Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Of Paulines and Character

One of the constants of Father Alberione’s life was an awareness that he was meant to commit himself unreservedly to an emerging charism of the Lord, while at the same time prayerfully determining  its unfolding designs, step by step, with a truly faith-inspired humility. His earthly journey exemplified the great reality that no life is placed on this earth without graced hope for its distinct fulfillment. With the years, he came to more deeply understand that so much of that fulfillment depended on a closely lived relationship with Jesus Master. He proved himself extraordinary in seeing this through to the end of his days.

Such was echoed in a comment to Paulines in a special audience ten years ago (October 4, 2005), in which Pope Benedict perceptively observed:
“Your vanguard apostolate in a broad and complex field, offers many opportunities and entails at the same time, not a few problems.  To proclaim the Gospel  one also needs a firm personal adherence to the Divine Master. 
“It’s an activity that calls for preparation, specific competencies and constant updating, if you are to respond effectively to the challenges of the present day world...
“I recall Father Alberione’s particular devotion to the Eucharist, his listening to the Word, and his hours of prayer.  
“Enamored of God as Father Aberione was, he asked his priests, Brothers, Sisters and other Pauline members to cultivate a robust interior life, rich in balance and discernment.”  
As the Holy Father surmised, faced with today’s widespread disconnect of the spiritual and human, our specific missionary media outreach could struggle and scramble without sustained grounding in the living risen Christ. In this context, it was an unexpected and stunning delight to find a recent piece on the Web bemoaning the across-the-boards public sparseness of “character formation.” It announced that this sadly neutered topic is at the core of the current #1 best-selling book, The Road to Character.

More of a surprise was the author’s unlikely identity—a celebrated columnist of The New York Times. That such secular media stalwarts engage themselves in this serious and urgent study was for me something right out of Lourdes! An inexplicably hopeful media—and national—sign of the times. The Times columnist, David Brooks, continues to make headlines for the way his book presents the case for a societal  return to morality. Acknowledged as meticulously researched, the book poses this provocative thesis:
“We as a modern society are cultivating outwardly impressive but ultimately superficial ‘resume virtues’—not character. And it’s costing us dearly, the author concludes, both personally and communally.”
I hopped over to Amazon and the available reviews of the book, which by far, are positive. Interestingly, David Brooks, while not a Christian and comfortably secular, is sound in his understanding of key social, human, and spiritual values. The Catholic News Agency’s blog features a story about him entitled: “A priest’s powerful impact on the New York Times’ David Brooks.” It suggests that some of  the inspiration for his book came from this priest friend whom he describes as an “insanely joyful” person, a person of character who could, in turn, inspire the pursuit of character in others.

Fr. Alberione also had much to say on this subject. To him, a person of character learns to remain focused, without vacillating in his or her resolutions. In his little book, To the Pauline Families, he urged:
“Form the character of the young by educating the will. One who has a good character has an ideal to attain: to become a saint….[and] directs everything toward that goal—prayer, study, apostolate,…and docility to the one who guides.”
Those who guide the young, he says,
“should strive to form individuals of strong and decisive personalities founded upon profound convictions, with perseverance in fulfilling them. One day such an individual will influence the weak and the wavering, dominate a variety of opinions and surroundings, and be capable of attaining a personal ideal with constancy.”
Fr. Alberione may not have had the Apostle Paul in mind when he wrote those words, but he could have:
“Train yourself for devotion, for, while physical training is of limited value, devotion is valuable in every respect, since it holds a promise of life both for the present and for the future….Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity” (1Tm. 4:7, 8, 12).
May Paul gain for all Paulines a mind, will, and heart—convictions, sentiments, and human/spiritual values—for life and for eternity.
Photos - vine: Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP; tree: Mary Emmanuel Alves, FSP

Brother Aloysius Milella entered the Society of St. Paul as a candidate for the Brotherhood on the feast of St. Paul, June 30, 1946, and pronounced first vows in September 1948. Following his perpetual profession in 1953, he was assigned to the staff of the SSP family monthly, Catholic Home Messenger, published in Canfield, OH, where he would be engaged in its editorial and production sectors for 14 years. He worked briefly as the province’s vocation director, before serving as a member of the congregation’s governing body in Rome for the next 17 years.  After returning to the States in 1986, he was involved in book center ministry and then in administration, guiding its day-to-day apostolic fortunes in various communities. After a period in Dearborn, MI, he returned to Staten Island in 2012.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Pauline Eucharistic Spirituality and the New Evangelization

