino, but I could be wrong) will find themselves at home right away, and that the Lord will abundantly bless their first steps by sending them vocations from the many ethnic groups in the Chicago neighborhoods they will be visiting from their base in St Stephen Protomartyr parish.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Pages from the Past: Receiving the Kingdom Like a Little Child

“Unless you receive the kingdom of Heaven like a little child...” 

The Helping Hand, by Emile Renouf

That tiny girl brought nothing: “No sack, no money, not bringing an extra tunic.” She didn't even have to think about those things. She only had to come. Her grandfather would provide for every need and eventuality (though that intense look of hers hints that she is completely focused on the job to be done!).

This is my new image for prayer: being in the boat.

"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. 

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Prayer to the Guardian Angel

On today's Feast of the Guardian Angels, here's a prayer (a part of a short series of prayers by Blessed James Alberione) that we pray on the first Thursday of each month:
Heavenly Father, I thank your infinite goodness for having entrusted me from the moment my soul came forth from your creative hands to an angel to “light and guard, rule and guide” me. 

I also thank you, my guardian angel, for accompanying me daily on my return journey to my heavenly Father. Your holy inspirations, your continual protection against spiritual and material dangers, and your powerful prayers to God give me great comfort and sure hope.

My guardian angel, you contemplate the Lord at all times and you want me as your fellow citizen in heaven. I beseech you to obtain for me pardon from the Lord because I have so often been deaf to your advice, have sinned in your presence, and recall so seldom that you are always near me.

Faithful and strong in virtue, you are one of the angels led by St. Michael who overcame Satan and his followers. That battle which one day took place in heaven now continues on earth: the prince of evil and his followers oppose Jesus Christ, and try to ensnare souls. Pray to the Immaculate Queen of the Apostles for the Church, the city of God, which fights against the city of Satan. 

St. Michael the Archangel, together with your followers defend us in battle; be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil. May the Lord subdue him! And you, O prince of the heavenly host, thrust back into hell Satan and the other evil spirits who roam through the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God's love entrusts me here, ever this day be at my side to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Pages from the Past: Wielding the Sword of Truth?

Only God should wield truth as a "two-edged sword." In our hands it becomes like that sword Peter swung at Gethsemane to try to rescue Jesus; it goes out of control and cuts off the ears of the person who then cannot hear the Word we intend to proclaim!!!

Peter, put your sword back in its scabbard!
Detail from the Vaux Passionale, National Gallery of Wales, via Wikimedia Commons

Jesus, you take away the sins of the world, not us. So we can let go of our grim determination when it comes to mission.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Can we still evangelize in a time of Church crisis?

Many thanks to Susan Windley-Daoust for letting me feature the reflection she posted on Facebook this week. Susan is the author of Why You Shouldn't Kill Yourself, Theology of the Body Extended: The Spiritual Signs of Birth, Impairment and Dying, and The Gift of Birth: Discerning God's Presence during Childbirth.

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I've had a person a day lately ask me (with some despair) how on earth we're supposed to evangelize right now. (P.S. this is my new job with a diocese.)

When people are in pain, they need the Divine Physician all the more. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This is absolutely not the time to shrink back from evangelization. It is the time to lean in.

Let's be honest. This crisis we are in has a physical manifestation, but it is a spiritual crisis. That means that we need to spiritually respond. Yes, repentance, yes, justice but also yes, SPREAD THE GOSPEL far and wide. Satan hates that--It's what he's trying to prevent.

Among many other things, this crisis calls each and every Catholic to ask: do you trust Jesus to bring good out of evil, or not? Do you trust Jesus, period? Do you believe that Jesus can and will work in these horrible circumstances?

One of the keys to evangelization is trust. I understand people ask "how can we evangelize now?" because trust is so damaged. But guess what? YOU be the trust. Be the bridge of trust for someone else. If they trust you, you can lead to the One who is trustworthy.

Evangelization is inherently local. That is, its built on relationships, a person at a time. And there is no better time than right now to reach out to ppl who are confused & hurting, ppl who need to be heard & ppl who need to be introduced to Christ for the ultimate healing.

Evangelization is a work of mercy. It is an act of friendship and love. And in truth, it is not optional. The Great Commission has no asterisk that points to "exception made when it's hard."

Maybe we can turn to the gospels again and remember that the gospel was not first embraced by those expected. It was the people in need who knew their need. Children, women, Galileans, the poor, the sick, the outcasts. Christianity has rarely thrived first among the status quo.

Don't get me wrong, Jesus came for every human being and wants every human beings salvation. But maybe American Catholicism has become a little too status quo. Maybe we need to look at to our roots to know how to be humble and trust in the Lord's provision.

I wish we weren't in this crisis, b/c it has hurt so many people so badly--first and foremost the victims of sexual abuse. But I know God raises the saints necessary for every era. I fully expect great evangelists to come out of this tragedy & evil. It's my prayer tonight that maybe one will be you, reading this here tonight.

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