Saturday, January 06, 2018

Four Kings and a Baby

St Mary Major; 13th century mosaic: Adoration of the Magi, by Franciscan, Jacopo Torriti.
On this traditional day of Epiphany (we'll celebrate it liturgically tomorrow), a reminder that "this feast is not a quaint fairy tale from the past but a bold proclamation of the gospel that contrasts two starkly different worldviews": that of the three kings, "motivated by their love of nature and their search for the truth," and that of the fourth king, Herod "the Great," who "uses naked power to oppress and divide peoples." Read more here (by Donald Senior, CP).

Friday, January 05, 2018

Pages from the Past: Following the Star

The Magi’s great question: “Where is he?” 
I can imagine them approaching the house…Joseph outside, stacking wood or something:
Where is he?” 
And Joseph: “Come and see!”

The Magi (as well as the shepherds) are good examples of freedom. The "exceedingly great joy" they felt at the star’s reappearance shows that they were not acting out of a grim and determined sense of duty or obligation, but following the call of beauty that corresponded to their interior compass.

Then there's Herod. 

Herod’s unfreedom is manifest in his not even reflecting on his action. Crafty he was, but he did not consider the “why?” or “what” he was doing: his motivation was never examined; his ultimate goal not recognized. It is as if he acted only out of instinct—and Matthew notes that he acted while in a perturbed state of mind. He was “under the influence”; he was out of control even while he tried to control everything, Magi included. 

This is why we make—and need to make—an examen every day: to keep verifying our actual (not our stated) motivations for what we do during the day, the choices we make; the priorities we act by, the triggers that provoke automatic behaviors… to call them up, verify them, see them in the light of truth, especially of the Word of God that has most spoken to us for that period of time. It is vitally important not to dislodge the Word of God from the examen or we risk assuming a very different background/horizon by which to see and evaluate. 

Knee-jerk reactions call for the deepest examination: they are a sign of stuck, stolid unfreedom.

"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, December 22, 2017

An inside look at the LA concert!

In my last post, I mentioned Roma Downey's "LightWorkers" and the camera crew that was present for our Los Angeles shows; here's their two-minute version of our music ministry!

Pages from the Past: Hallowed Be Thy Name

Egyptian manuscript depiction of
the Visitation, from the Walters Museum

People should be able to come to know some real truth about God, come to know God for real, simply by our behavior, especially our behavior towards them. It should tell them who God is, so that God’s name is hallowed, sanctified, blessed on our account.

80 percent of communication is non-verbal, putting my concern for verbal orthodoxy into a different perspective. Does our way of living and expressing ourselves also display God's glory (doxa) rightly?  We could say all the right, correct things about God and say them with elegance, but still give God a bad name. “Because of you, the name of God is blasphemed among the nations."

Are we giving God a bad name, a bad reputation, a bad image not by what we say about him (it may be unimpeachably orthodox) but how we say it or how we live it out in the eyes of the world? God’s reputation suffers when we reduce God to our own size. It's the opposite, literally and figuratively, of “magnifying the Lord” as Mary did. 

"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. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Live...from California (UPDATED so you can actually see the pictures)

Demonstrating the fine work of a Hollywood make-up artist.
We are at the final stop of our coast-to-coast Christmas concert tour: Culver City, CA. It has been an amazing couple of weeks, punctuated by confirmations every so often that God is working behind the scenes bestowing every sort of grace upon the thousands (yes, thousands) of people who have come to share our music. I had intended to keep you posted in a more timely manner, but the pace of the tour made that impossible--and, truth to tell, I am better off not trying to multi-task during such an intensive period when we have very few moments of downtime. And now that I do have a bit of space (enough to set up a tablet and Bluetooth keyboard), I have forgotten most of the anecdotes I planned to share! I guess I have gotten into the kind of space where what I am focusing on is the next concert and what I need to do to prepare for that (like iron the blouses and habits that I just peeled out of my suitcase), rather than look back fondly on what has already been done.

Still there were highlights all along the way, starting with our initial concert at St Luke's parish in HoHoKus, NJ. The parish staff could not have been more welcoming, and the crowd (most of them first-timers) was very receptive. There were also some longtime fans, including Pauline Cooperators and one family from the other end of New Jersey for whom the sisters' concert has become an essential part of the Christmas season. This family has two special needs adult children, and it is very moving for us to see how much joy the concert program brings them.