Image of St. Paul on the Liturgical altar
circled by Paulines.
Patrick Padley, a speaker at the 2015 Catholic New Media Conference, made this insightful statement, “We are not just consumers of Christ.” Receiving communion and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament are not an end in themselves. Consuming Eucharist is a call to go out to others. Father John Jay Hayes writes:
“When we eat the heavenly food of the Eucharist…we become what we eat. ‘What material food produces in our bodily life,’ the Catechism says, ‘Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life’ [No. 1392]. We, who have been made members of Christ’s body in baptism, become his members afresh in the Eucharist. The Catechism says: “Communion with the flesh of the risen Christ … preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received at Baptism.” [No. 1392]. Through the Eucharist we become people through whom Jesus continues today the works of love and compassion which he accomplished during his earthly life through his physical body. United with him in the Eucharist, we are united too with one another. That is why, before coming to the Lord’s holy table, we share with one another the greeting of peace. “Those who receive the Eucharist,” we read in the Catechism, “are united more closely to Christ. Through it Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body – the Church” [No. 1396]. Our continual eating of the food God gives us is corporate.[i]
When we consume Christ in the Eucharist, becoming what we eat, we are not just consumers. In our consumer society it is easy to regard receiving Communion as a personal gift. In Holy Communion, as we receive the true body of Christ, we also receive all of the members of the body of Christ. We are called to go beyond consuming. The message of our society tells us that there is scarcity – if you don’t get to this sale now you miss out! If you don’t have this item, food, car, house, you don’t fit.  The message of the Eucharist tells us “There is always enough!” When we consume Eucharist and become what we eat our message is “You are enough because God loves you freely.” Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI clearly explains, 
“Molded by the Eucharist, the [community of believers] will become a beneficial ferment amidst the widespread consumerism and individualism of our time, reawakening solidarity and opening, in faith, the eye of the heart to recognize the Father, Who is gratuitous love and Who wishes to share his own joy with His children.”
“In Pauline Spirituality there is also an intimate connection between the Word and the Eucharist.
In Pauline Spirituality there is an
intimate connection between the
Word and the Eucharist.
Blessed James Alberione asks that the same devotion to the Eucharist be given to the Gospel. ‘The Divine Master, in order to unite to himself the whole man, gave us his teaching and himself: the Gospel and the Eucharist.’ The Gospel and the Eucharist, which are organically united, are tremendous expressions of Christ’s self-revelation and self-giving. This intimate connection or ‘nexus’ between the Word and the Eucharist is like the pair of rails on a train track, or the two hands of a mother supporting a child in his first steps. Our Founder has an organic vision of the Divine Master, synthesized in the binomial Gospel-Eucharist. He asserts: ‘The Divine Master, in order to unite to himself the whole man, gave us his teaching and himself: the Gospel and the Eucharist.’ The Gospel and the Eucharist are tremendous expressions of Christ’s self-revelation and self-giving."

“In his mystical experience at the cathedral of Alba, the sixteen-year-old seminarian, James Alberione, contemplated both the Sacred Host and the Gospel words of Jesus: ‘Come to me, all of you …. in Jesus Host is to be found light, nourishment, comfort and victory over evil. The Eucharist and the Gospel would always dominate the thoughts, prayers, interior work and aspirations of the ‘apostle’ Alberione. As God’s chosen instrument of the new evangelization, Blessed Alberione felt obliged to serve the Church, the people of the new century, and to work with others. ‘Born from the tabernacle the Pauline Family finds its nourishment, its life, its way of working, its sanctification, everything – holiness and apostolate – comes from the Mass, Communion, and the Eucharistic Visit.’ He reminds us: ‘The Pauline Family has a sole spirituality and that is to live the Gospel in its entirety.’” [ii]

As the Church prays, so she believes. In order to help us live this reality and fulfill our call to evangelize, Blessed Alberione wrote uniquely Eucharistic-Scriptural prayers. Here are some of my favorites, inspired by him, from the new book Live Christ!Give Christ! Prayers for the New Evangelization.

