LOVE IS IN THE AIR

I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.

Song of Songs
“Love is in the air”, Clarissa Cervantes, all rights reserved

During the month of February, I quite often like to read one of my favorite poems of the bible from the Song of Songs, located in the Old Testament. As a modern poet, I was delighted to learn more about poetry in the bible, more specific love poetry! I didn’t know there were great poets back then! The Song of Songs contains love poems, dating back to 965 B.C., of great beauty, faith, depth and mystery. Almost as if I were back in time, I read these poems and am talking to God about love–my love for Him and His love for me. As we celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day in America, we also celebrate the joy of human love and God’s love for His creation. The author of the Song of Songs was King Solomon, the son of King David! My favorite Song of Songs is Song of Solomon Chapter 2, where there is no doubt about the intensity and depth of love this young couple have for one other. The Song of Songs can also be interpreted as a metaphor of the depths of the love God has for us and for his Church, a love capable of overcoming any obstacles in order to preserve the love of the One for the other.

Song of Solomon Chapter 2

“MY BELOVED IS MINE AND I AM HIS”

 I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys

As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.

As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.

Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.

His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.

I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.

The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.

My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice.

My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.

Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.

My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.

Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.


Clarissa Cervantes made her Cooperator Promise in January, 2022. A poet, photographer, physical therapist and researcher, she strives to create beautiful and meaningful Catholic images and articles to inspire and uplift readers. Clarissa holds a B.A. in Physical Therapy, where she found her solidarity, vocation to help as well as to deliver comfort to people all over the world through her images and words. A wife to Richard, she works and serves with her husband by doing mental health research with minority populations in need as well as research on causes such as homelessness, substance abuse, HIV, immigration and incarceration in Los Angeles.

Broken

He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17)

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)

Dear Lord, you will not despise this broken and crushed heart!

At the end of this summer, I had a really bad fall at home, breaking a couple bones in my right leg. Up until this point, I didn’t know I was “broken,” I didn’t know I needed healing, I didn’t know I needed prayers. My summer was going so well, I was happy, enjoying the warm weather and everything seemed to be going in the right direction. Then, I fell! At first, I knew I had broken something physically, but I didn’t feel broken spiritually.  

After the emergency room, surgeries and hospital stays, I had a feeling I was experiencing something similar to the 40 days and 40 nights in the desert, having no control about my circumstances. But the more things were settling, eventually the physical pain would override the spiritual pain until I finally realized I was broken. I needed healing. My silver lining moment came when sitting in my hospital bed, looking at the sky, thinking about life and the beauty of brokenness.

History tells us of a common feature of crucifixion — broken legs. Why? Because during crucifixion the breaking of the legs makes it very difficult for the victim to pull up for air in an effort not to suffocate! Jesus Christ was an exception. For as John testifies, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), was crucified, but not one of his bones was broken!

Symbolic also in the Bible, bones represent mortality. But how can a simple broken leg teach me about death, life, faith, love, trust and healing? A picture of Mother Thecla was in my possession during this difficult time. I could feel her presence more than ever! Day after day, night after night, it was she and I. I knew I was not alone. I had peace–a type of peace that surpasses all understanding. As a Pauline, I knew I was experiencing something special, and it was worth sharing.

Now back at home, there is definitely no place like home for the holidays! Home becomes even more a singular place for reflections, hope and healing during Christmas.

Finally, a note of profound gratitude goes to my husband, who witnessed this long journey with me. A cheerful glance brings joy to the heart, and good news invigorates the bones (Proverbs 15:30).


Clarissa Cervantes has been a Pauline Cooperator since 2017. A poet, photographer, physical therapist and researcher, she strives to create beautiful and meaningful Catholic images and articles to inspire and uplift readers. Clarissa holds a B.A. in Physical Therapy, where she found her solidarity, vocation to help as well as to deliver comfort to people all over the world through her images and words. A wife to Richard, she works and serves with her husband by doing mental health research with minority populations in need as well as research on causes such as homelessness, substance abuse, HIV, immigration and incarceration in Los Angeles.



THROUGH GRACE, I ALWAYS KNEW

The flowers of Maui, Forest and Kim Starr, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Last year I wrote an article called “The Catching Force.” In it, I told the story of Randy, a middle-school classmate of mine who had taught me the meaning of charity. In the same article, I also discussed the catching force as described by St. John Henry Newman in one of his prayers. The catching force is the sympathetic influence of what we do. It is rooted in charity and pushes us to take action which affects those around us and has the power to change our reality. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1827), “The practice of all virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which ‘binds everything together in perfect harmony’; it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice. Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love.”

But where does charity come from? Does it have a source? And is charity connected to faith and grace? These are a few questions that I seek to answer as I tell you another story.

I was born on the Hawaiian Island of Maui and I spent the first 5 years of my life living in the picturesque town of Pukalani located at the 3,000 ft elevation marker on the northeastern slopes of Haleakala, the 10,000-foot dormant shield volcano that presides over the island of Maui like a king.  It was a beautiful place to grow up and spend my early childhood years. In fact, Pukalani in the Hawaiian language means “heavenly opening,” referring to how the sun’s rays penetrate the clouds creating a beautiful opening in the sky.

Near Pukalani was the paniolo or cowboy town of Makawao where many of my cousins and extended family lived. At 3 weeks old, on August 15, 1976, I was Baptized by Father Christopher Keahi at St. Joseph’s Church in Makawao. Of course, I have no memory of this special event but the church itself has a special place in my personal history as being the parish for most of my father’s side of my family.

When I was 5 years old, I attended St. Joseph School which was located behind the church on a steep hill surrounded by a lush tropical rain forest. It was here that I spent my Kindergarten year. My teacher was a short Dominican nun by the name of Sister Delpha. She was about as strict as a teacher nun could be. She had a collection of small wooden sticks that were painted a different color for each day of the week. For example, if we were naughty on Monday, we might be greeted with a palms-up hand whack with her blue stick, especially if we talked too much at lunch when we were supposed to be eating. Being a rather talkative, and honest Portuguese American lad, I usually was the first in line after returning from the cafeteria to receive my hand tap punishment. Personally, I liked her red stick most but hey I didn’t have a choice in the color.

Also at the age of 5 years old, my parents got divorced. This was an extremely painful time for me and my younger brother who was only 12 months old. Although for him, it may have been a little less painful because he was too young to notice what was happening. Thankfully, I remained strong throughout the school year. I remained strong because I had something that shielded me and carried me. It was my faith in God and Jesus. Yes, at 5 years old I had faith. Through grace, I always knew that God existed and I truly believed in him. I can’t explain entirely why but I do believe it was a seed that the Lord had placed in my heart at a very young age which was then nurtured by my church and my early education at St. Joseph’s.

After my parents were divorced, I moved with my mother and brother to the island of Oahu to be closer to my maternal grandparents. We settled down in the upper hills of Pearl City where I attended Our Lady of Good Counsel Church and School. Although times were difficult, my faith remained. As a child, I never felt alone or afraid. I just knew that God was with me. Sometimes I wish that I still had this kind of unquestionable faith as an adult because we adults sometimes lose our way so easily.

Sadly, as a teenager and young adult, I stopped going to Mass. Although I still believed, my relationship with God was distant until my senior year in college when something happened that would remind me that the Lord never really leaves us. I was living in the city of Waikele at the time, and I was having problems both as a student and with my first girlfriend. Life just felt like it was spinning out of control. 

One morning I woke up early and prepared myself for school. I got in my old rusted Ford Escort station wagon and got on the freeway headed to Honolulu. My mind was a complete mess and my heart was racing. I just felt like I couldn’t do my routine anymore and that the joy in my life was gone. As I neared Pearl City, I saw the exit ramp fast approaching and I suddenly made a split decision to get off the freeway and visit my old church. I took the exit and headed up Waimano Home Road and turned into the horseshoe-shaped driveway of Our Lady of Good Counsel. I drove around the church to the mountainside parking lot and I parked my car. 

Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Pearl City, Hawaii. From parish web site, all rights reserved: Our Lady of Good Counsel.

It was very early and the sun had just peeked over the horizon creating that warm dawn glow. I sat for a few minutes in my car with no thoughts but just some peace knowing that I was near Jesus. Then I got out of my car and started to walk towards the side door of the church. As I got closer I saw that the outer wooden gate was closed and locked with a thick chain and padlock. My heart broke, my shoulders slumped, and I sighed. After a few seconds, I turned around and walked dejected back to my car. I opened the door and sat down in the driver’s seat. As the door swung closed, I could see the gate of the church in the reflection of the side view mirror. The chain and lock were still firmly in place. I looked away and thought now what will I do. After not more than a few seconds, I glanced back at the side view mirror of my car and gasped. The chain to the gate was now unlocked and swinging violently back and forth as if waving to get my attention. I immediately opened the door and lept out of the car. I rubbed my eyes to make sure I was seeing correctly. It was true, the padlock was unlocked and the chain was swinging back and forth but by now it was losing its momentum. I looked around and saw no one. I was afraid but also excited at what had just happened. I jogged over to the gate half hoping to see someone but no one was there. I blessed myself and walked into the church. The only source of light was coming from the red candle (Sanctuary Lamp) indicating the presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ near the Tabernacle. I sat down in the chair nearest to Him and I prayed. First, I thanked him for the miracle that I had just witnessed and then I poured out my troubles. In retrospect, I think they were quite insignificant, but not to Jesus. And he made sure that I knew he was there for me that day. And as I stated earlier, although I have had my share of doubts and worries over the years, I have been blessed with experiences that have rekindled my faith.

Now, what is the point of all this? How does all this relate to charity? Because charity is related to faith and grace. The source of charity is God’s love in creation. Creation itself is an act of immense love. We are created out of love for love. We are created by God to spread God’s love wherever we go in our own capacity. Thus Charity is the conduit of that love founded on faith. And where does it come from? God is the spark and Jesus is the fire. Once it’s kindled in you, then you have a responsibility and a personal challenge to keep that fire burning inside of you through prayer, the word of God, and the Eucharist. But rest assured that if you lose your way, Jesus will find you and make sure you know that he’s still there. And in that tremendous act of mercy and love that Jesus repeats over and over throughout our lives, charity and hope will spread in our actions toward others, and in doing so we participate in creation. This is the source of the catching force and charity, and to realize it, is a miraculous and beautiful thing.

“O Jesus, make me preach you without preaching – not by words, but by my example and by the catching force, the sympathetic influence, of what I do – by my visible resemblance to your saints, and the evident fullness of the love which my heart bears to you. Amen.” – Saint John Henry Newman

* * *

Preston Medeiros is originally from Hawaii and has been a Pauline Cooperator since September 4, 2016. He is an English teacher and a parishioner at the Archdiocesan Shrine of Saint Anne in Taguig City, Philippines. Preston is married to his wonderful wife Jarsen, and has 3 children and 3 grandchildren. He has a B.A. in History and is an avid reader of Theology. Preston is one of the first four Cooperators to make their promise in Honolulu, Hawaii.

“I NEED A LITTLE CHRISTMAS”

It’s the season to string Christmas lights, decorate the tree, plan party menus, and buy gifts at shopping centers where it’s close to impossible to find a parking space. The to-do list leading up to Christmas usually causes more stress than joy. OK. I can hear you saying, “Wait. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet!”

Start your season with the lights of Advent!
Image by Bengt Nyman, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Back in mid-September, the news was already reporting: “Only 100 days until Christmas, expect product shortages, start your shopping early.” It was reported that Christmas is “at risk” due to supply chain problems. That, coupled with all of the other issues we have been dealing with (no need to mention), I do admit that I “need a little Christmas” and something to lighten my spirit.

Thankfully, the season of Advent is only a few weeks away. What better time to prepare our hearts and focus on the true meaning of Christmas?

A lot of us may have already started to think about our Christmas “to do” list. Why not plan on how to prepare our hearts and homes during Advent in preparation for Christmas? Let’s focus more on the true meaning of the season and bring Christ back into Christmas; back into our lives.

Some easy ideas for a faith-filled Christmas “to do” list:

Children love the Advent wreath tradition.
Image by Jonathunder, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
  • Buy or make an Advent wreath – a custom in my home since my children were little. Lighting the candles each Sunday of Advent with a prayer reminds us of the very special time we are getting ready to celebrate.
  • The Nativity Scene – When setting up your manger, don’t put out baby Jesus, save Him for Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. Children love putting baby Jesus in the manger, and it is a beautiful practice before opening presents.
  • December 12 – Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (one of my favorites & the birthday of my oldest grandchild). Mary appears to be pregnant in this beautiful image. Pray a Rosary for the unborn.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas
Image by Eugenio Hansen, OFS , derived from Escudo de Guadalupe Hidalgo.svg
  • Los Posadas – a nine-day celebration from December 16 thru December 24, consisting of processions and celebrations that are widely practiced in Latin America. Posada is a word that means “inn,” or “lodge,” and recounts the search for lodging that Mary and Joseph undertook on their journey before Jesus was born.

A few years ago my small prayer group was going to celebrate an abbreviated Posada. We planned to schedule a Sunday afternoon to visit the Nativity set in each of our homes. At the last home, we would celebrate with a small festive meal. This might be a good year to finally do this

  • Watch the Nativity movie with family or friends. After viewing the movie, have a discussion to allow each person to share something new they learned about one of the characters. Participants could then share how the story impacted them or what lessons they learned. Offer a group or individual silent prayer.
Our family loves sharing the oplatek.
Photo by Diego Delso, delso.photo, License CC-BY-SA
  • Share the oplatek wafer (a Polish family favorite!) before Christmas Eve dinner. After grace, the wafer is passed around the table with each person taking a turn and extending a wish to the next person. The wafer is typically rectanglular, embossed with a Christmas scene such as the Nativity, and available in parishes, gift stores, or online.
  • A small bit of hay is placed on the dinner table as a symbol of the manger in which Jesus was laid on Christmas Eve. An extra place is set at the table in memory of a loved one.
  • Christmas Cards– Insert a holy card in each one and a personal, written greeting.
  • Give a poinsettia plant to a neighbor and include the legend of how this flower and Christmas came together: On Christmas Eve, a small child had no gift to give the Baby Jesus. When she prayed, an angel appeared and said, “Whatever you give from your heart will make Jesus happy.” So the girl picked some seeds, and as she took them to church they changed into a brilliant red bouquet of poinsettia flowers.

Yes, I do (we all do!) need a little Christmas and all of its trimmings; however, what I really need is a silent night. Lyrics from the song, “I Need a Silent Night” come to mind:

I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise.
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night.

There are many ways to put our faith into action during Advent. How are you preparing? Please share your ideas or favorite customs.

Have a prayerful & peaceful Advent Season!



Maryann Toth has been a Pauline Cooperator since 2008.  She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Richard, is the mother of two daughters, blessed with four grandchildren and semi-retired as a Credit/AR Manager.  She serves as a Eucharistic Minister and lector at her parish and volunteers at a local Catholic hospital.  Helping at book exhibits and JClub presentations are her favorite activities as a Cooperator. 

Easter’s Angel Story

On September 29 the Church celebrated the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, followed by the Feast of the Guardian Angels on October 2. In honor of these two great feasts, we are reprinting a recent article about one Pauline Cooperator’s experience of protection and favor  — from the angelic order? You be the judge.

The room is quiet and peaceful, with a faint breeze fleeting from one open door to the next. I am sewing a mask with a child whose dexterity and knowledge of the sewing machine are enough reassurance that we will finish sewing a mask. The mask is a gift for this child’s mother. To my dismay, the edges of the cloth is becoming too thick for the needle and thread to smoothly go through. 

Snap! The needle breaks!

The child is playing, with his gaze on his fingers and not on the sewing machine. I tap his lower right arm, and I point to the broken needle. He instantly presses on the pedal, with the thick broken needle left on the machine rapidly moving into the nail right in the middle of my index finger and all the way through its other end. 

Time stands still. For a few seconds I have my eyes fixated on the hole in my right index finger, with some blood on my nail and skin and on the machine. I cannot feel any pain.

Three hours later, the doctor in the urgent care orders an x-ray. As I wait for the results, I am sitting and feeling relaxed even as I look at the red hole on my nail, with some blood in the surrounding crevice. I am feeling absolutely no pain and discomfort. Barging into the waiting room with 3 x-rays on hand, the doctor says in amazement that in his many years of working with patients he has never seen anything like this incident. He cannot believe that the bone in the index finger is intact, as if the needle completely avoided it.

Entirely astonished that the needle did not go through my bones, the doctor continues to say that if it did go through my index bone, it would have been shattered to pieces. I too find myself completely astounded, especially with the fact that fingers do have many nerves and yet I am not experiencing pain. 

This may very well be another angel story of mine. I wrote months ago about how I called on my angel to help me dislodge a big piece of cloth wedged into the same sewing machine after an hour of trying to pull it myself. 

CANVA EASTERQUOTE

And now, here I am. There is a hole in the middle of my pointer, with a trace of blood yet no pain. Did my angel help to quickly pull my finger away so the needle would not go through my bone? Did I take a pain medication? My co-worker gave me one which I took right after the incident, but it would have worn off after a few hours. Five days have passed and yet there is still no pain nor are there any throbbing sensations. 

“Do not be afraid.” This is the message of the angel to St. Paul when a horrendous storm wrecked the ship he was on, despite the warning he announced not to proceed with the plan to sail (Acts of the Apostle, Chapter 27). The ship jettisoned cargoes and with bare hands the sailors threw overboard the tackle to keep the vessel afloat. This is a story in the bible that is bigger and worth telling, but the message remains the same. 

We need not be afraid to go out into world to pass on what we know or extend some form of help. Accidents, calamities, or diseases affect life. Firmly anchored in God, who is our savoir, our rock and our stronghold, and who has ever-countless ways and means of sending help where needed, including sending angels, we will emerge victorious. There is always a solution to a challenging situation. 

Paul and all passengers survived. My nail has grown with no trace of a red hole. One thing remains: God has endless possibilities of making himself and his love known. Sometimes, it is through angels.

-Easter Almuena
Easter Publications, LLC(808)227-7309

.

Easter Almuena has known the Daughters of St. Paul for over eleven years now. She made her Cooperator Promise in 2016, two years after she finished her master’s in Pastoral Theology. An author and publisher, she takes pride in being a wife to Joe, mom to five home-schooled kids and babysitter to six grandchildren. She serves alongside her husband Joe who is the deacon of the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in the Diocese of Honolulu


A Letter to My Children


My dear children,

As you scroll through the exciting Tik Toks and YouTubes, the Instagrams and the Snapchats, I would like a few minutes of your time. You have grown up at a difficult time: with social media influencing and pressuring every aspect of your lives; with Covid causing a prolonged hard stop in your educations and careers; and with having to place physical barriers and distance between you and the ones you love in order to keep everyone healthy. At the same time, you have to put up intellectual, emotional and spiritual barriers so you are not “cancelled” for what you say, or share, or give a “thumbs up” to on social media. I have anxiety for all of us, even sharing my experiences and thoughts in a letter like this; will someone find a word or a phrase they can highlight as divisive or even hateful? Great divisions exist in our world, our nation, the blue and red states in which we live; in our cities, neighborhoods, and even our own families. I would like to offer you three suggestions to help you navigate these turbulent times.

First, the WAY to approach social media is to treat it like you would a one-on-one personal conversation with another person – another human being, another child of God. We must realize that almost every person you read or hear is coming from a position of love. I know women and men who follow every extreme of political, social, and religious views, but when I know them as individuals, I understand that their motivation is love: love for their family, for their country, for God and His will as they understand it. Do not fall into the trap of believing that those who disagree with you do so because they hate you or hate others. There are those who may sound hateful in their rhetoric because they are responding to what they perceive as hate in others; the hate is a misconception on both sides and must be stopped. How do we stop it? One practical way I have found is to imagine that the author or speaker or meme-sharer is my brother or sister or child or close friend. We all have differing views, and if we give others the benefit of any doubt we may have as to the love that motivates them, hopefully they will offer us that same benefit as well.

Second, we must always keep in mind the TRUTH about the humanity of every person. I find it helps to imagine before me the individual who is at the center of any political debate. Whenever I hear about such potentially divisive issues as abortion, LGBQT+, immigration, war, and state welfare, I automatically think of Sr. Helena Burns prefacing her Theology of the Body talks with the important reminder: “We are Catholic, and we always start from a position of love.” Loving others means we approach everything from the standpoint of the individual, not the ideology. This is the standpoint of Jesus presented to us in the Gospel; this is an act of love, and the only way to TRUTH.


I realize it is not always easy to love those who advocate for positions that stand in opposition to the inherent dignity of every woman, man, and child, but the way to live that LIFE was shown to us by Jesus, and always remember that it is HE Himself who calls us to live that way. Christ instructs us: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’” (Matthew 5:43-48).

Since this passage comes from Matthew, I like to imagine myself as Matthew in Season 1, Episode 7 of “The Chosen.” If Jesus looked at me and said: “Follow me,” I hope I would respond just like Matthew. In fact, we are called to follow Jesus every day of our lives, so we should always remember to make that the center of our daily lives and decisions. It also reminds me that, like Matthew, I am a sinner undeserving of our Lord’s call, but He does not ask us to be perfect, just present – to Him and to one another. (If you have not yet seen “The Chosen,” I highly recommend that you do so!)

I know this letter is not nearly as entertaining as a hilarious TikTok or an outrageous Tweet. But amid all the confusing and even potentially frightening consequences of social media and the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic, I wanted to recall for all of us that the answer to life’s confusing difficulties is easier than it looks. The ANSWER is a person – in fact, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He came to Earth to show us the way to the Father and to true joy in this life and Eternal Life. We can and must always find our center: it is with Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life! (John 14:6).


Jeff Mathews, MD, has been a Pauline Cooperator since October 11, 2009. He serves as President of the Daughters of St. Paul Advisory Board in St. Louis. He and his wife, Carolyn, have three sons, two daughters, and a son-in-law. He is participating in and looking forward to Pauline projects in 2021, including the Biblical Year of the Pauline Family, The Daughters Project, and the increasing presence of the Daughters of St. Paul bringing Jesus to all areas of social media.

Perfect Judgement

Many people said that Rom was at his best when he was sleeping.

This article was originally published in BibleStudyCartoons.com on June 4, 2021, and is used by permission.

Our Story …

Rom had tossed and turned a lot last night. It wasn’t that he was worried about something. He wasn’t. The old guy just had a lot to think about. Rom was the kind of man who did his best thinking while he slept.

Judgment was on Rom’s mind this day, so he decided to stop by the Catholic bookstore and have a little talk with Sr. Charlie. Of course, she didn’t know everything, but that didn’t matter to Rom. It certainly seemed like she did know it all.

Rom understood that only our Lord had the authority to judge souls. And only Jesus could issue perfect judgment to anyone — and everyone. But still, if only Rom could understand how Jesus judged, maybe he would be able to mold his life so that it would be more pleasing to God.

It Is Written …

The Bible tells us that the Gospel preached by Jesus was for all nations as a testimony to all people (Matt 24:14). This Gospel was the good news of the Kingdom of God. Everyone is invited, and no one is excluded. No place on earth is bypassed either.

Everyone! Everywhere!

Jesus sent His disciples into the world with that message (Matt 28:16-20). And the successors of those disciples have been doing it too.

The Catechism tells us that believing in the Christ and in the One who sent him is necessary to obtain salvation. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. (CCC 161)

The Catechism also reminds us that faith is a personal act. It is the free response of a human person to God’s initiative of revealing Himself. Interestingly, we cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others. And by our faith, we help support the faith of others. (CCC 166)

Life Goes On …

Rom loved Jesus, and he wanted only one thing more than he wanted to go to heaven. That one thing was to be able to take his family and friends there with him.

He and his wife had long ago rethought the purpose of their marriage. These old folks had accepted the responsibility of helping each other to get there. They prayed for each other and with each other every day. They encouraged each other to be the best version of who God made them to be (SOURCE: Matthew Kelly, Dynamic Catholic). They also prayed for their adult children and grandchildren. And they even strived to be a good example of what a Christ-centered person looked like in everyday, “real life.”

Of course, Sr. Charlie came through for Rom just as she always did. She responded in truth — and with a gentle touch of humor too. Rom didn’t always catch her humor right away, but he often wondered later if the wise nun had been having fun with him.

Either way, Rom was convinced that Sr. Charlie’s wit and wisdom was a precious gift to her sisters and to all the friends who visited that Catholic bookstore in historic, old Chucktown.

COOL2B

Eventually, Rom came to the conclusion that he would just have to wait until the right moment to learn exactly how Jesus really judges us. But his struggles were not wasted. They had helped him realize something more important. An old guy or gal could completely put their trust in Jesus!

“Jesus, I trust in you! Jesus, I trust in you! Jesus, I trust in you!”

That’s our story and we’re sticking to it. It’s cool to be Catholic. COOL2B!

In Christ.

Grab your beads and a cup of joe with the media nuns!

Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry and the world renowned Daughters of Saint Paul announce a 5-week series of Saturday morning interactive prayer sessions via Facebook to prepare for the upcoming Saint Joseph Summit 2021.  Catholics everywhere are invited to join the live events as the “Media Nuns” serve up an espresso shot of prayer in honor of Saint Joseph!

The weekly Facebook Live events will begin Saturday, August 28th and take place each consecutive Saturday (August 28 and September 4, 11, 18, and 25) 10:00 a.m. PT / 1:00 p.m. ET leading up to the summit. You can access the events at the Spirit Filled Hearts Facebook page.

“The Media Nuns are a tremendous grace and gift to the Catholic Church with their profound witness of evangelization and love for Jesus Christ,” said Deacon Steve Greco, Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry president. “I invite you to join us on Saturday mornings for a special encounter of prayer. We have three Media Nuns presenting at the summit and their new work Saint Joseph Prayer Book that promotes devotion to Saint Joseph in a special Rosary by their founder Blessed Alberione, is really very special! We will pray a decade of this Rosary together, reflect, and tell you a bit about what you can expect at our summit that is coming up! What a powerful combination leading up to our summit – the prayers of the Media Nuns combined with Our Lady, Saint Joseph and Blessed James Alberione, a saint-to-be who used all forms of media to proclaim the Gospel.”

The live prayer events have been coordinated by Christin Jezak, Hollywood actress and member of the Association of Pauline Cooperators, a group of lay men and women, single or married, from all walks of life, who follow in the footsteps of Saint Paul and actively participate in the spreading of the saving message of Jesus Christ to the people of today using the most modern means of communication. Jezak is coordinating the ministry of prayer efforts on behalf of Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry for the Saint Joseph Summit. The Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry of Prayer meets weekly to intercede in prayer for the summit, presenters, attendees and the whole world. 

“As a lay cooperator of the Daughters of Saint Paul, it is my joy to fuse together the charism of the Paulines to this great undertaking of the Saint Joseph Summit taking place in the Year of Saint Joseph,” said Christin Jezak. “Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry is doing something profound in the culture of the Church to lead Catholics to a deeper devotion to Saint Joseph all by way of modern forms of communication. That is something that the founder of the Paulines would most definitely herald so the Pauline community must be present! I invite all of you in the Church – active, inactive, on fire, suffering and struggling – to come and see. Join us for these live prayer events where we will pray for you, the Church and the graces to flow through this upcoming summit.”

The upcoming massive summit dedicated to Saint Joseph in the Year of Saint Joseph (September 30 – October 3) is expected to attract thousands of Catholics from  around the world. Attendees will hear over 50 presentations from the world’s leading Catholic voices including Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley; Cardinal Timothy Dolan; Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC; Sr. Nancy Usselmann, FSP; Sr. Helena Burns, FSP; Sr. Tracey Dugas, FSP; Dr. Scott Hahn; Fr. Stan Fortuna, C.F.R.; James Wahlberg; Leah Darrow; Dr. Mark Miravalle, Jason and Crystalina Evert; Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ; Fr. Chris Alar, MIC; Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone; Archbishop Joseph Naumann;  Deacon Larry Oney, Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, Kathleen Beckman and many more. The themes of the presentations will center on Saint Joseph in relation to the family, healing and spiritual warfare. 

The unprecedented summit is themed OUR SPIRITUAL FATHER: Pilgrimage to the heart of Saint Joseph and is free for all attendees. The summit will open Thursday, September 30th and includes live healing services and the recitation of the Rosary each day. Summit attendees can upgrade to a premium “passport” for $49.99 and receive a complimentary copy of Fr. Calloway’s Consecration to Saint Joseph (ebook or audio format) as well as gain access to several bonus presentations including in depth Q and A sessions with James Wahlberg; Kathleen Beckman; Fr. Robert Spitzer and Bishop Timothy Freyer. 

Visit  www.SaintJosephSummit.com for the full list of presenters and to register. 

For more information or to interview Deacon Steve Greco or other presenters, please contact Alexis Walkenstein, PRESIDENT at AWE PR via walkensteina@gmail.com or (561)-445-5409

ABOUT THE DAUGHTERS OF SAINT PAUL:

The Daughters of Saint Paul, a Roman Catholic international religious congregation, was founded in 1915 in Italy. The congregation is part of the worldwide Pauline Family, one of the ten institutes founded by James Alberione, and operates in 51 countries around the world. For more information at the Daughters of Saint Paul visit https://daughtersofstpaul.com/our-history 

ABOUT SPIRIT FILLED HEARTS MINISTRY:

Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry is a non-profit Roman Catholic ministry headquartered in Orange County, California which engages in evangelization and supports overseas missions.  The ministry is led by a permanent deacon of the Diocese of Orange, Steve Greco, and operates with the approval of the diocesan bishop, Kevin Vann  The ministry engages in in-person and virtual events, including conferences and seminars, has a weekly Relevant Radio program, an internet radio and podcast site www.spiritfilledmedia.org and is active in social media.  Deacon Greco has authored many books on Catholic spirituality, and regularly writes columns for Catholic publications.

The Power of St Joseph: “I Know it First-Hand!”

This year with the “Year of St. Joseph,” the Church is offering us a wonderful opportunity to stop and consider St. Joseph’s role in of our lives. Do we know this faith-filled, courageous, and powerful man? Does he have a place in our lives, accompanying us amidst life’s many challenges?

I must admit, I did not until an incident I had about ten years ago. My religious community (FSP’s) would pray to him often and on various occasions, but I didn’t turn to him in a real personal way until 2011. Here’s my story….

My Aunt Janet, who was a widow with no children, lived in a retirement home in Central Florida. She asked me on several occasions to come visit her, but since my vacation time was limited and my parents were alive, I needed to visit them. After both parents passed away, I decided it was time to go visit Aunt Janet.

I arranged a trip with my brother and we both flew in to celebrate her birthday. She was elated and we had a wonderful time! About a year later, I decided to visit her again, this time alone. I booked my flight (a nonrefundable ticket of course!) and arranged to stay in the guest room at the Presbyterian Home where she lived. About two days before my trip, I received a call from Nancy, my contact and friend of Aunt Janet. “Sister, I’m sorry but there has been a mistake. There is no available room for you here. I guess you will have to throw out your ticket.” “Throw out my ticket?! Really!!”, I thought to myself. “Nuns don’t throw out their nonrefundable plane tickets- they find a place to stay!”

I frantically began making phone calls- and praying to St. Joseph! He was the provider for the Holy Family and for my community on numerous occasions, so now he was going to provide for me- on a personal level!! 

Any of you who are familiar with Central Florida know that there are very few sisters there, and with no sisters in Lakeland, FL! And no religious sisters meant no convents! (that’s where we usually stay when we are on the road.)

My next try was parishes. “St. