Wednesday, December 17, 2014

“No Room”: How To Make Space for God

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With Thanksgiving being so late this year and Christmas fast approaching, it’s difficult to figure out how to make room in our lives for everything that has to get done before the celebration of the birth of our Savior.  This is particularly true when things don’t go according to plan.

The Christmas story, as told in the Gospel of Luke, tells us that Mary and Joseph had no place to stay, “…because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Lk 2:7).  I imagine the innkeeper prepared for the census and knew he’d be full; he wasn’t prepared to accommodate a pregnant woman about to give birth.
 
Imagine our blessed Mother.  Pregnancy certainly wasn’t in her plans.  She was betrothed to Joseph.  This would change EVERYTHING.  What would people say?  How would Joseph react?  What did this mean for her life?

Having our plans change outside of our control can happen at any time.  I know it’s happened to me.  A few years ago in early December, my husband called me from the doctor’s office saying, “the doctor wants to admit me…he may have to take part of my foot.”  Everything stops for a moment—  what you were making for dinner, the Christmas shopping you had carefully scheduled over the next few weeks...it all goes out the window.

Sometimes, it’s not so much the big issues, or even the catastrophic life events, that interrupt our plans, but those little everyday things that can disturb our peace: the co-worker who wants our time when we are working on a project, the child who doesn’t know when to stop talking, the traffic jam when we’re already running late.

We can learn much from our heavenly Mother and her response to God’s invitation.  By her “yes” to the Angel Gabriel, Mary surrendered her will to God, cooperating with his plan.  And oh, what great things he did for her!  This did not mean that she did not suffer; we know she suffered tremendous sorrow and pain.  This did not mean that she didn’t have hardships or worry.

What we learn from Mary is that true, ultimate happiness rests, not in trying to conform God’s will to ours, but our will to God’s will for us.  This means actually and firmly deciding each morning to make God the Number One Priority in our lives, so that every other good takes a back seat to this.  It also means each evening, thanking God for having helped us whenever we put him first and asking forgiveness for the times we didn't. We don't need to worry about sacrificing the best things in life, because God will then make our concerns his own. Wonderful things will begin to happen.  Mary made room in her life for what God willed for her and she bore a Son who redeemed the world.

While angels do not invite us to participate in God’s work as they did Mary, every day we are invited to “make room” for God by conforming our will to his in the big and little moments of our lives.  We can do this by stopping to listen to an upset co-worker or family member, by being patient when we are sitting in traffic, or by adjusting our plans to accommodate another who needs our help.

Mary was sinless.  She was very close to God, but when he invited her to bear His Son, she did not understand how this could be.  “How can this be, since I have no husband?” (LK 1:34).  Despite the mystery surrounding the Incarnation, she trusted, because she was close to God. 

The same is true for us. We must develop a close relationship with God, that helps us to be more open to trusting in God’s plan for us and uniting our will to his, even when his way seems very different from what we had in mind. We have to make room for God in our everyday lives—in prayer, in the sacraments, in the quiet moments throughout our day, in responding with charity to those who are placed in our path. 

By making room in the “inn” of our soul, we can truly prepare the way of the Lord and prepare to rejoice at the birth of the Savior.
“Jesus Christ is going to come to us as the Way, the Truth, and the Life: ‘Make ready the way of the Lord’....Am I preparing to receive Jesus as he comes into the world, that is, as the Way to every holiness, the Master of truth, and the life of the soul? Do I feel the need for him?” (Blessed James Alberione, SSP)
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Bernadette Boguski has been a Pauline Cooperator for over 20 years. She is a member of St. Columbkille Parish in Parma, OH, where she serves as a Eucharistic Minister, cantor, and member of the music ministry. Bernadette holds a degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and currently serves as the development director for Womankind, a nonprofit agency providing free prenatal care and support services for pregnant women in need.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

yHope: Lord, Teach Us How To Pray!



In April of 2008, Pope Benedict XVI made an apostolic visit to the United States. On the first full day of his visit, he gave an address to youth at St. Joseph Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York. A priest friend of mine, along with many young men from Boston who were discerning their vocation, were there. When my friend returned home, he told me that a young person had asked the Pope for his thoughts on the decline of vocations and the overall decline of participation in the life of the Church. The Pope was quiet for a moment and then responded, “If we teach young people how to pray, then we will have vocations; we will have a fuller participation in the life of the Church.”


His simple answer resonated with me. For years, colleagues and I have been running programs that encourage personal and family prayer. They were well planned, but often not as effective as we had first hoped.  The problem is that many young people don’t know where to begin in prayer. Not only that, the parents of these young people don’t know how to gather their families together in prayer. 

Here's an example. One of the programs we offer from the Boston Vocation Office is called the Vocation Chalice program. Its purpose is to encourage families throughout the archdiocese to pray for and promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Each week at Mass, a designated family is invited to take the gifts up at the Offertory. At the end of Mass, the family is called by the priest to come forward to receive the chalice bag and a blessing. (This bag contains a consecrated chalice, a poster of the seminarians to hang up, the prayer card, and stationery to send notes of encouragement to seminarians, priests, and religious.) The family takes the chalice home for the week and puts it in a place of honor, praying for an increase in vocations and for their perseverance. The following Sunday the family returns the chalice bag for another family to take home. 

Sounds like a good program! However, little by little, several parishes dropped out, because not enough families were volunteering for it. Why? Most families didn’t really know what to do once they got it home and set up the place for prayer. They didn’t know how to begin. Prayer hadn't been a regular practice in their families. We need to do as the Holy Father said; we need to start teaching young people how to pray.


So, in 2009, I began bringing young adults together regularly in a group called yHope (Young Heralds of Pauline Evangelization). In yHope the spiritual directors don’t just talk about prayer. We pray with the young adults and teach them methods of prayer. Bi-weekly on Saturday mornings, the young people gather with priests and religious for the ancient practice of Lectio Divina. This is always done in the presence of the Eucharistic Christ, who is our guiding Light. Each time, we slowly and prayerfully read together the Gospel that we will hear at Sunday Mass, reflect quietly, then usually read the Gospel a second time. After another period of reflection, the young people begin to share how God has spoken to them.

Following Lectio Divina, we expose the Eucharist and enter into a holy hour, using the Way, Truth, and Life method of the Pauline Family.  We first adore Jesus Truth simply by gathering “at his feet” and again listening to his Word. In this moment, we recognize that we are in the presence of the One who has the power and the desire to transform our lives to become in a sense our “truest selves”, the persons he has made us to be. Next we adore Jesus Way: We confront the Word that has been spoken and contemplate God’s action in our lives. This period is usually spent in silence, meditative singing, or even a little journaling. The final movement is meant to help us share Jesus Life. Here we bring to God our needs and the needs of the world. As a priest leading the young people in prayer, I find this moment particularly beautiful, as they express their thanks and share their petitions to the Lord. They seek union with Jesus Life, who poured out his life for us.

A few weeks ago members of yHope went on retreat and there we taught them more methods of prayer such as the examen and the Angelus. It is beautiful to see that through prayer God is showing these young people the path he desires for their lives. Just over a month ago, four members of yHope made their promise as Pauline Cooperators.


Yes, Lord, teach our young people how to pray…and some of them will become Young Heralds of Pauline Evangelization.

Photo credits: Fr. Michael Harrington, IGS
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Fr. Michael Harrington is a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and a member of the Pauline Institute of Jesus the Priest. An economics and political science major, he worked in finance for five years, before entering the seminary in 1994. He was ordained in 2000 and has since served the Church as parochial vicar, state chaplain to the Massachusetts Knights of Columbus, and for the past several years, assistant director of the Office of Vocations and director of the Office of Outreach and Cultural Diversity. Fr. Michael made his first profession of vows in the Institute of Jesus the Priest on November 22, 2009.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Who's Expecting?

Sr. Margaret, Sr. Sophie, and some good friends load our truck.
Just as we finished the elections some weeks back, newspapers, news programs, and political journalists and commentators began telling us what we could expect from the newly elected, including from the Senate and Congress. The past six months have been exceptionally busy for me, and the way things are going I don’t expect anything to slow down. As I write this, I am driving with Sr. Margaret Edward from Philadelphia to help our new community in San Antonio. The next day we will be headed to St. Louis, our first stop; along the way, we will be looking forward to a hot meal and a warm bed.

We do live our lives expecting things. We have just begun the Church season of Advent, the Season of Expectation. But what are we expecting? For some of us, it’s the same round of extra work with its Christmas parties, card sending, gift wrapping, and shopping with its long lines. Some of us might also be looking forward to customs that have become a cherished part of the season, like the Advent calendar: We open a little door each day with its message or gift. Some of us, especially with small children, may have the custom of taking a small piece of straw and placing it in the manger for every good deed or sacrifice done, to make a soft bed for Baby Jesus. We may also look forward to the special recipes reserved for Christmas and the family get-together, the brightly lit tree, and the ornaments that hold a special meaning. We look forward to these things. We have many expectations.

The Church also lives in expectation during this time expressed in the beautiful Advent readings, but what are we encouraged to live in expectation of? The Liturgies of Advent encourage us to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. It wasn’t until I was a bit older, however, that I realized that the Church was preparing us not only for the coming of the Child born in the manger, but also and especially for his final coming at the end of time. In the Gospel of Matthew this past Sunday Jesus tells us, “Be watchful!  Be alert! You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming.” 

Help along the way—Scripture, wreath, calendar, customs

The journey to the crib and the journey of our lives are much the same: We all need spiritual assistance. As a corollary to the journey of our spiritual lives, Advent aids provide this roadside assistance. The Scripture readings of the Advent Liturgies lead us progressively up to Christmas; so does well chosen spiritual reading. The inspired Word of God is a fountain of peace, strength, and wisdom. It has built-in grace that no other book has. If you find it a bit daunting, there are many books and worship aids to help you in the reading of God’s letter to us. There are also many great spiritual classics and some more contemporary books that have helped countless people encounter God in his Word.


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The flickering Advent wreath illumines the steps along this journey. We light candles on the green wreath each week and say a prayer, indicating that the light, which is Christ, is growing closer and brighter. To me the wreath resembles the family, friends, and spiritual guides that God gives us along the path of life. As we light an additional candle each week, so too does God place in our path compassionate fellow travelers at the right time in our lives, who share their hard won wisdom and love with us.

The Church calendar marks the flow and ebb of the entire Church year, starting with Advent. It then continues with the tides of Ordinary Time, washing throughout the year between Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter. Along with this I would include the beautiful feast days, especially the Marian ones (my favorite is the Annunciation) and the saints’ days. These are wonderfully encouraging, since the saints were just as human as we are.

Finally, family customs are all those Catholic practices that give us hope, support, and strength, like the Rosary, novenas, and Eucharistic adoration. Here I just have to mention the sacrament of Reconciliation. As a sacrament it’s more than a custom, but a font of grace. The deep peace of mind and heart that comes from a thorough and good confession, as well as the hope and courage that it instills in us to continue the hard work of the spiritual life, is unsurpassed.

So what are we expecting this Christmas? Is it only the gifts, the food, and the time with family that we are looking forward to? Or are we preparing ourselves in anticipation of the most important meeting we will ever have? There is so much the Incarnate Word, born in the manger, longs to give us—not just at Christmas, but throughout the whole year and forever. Let us live with this expectation.

Photo credit: Sr. Patricia Mary Maresca, FSP
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Sr. Patricia Mary Maresca, FSP, hails from Staten Island. A councilor for the US/ESC province, she has also served as provincial director of the Pauline Cooperators since 2011.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Men and Women of the Word

Nov. 26, 2014 marks the close of the centenary year of the Pauline Family. Brother Aloysius Milella, SSP, describes the role of the Word of God in Pauline life, yesterday and today.

Under the early guidance of our Founder, and as it has been handed down, when we Paulines spoke of “apostolate” or “mission”, we knew we were not  talking about a theory or an abstraction.  It referred to something very concrete. And the cue for this was to be found in a phrase of Acts 1:1: “Jesus began to work and teach.”

As he did of so much of sacred Scripture, Father Alberione took this to heart. He lived and applied it. I mention this because the Founder always saw the Bible as a lever.  A mission is ever  longer and larger than a person’s life, whatever years it will have.  It wasn’t enough that Father Alberione would launch a mission.  He knew, and was ever preoccupied that it would know an essential “unity, stability and, above all, continuity.”  He effected this through an inspired and determined application of his Pauline reading of the Word of God.

And if we look at our history as institutes and as a Pauline Family, one of the most obvious of our “spiritual genes” as a family is an affinity for this very Word, this life-sustaining Word. The Founder instilled this as a fundamental in each of our Congregations and Institutes—the Cooperators included!

Biblical instruction, conferences based on the sacred text, meditations inspired by the Gospels and St. Paul’s Letters, were the grounding for the deeper grasp and understanding of our call. This was the basis of the religious formation that Alberione personally had at heart when shaping the distinct soul of our religious family over the course of so many years. And with great conscientiousness.

Encouragement was always there for scriptural studies, scriptural reading. And there was never a doubt that the motivating impulse of our apostolic activity—the whole of it—was ever to be the Word of God, Jesus the Teacher of the Gospels.

Alberione & aspirant, Eucharist & Gospel, Corpus Christi, 1930.
At the very start in 1914/1915, there was the veneration of the Bible in the corridors, the chapel, and the apostolic workplace....highly uncommon at that time. Father Alberione’s sons and daughters were given a unique hand-me-down taste for the Word of God as few other religious families of that era knew. We were to venerate the presence of the Lord in the Word as we were to venerate it in the Blessed Sacrament.

At that pioneering period, we were to grasp as Paulines that the Word had the power to open our eyes, to give us an understanding, a way of seeing things differently. Even then, the active agent in our vocational lives was to be the Word of God. It would have the power to change, to affect situations, and to resolve difficulties. In our developing mission we were to learn to act, preach and grow in persona Christi... the Scriptures, the truth applied.

Did even the earliest of our brothers and sisters understand how pioneering Father Alberione was in this for the Church of the then-new century?

According to him we were to be a family that propagated the Gospel in its unity and truth to everyone....and eventually to shout it from the rooftops.  But first of all, and above all, we were to be Paulines who knew and lived and felt the Master’s words.  Familiarity with his teachings was indispensable.  Others were to read them in our persons. And importantly for those primitive times, a spirituality that incarnated the Word of God would make us credible as modern evangelizers.  This would make believers of us and of our very humble, if innovative, mission.

To make this in-house identity translate into works of the apostolate, in 1921, only seven years into our founding, he launched the first ever Sunday liturgical bulletin, La Domenica. It carried the Gospel  of the Sunday, the readings, and a short explanation.  This in 1921. The format was copied extensively by Pauline foundations abroad and soon became just as highly valued as a parish aid for inculcating the Scriptures in so many different languages and cultures of the Pauline world.

Shortly thereafter, as well as in 1960, specific biblical publishing and distribution projects involved every member of the Pauline Family and depended to a great extent on the Cooperators for their success. “The Gospel in every family!” was the rallying cry that moved them to penetrate with the Word of God “all the strata of humanity…transforming [it] from within and making it new” (Evangelii nuntiandi, 18).

Echoes of this cry were heard at the Angelus message in St. Peter’s Square last month on Oct. 5, at the
opening of the Synod on the Family.  With “A Bible for every family…to be read often,” Pope Francis
announced that, to mark the centenary of the Pauline Family, the Society of St. Paul was offering a copy of the Bible as a gift to every family there. Fifteen thousand copies of the Word—a fitting tribute to the legacy of Father James Alberione.

Photo credits: 
M. Emmanuel Alves, FSP - Bible; www.alberione.info/operaomnia - Alberione; John Skeels - Aloysius Milella
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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, November 19, 2014

No Boundaries Exist for a Pauline

All Paulines are called to be way, truth,
and life for their brothers and sisters.
In the Constitution of the Daughters of St. Paul the following inspiring articles remind us of the no-boundaries mission entrusted to us: 

“Prayer gives rise to the apostolic dynamism that makes our zeal in charity visible. It enables us to discover the presence of Christ in history and leads us to understand people and serve them as the Divine Master did. Our meeting with Christ in prayer becomes a privileged moment in which we bring to him the hopes, joys and anxieties of the world, in order to adore, to intercede and to discern the new paths that the Spirit is opening to the Word. In this way, we offer all that we are and all that we do to the Father so that the people of our time will come to know Christ the Master Way, Truth and Life and so that, in and with him, we too will be way, truth and life for our brothers and sisters” (n.70, 73, 8, 74, 7).

All Paulines are called to be way, truth, and life for others. Our focus on prayer helps us rediscover our baptismal vocation that incarnates itself in the situations of our time. We pray to possess the tenderness and mercy of Jesus as we remain attentive to the signs of the times and to the new paths of humanity as authentic witnesses to Christ in a culture of communication.  Pope Francis tells us, "Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence" (259).*  As we become fully aware of how poor and inadequate we are to carry this out this mission our thoughts turn to the preferential option for the poor in Catholic social teaching. This preference for bringing the Gospel to the poor has been present in our Christian tradition since the very start. The Church has made an option for the poor which is understood as a special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity" (198). 

Paulines realize that poverty, our own and that of others, highlights our need for Christ, Way, Truth, and Life in more than just our material needs. It makes us want to be like him. "Jesus’ whole life, his way of dealing with the poor, his actions, his integrity, his simple daily acts of generosity, and finally his complete self-giving, is precious and reveals the mystery of his divine life. Whenever we encounter this anew, we become convinced that it is exactly what others need, even though they may not recognize it" (265)

The Pact or Secret of Success, written by Blessed Alberione, helps us encounter this anew: "We know that we are very weak, ignorant, inadequate, and incapable; instead, you are the resurrection and the life, our one and supreme good." Catholic social teaching calls us in a more immediate way to be aware of the vulnerable and least advantaged members of society. Pope Francis reminds us that poverty may also be manifested in a spiritual deprivation: "I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world. We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing" (273).

What can Paulines do for the poor? Brit Stack, a television producer and Pauline Cooperator in formation, reflects on the Pauline mission and the poor in her blog Lighting the Lamp:  


"Some of the sisters are already doing what they can…if someone comes to the media center, they’re given a bite to eat, something to drink, and told who can better help them. So we’ve taken care of their physical needs. What about the spiritual?....This is where I believe the best thing one can do is follow the well-known quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: 'Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.' LOVE is quite possibly the best way to evangelize and be testaments of God’s love for all. So that’s something.

"Another something: the children of the poor. In college, I was part of a group that would teach kids living in a trailer park about the Bible…We’d play outside, give the kids snacks, and then sit down with a Bible story. Why not take JClub Bookfairs to community centers or churches in the poor areas of the city?

"The poor of spirit can belong to any financial level. An example: the abused. Speaking as someone who knows people who were/are abused, many of them don’t actually trust there’s anyone who can help them. That means earthly or heavenly. The first thing needed is to form that bond of trust that someone can help them. Once trust has been established, it can be a bit easier to ask how they’re coping with the past. However, talking about religion and God might still be tough. So what can we do? We plant seeds. A small library of books and DVDs at a shelter can be beneficial. So too can be leaflets about forgiveness and how God loves us no matter what.

"While ministering to the poor is important, there’s also a need to educate the ordinary lay person who has the means to help the indigent. The Pauline mission is great for this—it’s evangelizing about our duty to love all as Christ loves us. The biggest and best way to carry out the Pauline mission when educating others about the poor is the development of books, films, and apps about Catholic Social Teaching. Also...stocking resource rooms and parish libraries in poor areas. These are just some examples of how one can involve the Pauline mission with ministering to the poor. There are several other ways: media literacy, economic discipleship, and teaching literacy classes. The list goes on and on." 

Brit concludes: "It has become my firm belief that the Pauline mission is rooted in helping the poor and it just hasn’t been fully realized. A recent post (Bernadette Boguski; September 10, 2014) on the Association of Pauline Cooperators Blog addresses this to an extent. It is not only the body that thirsts and hungers - it is also our souls. We often forget that we are a composite of soul and body. While some groups feed the body, the Pauline spirituality is in the unique position of having the resources to nourish both. Wouldn't it be great [if a Pauline Cooperator] put together a small booklet to feed the soul?" 
What are your thoughts about the Pauline mission and the poor?  
*All numbered quotes are taken from Evangelii Gaudiuum
Photo credits: Phivan Nguyen (Good Shepherd); Sr. Margaret Kerry, FSP
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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 mkerry@paulinemedia.com.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Telling Stories

My first post!  When initially invited to contribute to the Association of Pauline Cooperators blog, I was excited, and my first reaction was to quickly say “yes.” Then fear and anxiety set in.  Who am I to write for a spiritual blog?  I have no formal training in theology or writing.  Yet, as a wife, mother, and grandmother, semi-retired from the finance field, I knew I had many stories – “telling” stories – that strengthened my faith.  So, here I am and I have come to tell my story; well, at least one.

Last year, Pope Francis encouraged all young men and women to become evangelizers, even if they make mistakes. In 1 Cor. 2: 3-5, St. Paul tells us of his great fear of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus: “I came to you in weakness, fear and trembling, and my message and proclamation were delivered not with plausible words of ‘wisdom’ but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of the power, so that your faith would be based on the power of God rather than on human wisdom.”  St. Paul could not simply call upon his own skills.  He had to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.

With these thoughts (and fears) in mind, I would like to tell you about one experience that led me closer to Christ and to our Blessed Mother.  This article is dedicated to our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, who has had a life-changing effect on me.

In 2007, while visiting the Cathedral of San Juan, Puerto Rico, I encountered a woman praying fervently and devoutly in front of the statue of our Lady of Guadalupe.  I was so impressed that, even though I knew nothing about Our Lady of Guadalupe, I started to pray to her for a special intention.  My motherly intuition told me that my oldest daughter was trying to conceive.  Every day I asked for our Lady’s intercession; if it were God’s will, please bless my daughter with the gift of a baby.

Not even a month later, my daughter announced that she was expecting and her due date was December 9.  At that time, the date meant nothing to me.  While sharing my happy news with Sr. Maria Joseph, FSP, I learned that December 9 was the date of our Lady’s first apparition to Juan Diego.  I also later discovered that our Lady is known to be the “Protector of Unborn Children.”   She is wearing a dress typical for a woman with child.

My daughter gave birth on December 12 – the feast day of our Lady of Guadalupe!  Since I had no control over the birth date of my grandson, I can only believe that this was not a coincidence but a “God incident.”   My grandson is now almost six years old.  This experience left me with a feeling difficult to describe.  I often think of it during times of weak faith and then am immediately lifted up by our Blessed Mother.  This encounter has led me to a stronger devotion to our Lady.  As a Pauline Cooperator, I find this devotion to be especially meaningful.  Our founder, Blessed James Alberione, developed a deeply personal relationship with Mary and part of the charism of the Pauline Family is devotion to Mary, Queen of Apostles.

My daily prayers now include a prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe from the Queen of Apostles Prayer Book (published in the USA by Pauline Books and Media).  A beautiful prayer for meditation, it speaks to me and challenges me to be a better person.  I would like to share some of my favorite phrases and reflections:
  • Fruitful Mother of holiness – We look to Mary who possessed the fullness of holiness to help us along our path to holiness.
  • Teach me your ways of gentleness and strength – Do these attributes seem to be contradictory?  Mary, help me to be a woman of gentleness and strength with myself and others. 
  • Queen of Martyrs, whose Immaculate Heart was pierced by seven swords of grief, help me to walk valiantly amid the sharp thorns strewn across my pathway – Our Lady, I am sure, had the highs and lows of every mother.  The grief she experienced in witnessing her Son die is incomprehensible.  Let me walk valiantly and be strong as you were whenever I encounter a thorn in my life.
  • Help me always to seek the good of others – Rid me of faultfinding and negativity. As our Lord tells us, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
  • May I proclaim the loving solicitude of our Father in heaven so that the wayward may heed his pleading and obtain pardon – help me to be caring and compassionate as our heavenly Father, so that many who have turned away from him will feel loved and forgiven and will come home.
A simple visit to a cathedral positively impacted my faith and my life forever.  Who was this woman?  I will never know, and she will never know the influence she had on me.  This woman could have been you.  Our actions are also a form of witnessing and evangelizing.

The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is only a few short weeks away.  Let us all come to Mary with our intentions.  On November 18 we will celebrate the feast day of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul in Rome.  May they also lead us to Jesus as Mary does.

What is your story, your “Aha!” moment, that brought you closer to God?  We all have one.  Evangelize me by telling me your story in the “Comments” section below.
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Photo, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Maryann Toth

Maryann Toth has been a Pauline Cooperator for six years. Semi-retired as a credit/AR manager in New Jersey, 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.