Prayer to Incarnate Christ in Our Culture
Jesus, you are the Way, the place where we meet the Father;
no one can come to the Father except through you.
You are the always new and living Way. To see you is to see the Father.
You are the Truth; to know you is to know the Father, 
because you are the Word of God. Your truth sets us free.
Your spirit leads us to the whole truth.
You are the Life, given to us by the Father for the life of the world.
This life is nourished with your living Bread.
Jesus Way, Truth, and Life, I want to live in you with my entire being.
As I respond to the needs of others, help me incarnate you in the culture and in society.
Based on Jn 14:6, 14:9, 8:32, 16:13, 6:33

Make Me Life for the World
Knead me, Lord Jesus, into the world of communication,
as Eucharistic bread that will nourish others.
Teach me the new media languages that will give your message 
the best paths to reach minds and hearts.
Guide me as I send words into cyberspace;
inspire my choice of activity in social media.
Your word is alive and active,
like yeast in the dough of our world.
Thank you for calling me to participate
in your plan of peace.
Grant us the grace to welcome your word
and allow its message to find a home in us.
May our communion with Jesus in the Eucharist and in the word
always be our light and strength.
We offer ourselves with him to you, Father.
May we, too, become bread broken for the life of many. Amen.

Prayers of Bl.Alberione, Ven Mother Thecla,
Bl.Giaccardo, Ven. Sr.Scholastica, and
 Pauline Sisters and Brothers
May My Life Be a Liturgy
O mystery of the Father’s incomprehensible
love for his children, made known in Jesus
through the gift of the Spirit!
I contemplate the total gift of yourself to us.
I ask that I may respond with a total gift of self through
full participation in the Eucharistic liturgy.
Participating in your mystery,
may I be a living communication of your love
to my sisters and brothers.
May my life become a liturgy
offering glory to you and peace to all men and women.Amen.

Becoming Bread Broken for the World
Heavenly Father, we desire to enter fully
into the mystery of your covenant with your people,
in the life and mission of the Church.
Grant us the grace to advance toward the fullness of charity,
so that we may seek only your glory and peace to all people.
Thus we can truly become a sign of your Risen Christ in the world.
Grant us the grace to welcome your word
and allow its message to find a home in us.
May our communion with Jesus in the Eucharist and in the word
always be our light and strength.
We offer ourselves with him to you, Father.
May we, too, become bread broken for the life of many. Amen.

June 29: The solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul; June 30: the solemnity of St. Paul the Apostle (Pauline Family)

[i] John Jay Hayes, Now You Know Media
[ii] Cf. A Pauline Centenary Pastoral Tool: Pauline Spirituality and Mission, 2.
Photo: Eucharistic Liturgy; Paulines in Italy. All rights Reserved.
Photo: Stain Glass Window; Jesuit Retreat House. Sr Margaret Kerry, fsp. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Cover of Live Christ; Give Christ. Pauline Books & Media. Used with permission. All Rights Reserved.


Sr. Margaret Kerry celebrates 40 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. An author (St. Anthony of Padua: Fire & Light; Strength in Darkness: John of the Cross), Sr. Margaret is working on a young adult book. You can reach her at

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The "Amazing Grace" of St. Paul

Almost seven years ago, June 29, 2008, I officially became a member of the Pauline Family as a Pauline Cooperator. As part of the Family, I have been blessed with many graces–prayers, opportunities to help the sisters with book fairs, retreats, going on a Pauline pilgrimage to Italy, and making new friends, to name only some. An additional blessing has been getting to know the patron of our Family, St. Paul.

Until I started my formation period, my knowledge of St. Paul was that he wrote letters that were in the Bible and were read from the ambo at Mass. However, as I journeyed through formation, I asked myself: Who is St. Paul for me now and how does his life and teaching affect me in my daily life? By studying and learning more about St. Paul, I found that his writings are life lessons. They can help us improve our prayer life, be more patient, understand what real love means, have more patience, humility, etc. They can influence every facet of our humanity.

With the whole Church, the Pauline Family celebrates the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29. Following the liturgy that was in use when we were founded, we keep a Family tradition on June 30: celebrating a second solemnity in honor of St. Paul. As we approach this feast, I would like to share some of my favorite verses from his letters.

“I want you to know, brothers, that the good news I proclaimed is not a human gospel, for I didn’t  receive it from a man nor was I taught it–I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11-12). Paul’s conversion is probably the most dramatic conversion story in the world. As a former persecutor of Christians, he became passionate about spreading Christianity and turned into the greatest evangelist of the early Church. As Paulines, we also desire to bring others to come to know Christ. A verse from the song, Amazing Grace, comes to mind: “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” St. Paul, who initially could not see for three days after his conversion, begged God to remove the scales from his eyes. Let us also ask God for continual conversion and to give us clear vision to recognize the needs of others. It is through His amazing grace that we have been blessed with so many gifts!

“Then the Lord said to Paul in a vision one night, ‘Don’t be afraid!  Speak and do not be silent, because I’ll be with you and no one will try to harm you’” (Acts18:9-10). Do you ever feel uncomfortable or afraid of speaking about your faith, especially when in the company of people who do not agree with our beliefs?  Sometimes the Lord may lead us to say a word to someone that is uncomfortable. Because of the fear of rejection, we may remain silent. It is a challenge, but St. Paul tells us not to be ashamed or afraid to tell our story. Can you imagine what would have happened if Paul had remained silent? 

“Love is patient, love is kind; it isn’t jealous, doesn’t boast, isn’t arrogant.  Love is not dishonorable, isn’t selfish, isn’t irritable, doesn’t keep a record of past wrongs.  Love doesn’t rejoice at injustice but rejoices in the truth.  Love endures all things, love has complete faith and steadfast hope, love bears with everything” (1Corinthians 13:4-7). We are all familiar with this passage and have probably heard it at almost every wedding ceremony. The word “love” is overused in today’s society and not always in the right way. In this passage, Paul describes what love is and what it isn’t. St. Paul got it right! To truly love as defined by St. Paul is not easy; it is difficult to practice in everyday life. When we are caught up in difficult situations, a reminder of this passage from St. Paul is in order. A beautiful definition of love is expressed in the movie, Les Misérables: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

“Persevere in prayer, stay awake while you pray and be thankful” (Col. 4:2). Paul must have spent a lot of time praying; he writes a lot about prayer in his letters. To develop a deeper relationship with our Lord, I found that I need to be prayerful throughout the entire day. In the book, The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, a seventeenth century Carmelite friar, teaches us that at any moment and in any circumstance, we can seek the companionship of God–even among the pots and pans! Several years ago I made a commitment to schedule prayer time at the beginning of every day. The prayers may vary; however, I always read the readings of the daily Mass. During this daily quiet time with our Lord, I began to notice that each day I received a message. It could be one word or one verse, but it was always just what I needed to hear that day. Throughout the day, especially in stressful situations, I would recall the message. The result? Calmness and peace fills my soul.

“I want you to be free from anxiety” (1 Cor. 7:32). This is a difficult one to follow with so much going on in our world and in our own homes. From terrorists, earthquakes, illness, loved ones leaving the Church, etc., there is always something to worry about. Why do I become anxious whenever a problem comes up? Why do I worry about things that are out of my control? St. Paul is telling us that part of our life in Christ is to live free of our anxieties. It all comes down to trust and remembering that we have a merciful God.

“But this is why all you who pass judgment on others have no excuse!  For to the extent that you pass judgment on others you condemn yourself, since you who judge do the very same things”  (Rom. 2:1).  In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.” St. Paul is teaching us the same lesson. Pope Francis is also well known for his comments on judging. Not judging others and recognizing one’s faults is a requirement of every good Christian. Judging others creates negative thoughts instead of positive ones. When we only find faults with others, we can miss opportunities to meet and interact with people who could actually enrich our lives!

“The Spirit’s fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control) (Gal. 5:22).  What more can be said of this beautiful list of attributes other than they are the ideal characteristics of a Christian? The Daughters of St. Paul commit themselves to live these qualities. They are joy-filled women who I am blessed to have in my life as mentors and friends. A good practice is to review these attributes as an examination of conscience, not only at night, but throughout the day. Have I shown love, patience, kindness, self-control, etc., during difficult situations in my day?

Following the advice of St. Paul is not always easy, but it will help us in our evangelization efforts and strengthen our relationship with God. During one of my formation sessions, I was introduced to the beautiful song, “Fragrance Prayer,” from the collection of prayers by Cardinal Newman and popularized by Tom Booth. The original title of this song was Radiating Christ. It speaks of being a light to others–how very Pauline!  “Dear Jesus, help me to spread your fragrance everywhere I go.  Flood my soul with your spirit and life, Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly, that my life may only be a radiance of yours.  Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel your presence in my soul.  Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus.”

How are we living the lessons of St. Paul? How are we bringing and radiating Christ to others?  Let us share our story! 

Scripture verses are taken from The New Testament: St. Paul Catholic Edition  (Staten Island: The Society of St. Paul, 2000).
Photos: Roberta Hummel

Maryann Toth has been a Pauline Cooperator for six years. Semi-retired as a credit/AR manager in NJ, she is a wife, a mother of two daughters, and a grandmother of four. She serves as a Eucharistic minister and belongs to a Divine Mercy Cenacle group. Maryann assists at Pauline book fairs and J-Club events, schedules meetings and prayer times for local Cooperators and friends of the Pauline Family, and currently accompanies a candidate in the Cooperator formation program. She participated in a Pauline Cooperator pilgrimage to Italy in 2010. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

From Boston to Rome (and Beyond)!

Greetings! Yes, it’s true “absence makes the heart grow fonder”! How great is the memory of a recent pilgrimage to Rome visiting the Pauline Family with Fr. Michael Harrington, another priest of the Institute of Jesus the Priest (IJP).

This past March, he and I took advantage of a small window of time to visit the “hub” of our Pauline Family, with the specific desire to meet and get to know more of our Pauline brothers and sisters in the various congregations. And that we did! Hosted at the resident house and offices of the delegates to the Institute of Jesus the Priest and the Holy Family Institute, we enjoyed the delightful hospitality of Fr. Emilio Cicconi, the National Delegate of IJP, and Fr. Roberto Roveran, co-delegate for the Holy Family Institute (HFI). Though our Italian was minimal ... OK, nada ... we “conversed” as best we could with them, as well as with a married couple of the HFI, Carlo and Immacolata Vollaro, who volunteer to maintain the house for one month a year.

Sr. Emi Magnificat is in the center.
The great majority of our time was spent visiting each of the five Pauline congregations and often engaging in “conversation” via translation by other members of the Pauline Family. Spending from four to ten hours each day at each congregation we received tours and visits with the Society of St. Paul, the Daughters of St. Paul, the Pious (Sister) Disciples of the Divine Master, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd and the Sisters of Mary, Queen of Apostles. Those last two congregations are not here in the United States... yet.

The lack of space here makes it impossible to even highlight our stay. Let me at least whet your appetite for when you might experience the breadth of our Pauline Family! We began our first full day Monday visiting St. Paul Outside-the-Walls so as to “consecrate” our pilgrimage visits with the Pauline Family. No doubt he came through!

On Tuesday, Sr. Germana Santos, FSP, drove us out to Tor San Lorenzo to spend much of the day with 24 professed Daughters from numerous countries around the world preparing for their final vows. That number includes Sr. Emi Magnificat Bratt, an American. This beautiful retreat house on the Mediterranean Sea outside of Rome became the perfect backdrop to meet and listen to Don Guido Gondolfo, SSP. Sr. Germana became our voice and ears for this mini-retreat of sorts. To our delight, all of the professed sisters spoke English. We were treated later that day to a tour of the generalate of the Daughters.

On Wednesday, we visited the Ariccia Retreat House that Blessed James Alberione built on Lake Albano, where Pope Francis has made his last two Lenten retreats with the Roman Curia. After a delightful visit, we travelled around the lake to Castel Gandolfo where the Vatican has the summer home for the popes. Pretty good neighbors to have! The highlight that afternoon and evening was visiting with the Sisters of Mary, Queen of Apostles, or Apostoline.

Theirs is the youngest, or last, congregation founded by Blessed James in 1957. These beautiful Apostoline Sisters dedicate their lives to working with young people in numerous ways, and assisting them in learning about and discerning their vocation in life: married, single consecrated, religious or ordained. What a wonderful visit we had with a dozen sisters and the superior general, Sr. Marina Beretti, AP, as they shared with us their life and apostolate. Everything was translated by one of their own postulants. The evening ended with a beautiful liturgy with joyful music (must run in the Pauline Family!) Even Fr. Michael’s homily was simultaneously translated into Italian.

Thursday was another full day, as Sr. Bernadette Reis, FSP, kindly gave us her whole day. She began by translating a great conversation with Don Giuseppe Forlai, a diocesan priest and member of the IJP, who teaches at the Pontifical Lateran University. It’s only when you get to Rome that you realize how connected and well respected all of the Pauline congregations, institutes and Cooperators really are.

Sr. Bernadette then took us both to the personal rooms of Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo, who co-founded the Daughters with Blessed James. She lived a very simple life, but one very rich in the Pauline spirituality and apostolate. At the provincial house of the Daughters of St. Paul, we enjoyed a wonderful visit and lunch. Afterward we toured the tremendous Queen of Apostles Basilica, where both Mother Thecla and Blessed James Alberione are buried. Then we visited the generalate of the Society of St. Paul, where we were able to celebrate Mass in the chapel of Blessed James and visit his personal rooms. There the Pope, Blessed Paul VI, visited the Founder shortly before his death.

Friday gave us a delightful visit with the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master. We spent a full day touring the magnificent sanctuary, conference center, and grounds of the Church of Jesus the Divine Master that houses the body of Venerable Mother Scholastica, PDDM. We met Sr. Angelica Balkan, PDDM, at work in her beautiful art studio. There she and other sisters hand create much of the magnificent religious works the sisters sell around the world. We concluded the day with the privilege of celebrating Mass for their senior sisters.

Saturday saw our last day of visits assisted by Sr. Karen Marie Anderson, FSP. She accompanied us to a beautiful general house not far from the Daughters of St. Paul—that of the Sisters of Jesus the Good Shepherd (SJBP), who work in parishes alongside parish priests. Our conversation with these Pastorelle drew us into a deeper appreciation and love for the sisters and their apostolate.

Ever too brief, our visit with all of the Paulines convinced us that we truly are of one founder, one mission, and one family. So much more do I now look forward to getting to know more of our sisters and brothers around the world and especially in my own back yard!
Join us for a Pauline pilgrimage to Rome and Piedmont during the Daughters of St. Paul Centenary Year! Details at

Fr. Edward M. Riley, a priest with the archdiocese of Boston, is a novice with the Institute of Jesus the Priest. He serves as Dean of Men at St. John's Seminary, Boston.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Going for the Gold

If I offered you two gold bricks, provided you went to Rome to get them, would you go? I thought so.

“Silver and gold I have none, but what I have I give you.” Not bricks but friendship with two foundation stones of the Church—Peter and Paul. Between Oct. 19 and 30, 2015, you’ll be able to walk, first in the footsteps of Sts. Peter and Paul in Rome, then of the saints of the Pauline Family in the foothills of the Alps: Alba, Susa, Turin, and Milan, with a stay in Assisi on the way. The itinerary includes the Wednesday General Audience with Pope Francis. Daily Mass, Eucharistic adoration, and group prayer with the Word of God will be led by the Daughters of St. Paul, as we commemorate our centenary year, and by Fr. Michael, Goonan, SSP.

In Rome, we’ll visit some famous sites, but also places connected with Peter and Paul that most pilgrims never see. Once in Piedmont, northern Italy, we’ll pray at the birthplaces of Fr. Alberione and Mother Thecla, Bl. Timothy Giaccardo, and Mother Scholastica Rivata, the first Sister Disciple of the Divine Master—places where the Society of St. Paul and the Daughters are active today. As a bonus, the Shroud of Turin and the rooms of Don Bosco are also on the agenda.

Alba: Cooperator Rae Stabosz learns the art of bookbinding.
The price covers roundtrip airfare, 4-star accommodations, group transportation, fees, and most daily meals. The total: $3,400. We need 20 pilgrims to get the trip at that price, but we don’t want more than 30. It’s a personal encounter, not a mass tour.

I’ve been talking with a lot of prospective pilgrims these days, people who think they might like to go. However, besides the usual concern about not having enough funds (do we ever?), some have had questions and a few concerns. You too?

I’ve never been on a pilgrimage.
Read: “How do you pray for eleven days?”

We don’t. Well, we do, but not in the way you think. A pilgrimage is a trip to a sacred place, undertaken in a holy way. Because it’s sacred, we’re doing it with Christ even when we’re reveling in a gelato or a work of art. He makes everything, even the inconveniences, holy. When we love him in all that, we’re praying. Isn’t “pilgrimage” a great metaphor for our whole Christian life? As one person put it, “It’ll be like a retreat, but fun!”

Farewell of Peter & Paul before martyrdom
I don’t know if Peter and Paul, or the Pauline Family, are enough of a draw for me.
While Fr. Alberione insisted that everyone regard St. Paul as the Family’s father and founder, he “interpreted” the spirit of the Apostle of the Gentiles for modern times, a boon for any believer. It takes only a glance at history to see that without Paul, most of us would not be Christian today. Without those revolutionary Paulines, sharing Jesus in today’s world would not be what it is. That claim alone merits a lot more than a pilgrimage.

I don’t know anybody.
By the end of the first day, that’ll be a moot point.

We each bring something personal to a pilgrimage. It’s surprising, though, as we listen to each other, how much we’re alike, how connected by the same spiritual desire, and how we value the same basic things. The group prayer on the Word of God also leads to this discovery. It opens our eyes and hearts to the good in each other. I know that from community shared meditation. It’s too easy to relate to people on the basis of what we need or need to get done. Taking 15 minutes to listen to one another talk simply and faith-fully opens us to who they really are and want to be. A pilgrimage isn’t just about the places we visit, but the people we meet along the way, beginning with our fellow pilgrims.

Still worried? Bring somebody!

It’ll be so beautiful, and then I’ll have to come back to my hum-drum life.
Going to Palm Beach for vacation in January and then returning to five feet of snow—that’s just depressing. A pilgrimage is not the same. Yes, it feels like heaven, but it doesn’t just drop us again into the back alley of our lives. It sheds light on our situation, strengthens our resolve to keep God steadily present in the midst of chaos, and offers us grace to be and do what we’re meant for.

I don’t like to travel; I’m a homebody.
Nothing wrong with that. But if as a result, you feel that your life, especially your relationship with God, might be on autopilot, it’s a good sign that you need to dare a little and step out of your comfort zone. There’s something to be said for walking away from the familiar. We’re in a different space. We’re paying attention, because everything is new, so we see and hear God in, literally, “extra-ordinary” ways.

I don’t want to be tied to a group, a timetable, or someone else’s interests.
If independence is your thing, you may do better on your own. That said, pilgrimage organizers relieve us of the details we’d have to sift through otherwise, like accommodations, transportation, and translation. If we get sick, the trip’s medical coverage pays what’s needed, and the group leaders never leave us to fend for ourselves. Free time is built in too. We may want to meet up with a relative, explore on our own some afternoon, or dine out. Out of consideration for the group, people try to be on time for prayer, the bus, a meal. But in many other instances flexibility rules. It’s Italy.

I’m worried about ISIS. What if…?
We’re not going to Afghanistan. The World Synod of Bishops is meeting in Rome while we’re there. Alba’s International Truffle Festival will be in full swing, as well. (It runs on Saturdays and Sundays, so we’ll miss the crowds.) If there were any real danger, these events would be canceled. Frankly, we run a greater risk getting into our cars every day.
This pilgrimage is a hands-on opportunity to breathe the air that the first Christians and first Paulines did. It can shed light on how the spirits of Peter and Paul formed the spirit of the early apostles of the New Evangelization, and how they live on today, building the Body of Christ especially in the realm of media. The heroes of the past become real and present. Scripture becomes the real Word of God as we meet the two men who wrote half the New Testament. The Church is bigger than our local faith communities, while making these smaller groups even more beloved. Here we find the saints of today who, in one time and place, thrive on the universal faith that has changed the world.

“Tell me more!” OK:, then contact me, Sr. Margaret J. Obrovac, at 210-393-6079 or The deadline for the refundable $500 deposit is July 16.
Photos: St. Peter's Basilica: Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP; bindery, Sts. Peter and Paul farewell, truffle market: Margaret Kerry, FSP.
Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP, originally from San Francisco, has been a Pauline evangelizer since 1973 and has worked in various phases of the mission of the Daughters of St. Paul. Since attending the nine-month Charism Course in Rome in 2012-2013, she is now based in Boston, where she serves on the provincial Cooperator Team in the area of ongoing formation.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Oh, Lord, "It's Hard To Be Humble"

John William Waterhouse, "The Annunciation"
And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word." Luke 1:38

One has only to look to Mary to see that it is in her humility, in her emptying herself of her own will and cooperating with God, that she was regarded so highly in the eyes of God to bear his son.

"...for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.  For behold. henceforth all generations will call me blessed: for he who is might has done great things for me, and holy is His name." Luke 1:48-49

Yes, but Mary was born sinless, you say.  True enough, As the sinless Mother of God, Mary did not fall into the sins of pride that we must battle daily.  But, we have other models to whom we can look for guidance.

Throughout history, women have played significant roles in the life of the Church, and their common denominators are humility, love and service.  Through their willingness to be the clay in the hands of the Master, God has accomplished in them far more than they could have done on their own.

St. Catherine of Siena--the first woman to be named a Doctor of the Church, counseled Popes during one of the most turbulent periods in Church history. 

St. Teresa of Avila-another Doctor of the Church, whose "Way to Perfection" and "The Interior Castle" have become staples of Catholic spirituality.

St. Bernadette Soubirous, a sickly, humble peasant girl who, in cooperating with Christ through His Blessed Mother, will be forever connected with the thousands of miracles at Lourdes.

St. Therese of Lisieux, a young nun who wanted to please God in "little ways" each day, and sends roses to those believers who pray for her intercession.

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who left her somewhat comfortable role as a teacher to begin the Missionaries of Charity and to serve the poorest of the poor. 

Not one of these women sought power, fame, or glory.  Each was fixed on doing the will of God, on surrendering their will to cooperate in God's plan for their life.  In so doing, these women will forever be esteemed in the eyes of the Church and millions of pilgrims making their journey toward God.

While we have come to know these women as saints of heroic virtue, we also know of their humanity and their struggles in faith.  With the exception of Mary, who was born sinless, we can find some of the struggles we experience in our own lives in the lives of these women; struggles with spiritual desolation, temptations, and frustrations.

But it is in their humility, their willingness to serve the Master, that allowed God to do great things in them and through them.  Humility is one of the most difficult of the virtues to master, for the temptation of pride is all around us.  It also takes great humility to be obedient, as these women were.  In the "Dialogues," St. Catherine of Siena writes of this: "A soul is obedient in proportion to its humility and humble in proportion to its obedience."  Wow, there's something to think about!

In our Pauline family, we have Mother Thecla as a model of obedience, humility, and docility. "Blessed James Alberione, Founder of the Daughters of St. Paul, saw Mother Thecla as a docile instrument in the hands of God, and a faithful collaborator in the development of the Pauline Family. A woman who obeyed “in an always more intelligent way,” he said of her: “Everything was for God; everything was of God; everything was in God, whom she desired and loved above all things. I think this is the most beautiful testimony she gave us, because she never resisted the will of the Lord” (Fr. Alberione, 02.12.1964). Her deepest desire was to lovingly adhere to the divine plan in a spirit of total docility." (Daughters of St. Paul--FollowMotherThecla)

As the song says, "Oh, Lord, it's hard to be humble, but I'm doing the best I can."  I have found the Litany of Humility, written by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X, to be of great help in reminding me of all the little ways in which pride can creep into my interactions and keep me from developing a truly humble soul.  I have a long way to go.

Bernadette Boguski, Development Director at the maternal and prenatal care center, Womankind, Inc. in Cleveland, Ohio, has been a Pauline Cooperator for the past twenty years and is a regular contributor to this blog.