The next evening was our annual benefit dinner/concert on Staten Island, the longtime home of the
Daughters of St Paul (since the 1940's I think). Since our convent is so small, sisters found hospitality with several Island families and with our own brother community, the Society of St Paul. This year was our 23rd annual concert, so the plans are already on for a big blow-out celebration in two years. The morning after the concert, we were treated to an Italian cooking demo (and feast) by Chef Vittorio, who sent us home with plenty of leftovers and a Christmas panettone (and torrone) each! We had the rest of the day (actually, we left the restaurant at 2 pm) to get to Boston for our motherhouse concerts.
The Boston concerts surpassed all previous years, with over 1,100 people coming to the two performances. (We are going to have to figure something else out for next year.) This is the only concert that comes with a craft fair featuring the sisters' handmade articles and homebaked cookies. (Sister Marlyn's felt nun dolls sold out before the first note was even sung, and the winter headbands I crocheted also sold out.)

Thankfully, we had a day to rest before heading to the next destination: St Louis, where I had been stationed for three years as a junior sister. We have a very active advisory board there, and some of the family members of the board members from my years in St Louis are still involved in the Pauline mission alongside newer friends. Their degree of fervor and of active collaboration in our mission is outstanding--as is the inspirations God seems to send in raising up new collaborators, like the sisters' handyman. It seems that he had a dream one night, and upon waking told his wife, "I'm supposed to help the nuns at a bookstore. Do you know any nuns with a bookstore?" (She did indeed.) Or like Dr Mathews before him (read his story here). Sister Nancy is from St Louis, as is our current provincial superior (and former choir member) Sister Donna. Having family in the audience almost feels like "salting the pot," but the crowd filled the fabulous theater (at Chaminade College Prep): next year we will probably need to have the balcony seats available, too.

It was about this time that the wildfires broke out in Southern California, getting within four miles of our Culver City convent. (The community there even got the official text message telling them to get their bags ready for evacuation.) Suffice it to say that I found out that "the show must go on" is taken very, very seriously in California.

From St Louis we flew to Cleveland where we met our dear friend and former motherhouse chaplain, Bishop Lennon, for lunch. It was Bishop Lennon who had first invited us to sing in the Cathedral nine years ago, and this year his successor, Bishop Perez, made sure to greet us after our "curtain call." Also in Cleveland was a group of three young women who had made a road trip from Buffalo for the event. One of them, a musician, is in discernment with us!

Sr Bethany's view from the Loyola control booth.
Then it was on to my favorite city, New Orleans, for back-to-back concerts that I know Mom in Heaven had something to do with. They were even held at Loyola! The last time I sang on a stage at Loyola was for my freshman finals in voice; I don't know if I mentioned in an earlier post that my voice teacher, Mary Tortorich, died just this past March (at age 104). (In the early 2000's,she was also Sr Julia's voice teacher!) It couldn't be helped that in New Orleans, I was very much aware of the family members in the audience. I didn't even manage to see all the cousins who were in the upper rows; I only found out later that they had come. Heck, even the Archbishop came! But perhaps the most meaningful part of the New Orleans concerts was that one little girl was particularly moved. With severe ADHD, she "doesn't get much human interaction," her mother wrote, but she "is still talking about her time with the sister on the stage and she is telling us that she wants to embrace God more in her heart, because of the message she received from the concert. I pray ya’ll continue to do good work and keep singing and spreading the good news."

Cafe au lait (poured the traditional way) with dessert.
Before the Monday evening concert there was enough time to visit the French Quarter with two of my sisters and a friend of one of them who was visiting from Michigan. I did two new-to-me things that afternoon: ate (1) soft-shelled crabs at (2) Antoine's, where the lunch special was just perfect for the four of us. We also stopped at Central Grocery for a half-muffalata (which I split with Jane's friend); it provided for my Monday supper and for my lunch the next day on the flight to LA.

And so we came to SoCal for our first West Coast concerts! Thankfully, we had a few days to rest and
rehearse while catching up with Pacific Time, and the sisters had arranged a TV appearance on a Spanish-language program run by a Catholic ministry, "El Sembrador" (the Sower). I was impressed with their beautiful studios, Blessed Sacrament chapel (for the daily Mass broadcast which preceded our appearance), and the poise and professionalism of the staff. The show we were on includes a sharing of the Word of God, interviews on matters of interest to the Spanish-speaking community and ... the singing nuns. We had to learn how to sing in a tight arrangement with wired mics snaking across the floor.

On Thursday there was even enough time for me and Sr Mary Martha to make our first-ever visit to the Getty Museum, where I saw some of my favorite works of art (and made the museum security personnel very nervous: "Please step back"; "Please don't point.")

I was really impressed by the way our lay Cooperators came together to plan every step and provide for every need along the way, from food to, yes, make-up by Hollywood make-up professionals who donated their services. See, we weren't only singing for the people in the audience: we were singing for the cameras of Roma Downey's "LightWorkers," a values-oriented media production company/website.

It was a joy to see how our concert brought Hollywood professionals into contact with each other,
strengthening the network of Catholics in "the Industry." In addition to the make-up artists, our concert benefitted from a local DJ's services while the audience gathered (and again at intermission and after the program) and a comedian who opened for us.

We even had a red carpet and a "step and repeat"; the organizers couldn't fathom us skipping this Hollywood essential.

We shared the stage with five enormous LED video panels that provided backdrops for everything. (Actually, the video backgrounds were a feature of all of our concerts except Cleveland--but in most places we only had one relatively large background screen; here we had an enormous background and four additional vertical panels. In between songs, we took turns saying a little something to connect the song with an aspect of faith. Most of the time, the sisters couldn't help but deliver this with a large dose of humor that brought its own healing power. 

There were unexpected technical challenges (well, given the complexity of the show here, we should have expected them!). Illness, too, began to wear us down. Of the nine singers who arrived, only eight made it to the stage on Friday night. (It will be good to get back home to Boston on Monday evening after these three weeks on the road!)

All along the way we met people who opened their hearts to us and to the message we were there to help them celebrate. We heard their prayer intentions and presented their burdens to the Lord in our prayer--and will continue to do so. This kind of thing makes a huge impression on us, that people entrust their sufferings and hopes to us and let go of them enough to fully enter into the concert.

The theme of this year's concerts was "Love Among Us: Love that Comes, that Sustains, that Gives." We pray that for the thousands of people we met over these past weeks, Christmas will be just that.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Pages from the Past: Blessed "discontent"

Selections from a book by Fr Giuseppe Forlai, IGS (probably Christ Lives in Me, the book on Pauline Spirituality pictured below). I did the translation here for myself. Fr Forlai is a member of the Institute of Jesus the Priest, a Pauline secular institute for diocesan clergy.

“Our condition becomes a blessing if we discover that nothing created can satisfy us through and through for the simple reason that the ‘interiority’ of each one is so rich and so great that it cannot be bound/limited within things, individuals, roles. Don Alberione writes: ‘My end cannot be pleasure or esteem or wealth or virtue or power or knowledge. All of those, all that is not infinite, while my heart has infinite aspirations.’ The spiritual person is therefore the one who lives this holy discontent with serenity.” 

“Truly, ‘holy’ [discontent] because it frees us from false expectations or from the slavery of saying to [anyone? anything?] ‘I cannot live without you.’ We are infinite in desiring because we bear the hereditary trait of divine infinity. Just as God cannot dwell in a house made by human hands, so man cannot live in a ‘house’ he himself built.”

St Paul put it more succinctly.
“That’s not all. A solid spiritual life must be able to dialogue between the basic sense of God and this interiority; in other words, the ‘amazement at reality’ must enter into a covenant with the ‘holy discontent.’ In isolation, the two experiences have no meaning; to recognize that there is a Living One [and not know] how to desire the infinite good only brings madness; vice-versa, to know that one is structurally incomplete and discontented and not be amazed at the gratuitousness of being keeps one simply frustrated. To bring these two ‘infinities’ (God and the interior self) together is a preliminary condition for faith and for a journey of ‘sequela’ that does not remain mere experimentalism or irrational fideism.”

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Review of the latest from Bishop Barron (with John Allen) #BishopBarron #WordOnFire #JohnLAllenJr

If you are only going to read one faith-centered book this year, please make it this one.  
You'll be doing yourself and the Church a favor.

In to Light a Fire on the Earth: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age we get John Allen's experienced hand filling in the context to the backstory of Bishop Barron's Word on Fire ministry, in a collaborative work that depends greatly upon Barron's contributions. (That's why Bishop Barron is credited as the principal author: "Robert Barron with John L. Allen, Jr.") It's a twofer! Two phenomenal Catholic authors, teamed up to share a vision for the New Evangelization. Well, the vision is Barron's, and it is already being implemented with very positive fruits.

I received a review copy of the book a few days before its official release and thought to myself, "This is great! I will be able to publish my review on the actual release date!" I planned to zip through the text, sum up my thoughts and just put them out there for you. But this is not a text to be zipped through, as I realized in the first chapters. I gave up the idea of issuing a timely review and let myself enjoy the book, reflecting on the way Bishop Barron looks at our culture and its questions and makes himself available (with all his many gifts) to do what Bl James Alberione said is the essence of the media apostle's task: "to give Jesus to the world using all the inventions that human ingenuity produces and that the needs and conditions of the times require." For Bishop Barron the "means" are clear: social media, he says, is the greatest development in human communications since the printing press. (He knows he is skipping over TV; social media surpasses it in scope and effectiveness.)

We get Barron's analysis of the greatest challenges facing the Church in contemporary society ("scientism" is toward the top); the chief obstacles to evangelization (how not to evangelize!); his own personal pastoral priority for Word on Fire (as a bishop his pastoral priority is a given!); his dreams for the future.

But mostly we get what makes Robert Barron tick, and how his interior world is organized.

Unsurprisingly (especially for those who know that his chief academic publication is entitled "The Priority of Christ"), it is all centered on Jesus:
"Robert Barron is a man who believes that while Catholicism propounds a galaxy of truths to the world, its core truth, the claim that must never fade from view, is that Jesus Christ is the center of history and the answer to the meaning of human life."
It is a turn of phrase that sounds exactly like Bl. Alberione, who famously wrote: "At the center is Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life." Alberione was driven by the desire that every aspect of human life and culture be established in and centered on Christ. Keeping an all-night vigil during the opening hours of the 20th century, he had prayed "that the new century might be born in the Eucharistic Christ; that new apostles would regenerate laws, schools, literature, the press, customs; that in the Church there would be a new missionary thrust; that the new means of apostolate would be used well..."  Barron puts it this way: "The idea is that everything revolves around and returns to Christ so that relationships, theology, politics, art, philosophy—all find their center in Christ.”

Like Alberione, who early in his life felt the need to work with others in order to launch new missionary enterprises, Barron, too, is gathering not just collaborators, but the first members of what he hopes will become a new ecclesial movement, a new foundation along the lines of the Focolare, Communion and Liberation, and Opus Dei movements in which priests and laity share a common spirituality grounded in the Bible and the Eucharist and a common commitment to media evangelization. In a way it has already been done. Alberione, after all, founded the Pauline Cooperators--priests and laity who share the Pauline spirituality and collaborate in the media apostolate--100 years ago this year. When the Holy Spirit wants to accomplish something in the Church, you can be sure that more than one seed will fall on good soil!

Every one of us faces, in one way or another, the exact challenges that Barron sees facing the Church as a whole. Our families, offices, and favorite coffee shops are populated with the people Robert Barron is reaching out to, but he is offering us an evangelizing style and some pointers on content that we can begin to implement right at home or in the workplace.

It seems to me that every active Catholic would do well to delve into this book and reflect deeply on Barron's insights and priorities.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. In addition, I received a review copy of the book mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. I am committed to giving as honest a review as possible, as part of my community's mission of putting media at the service of the truth. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Good News about Judgment Day

First, if you're reading this, the good news is that Judgment Day has not yet arrived, so you have time to prepare for it! This spiritual readiness is something that Jesus was not embarrassed to call us to. In fact, if you have been paying attention to the daily Gospels for the last several weeks, you may have noticed that Jesus seems to have insisted a bit on being ready for Judgment Day. It's the theme of several of his punchiest parables —the wise and foolish bridesmaids, the servants on call for the master's return (from, significantly, a wedding)—and unusual images (the sudden onset of labor pains; the Son of Man as "thief in the night"). "Be ready, for you do not know the day or the hour when your Lord will come" (cf. Mt 25:13).

So we have time, at least today, to prepare to meet the Lord. And that is an enormous grace.

In the powerful parable that inspired Michelangelo's Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46), the Son of Man comes "in his glory" and "all the nations are gathered before him, and he will separate them from one another..." using the most simple criteria of all: How did each person treat "the least" of Christ's brothers and sisters? "You did it for me... you did not do it for me." Fortunately for most of us life itself offers plenty of opportunities serve Jesus in tiny, ingloriously daily ways.

In the words of the parable, "all the nations" will face the same test. There may be a hint here that the test of salvation is not credal faith but concrete love, and that this is the criterion for "the nations", in other words, the Gentiles, those outside the covenants. Souls will not be subjected to an exotic review of regulations or graded on ability to maintain a perfect score when it comes to Sunday Mass or nine First Fridays. These are genuinely worthwhile sacred commitments, and in the case of Sunday Mass a serious obligation for all Catholics, but if they do not stir us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, or care for the sick we will be told to take the last place (if that) and watch the procession of the charitable "enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy" (Is 55:11).

Thankfully, since Judgment Day has not yet dawned we have time to take the lesson to heart and let the grace of the sacraments we receive transform us into recognizable images of Jesus.
*Based on his early life, nobody could have predicted this.

But that is not the only "good news" I want to write about. The really good news about Judgment Day is that God only judges us when our story is complete. He does not halt us at random points on the journey of life to issue a "Pass/Fail." He knows that the one who at first vociferously rejected his message or mocked his commandments may turn out to be the most passionately devoted of all believers, maybe even martyrs. (History certainly offers many surprising examples.*)

That does not mean that any and all sorts of judgment are out of place. We cannot write anyone off (that would be judgmental indeed!), but that does not mean we cannot use good prudential judgment when it comes to how we deal with a person whose behavior can be problematic. It would be irresponsible, for example, to get in a car driven by a person who is habitually reckless or who often drinks to excess. In such a case, we are not judging the person, but the behavior. Personally, I would not have gone to a dinner party with the unconverted Charles de Foucauld; that might have been the 19th century version of a date with Harvey Weinstein. On the basis of the person's habitual behavior, I would make the prudential judgment that it would not be wise to stand too close. How he stands before God is known to God alone, who sees the whole arc of the person's life. Even for Harvey Weinstein and company, that is sacred ground upon which we dare not tread.

The Apostle Paul seems to have regularly found himself on the receiving end of negative judgments and downright cattiness, especially on the part of the Corinthians. Were they making acceptable prudential judgments?

In Paul's case, the Corinthians were evaluating his ministry on the basis of superficialities: his less-than-impressive physical presence, his unsophisticated rhetorical style, even his refusal to accept monetary compensation for his preaching... From these, they wrote Paul off as a non-accredited wanna-be apostle. Their propensity to judge on the basis of externals made the Corinthians gullible to all sorts of false teachings, as long as these were presented by persons with the right kind of style. (The debonair Charles de Foucauld would have found an enthusiastic welcome among them.)

Finally Paul had to remind the Corinthians, "Judge nothing before the appointed time, when the Lord comes"; "the one who judges me is the Lord" (1 Cor 4:5, 4). That means that any definitive sort of judgment issued during this life is ultimately "rash judgment," not only because we can never know another person's interior dispositions (degree of knowledge, freedom, etc.), but because God already sees how this particular moment of his, her or my life can work mysteriously for the good. Indeed, our belief in Providence is that God makes all things work out for his greater glory.

And that is Good News!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Pages from the Past: "Beautiful in its Time"

From 2011? While on Retreat.

Look for the beautiful; for what is “fitting in its time”: it reveals God, it shows his fingerprints, his presence, his “it is good” from the Creation account spoken right there in my day. It can teach me to discern his messages, his directives, his desires.

John Paul II seems to have said somewhere words to the effect that people, the real people I encounter an live with, are the “place” God relates to me. They communicate his will for me, moment by moment.

The direction of this retreat seems to be on learning (practicing) to receive and appreciate beauty in whatever its form (loveliness, an act of service or goodness, mercy, creativity, generosity, good news…) as a way of coming to learn God’s language.

"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. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Hollywood Headlines

The headlines from Hollywood and New York say all anyone really needs to know about the situation. I learned quickly enough not to read the articles: TMI does not begin to express it. Of all the conversations that have since sprung up, some only appeal to the issue of consent (essential, of course, but not at all sufficient contain a problem of abuse of power). Emphasis on consent presumes parity among the parties, but equality is precisely what molesters effectively deny. Yet without a transcendent reference point what else is there to appeal to?

Then this morning while attempting to put the papers in my office into some kind of order (well, to get them out of sight is more like it), I came across a slip on which I had written this, probably from the personal journals of Alexander Schmemann, one of my favorite writers:
Back in 1973, Schmemann commented on two books he had recently read:
"Both authors describe the strength of lust for power--a never-ceasing, wild struggle for power, for success. While reading, I felt really frightened by the force, the energy that struggle, even in the smallest worlds--a force that can move mountains and be quite poisonous. The struggle for power is the quintessence of our world. ..."
In another place, Schmemann remarked that often we fail to recognize just how fallen this world is, because we think that what we are witnessing is just "natural" when it, in fact, is seriously broken.

Meanwhile on Twitter, over 200,000 people signaled this post:
I was surprised by the number of negative responses it provoked. Some of those who objected did no on the grounds that even within marriage there can be abuse of power, domestic violence and rape. It seems to me that these sad and sinful realities highlight even more what Schmemann had to say, while also inviting insights from Pope John Paul's Theology of the Body: The most sacred relationship of man and woman can only be lived in its fullness when it is lived "in a complete gift of self" that seeks not one's own pleasure or purpose, but the good of the beloved. And yet this kind of love and respect cannot be mandated by law or social pressure; it is the work of grace, a participation in the way God loves.

Stories of love and the gift of self don't make as many headlines as do sordid tales of lechery, so we need to use all our resources to broadcast them ourselves. Do you have a beautiful story of love to share?

Thursday, November 02, 2017

All Souls--Day of Consolation

All Souls' Day is one of my favorite Catholic observances, and only the other day did I realize why. It goes back. Way back.

Me in fourth grade, the year
I started at that new school (and
the year of my Confirmation).
See, my godfather, Burke Weber, died six months after my baptism. And yet the way my parents referred to their dear friend established a relationship with this "Uncle Burke" whom I never knew in this life. (A chain smoker, he died of lung cancer in his 30's, before the link between smoking and cancer was common knowledge.) When I started a new school at age 8 and found myself for the first time without any friends, Mom suggested that I pray to Uncle Burke. For a week of lonely recesses, I tearfully asked Uncle Burke to find me a good friend. Preferably someone who liked to read. (Deborah and I are still friends.)

Having that connection to the next life from such an early age meant that my devotion to the Holy Souls predated even my devotion to the saints! It gave me a strong sense of the Church as a vast family whose members know and care for each other; a family in which I had a place of my own, and the ability to help even grown-ups who had gone before me.

When Dad died, our family experienced his presence in a variety of ways--especially through the appearance of paperclips in seriously unlikely places. (He was always asking someone for a paperclip to adjust his hearing aids!) Later, a couple of years after Mom's death, I was consoled to witness how that same sense of having relationships that transcend this life had been communicated to the next generation: My sister was taking a walk with her granddaughter when they came across a paperclip on the sidewalk. "Look!" my sister said, "Pepaw says 'hi'!" "No," the little girl said, "It's Memaw. I was just asking her if she was happy to be in Heaven with Jesus."

Devotion to the Holy Souls is one of the central devotions we have in the Pauline Family. We
dedicate the first Tuesday of every month to prayers for the Souls in Purgatory, and have a very special responsibility (and a prayer to go with it) for those who are undergoing purification because of their misuse of the media--whether they were primarily consumers or audience members or, more particularly, the writers, editors, producers, and marketing specialists whose work led others, even by the thousands, down unwholesome paths. Considering the exponential growth of communications technologies, it would seem that in our day we need all the more to pray for those souls, so that for their part, now finally and fully aware of the power of the media, they will take our part in promoting "all that is true...noble...right...pure and lovely" through the marvelous means of communication.

On this All Souls Day, pray that special prayer with us!

Jesus, divine Master, I thank you for having come down from heaven to free us from so many evils by your teaching, holiness, and death. 
I plead with you on behalf of the souls who are in purgatory because of the press, motion pictures, radio and television.  
I have confidence that these souls, once freed from their sufferings and admitted into eternal joy, will supplicate you on behalf of the modern world, so that the many means you have granted us for elevating this earthly life may also be used as a means of apostolate and life everlasting.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.May the rest in peace.Amen.

Pages from the Past: On the Poor Souls

From 2013?

Today I identify with the powerlessness of the Poor Souls. They can do nothing to change their situation, but they can do something “in” the situation, which is love God from where they are; love God because he is lovable and beautiful and not because they get any satisfaction for themselves.

I can acknowledge God here, too. But mostly I need to discover God as loving—as loving me. And maybe that is his desire, too, for this “fallow” time.

"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.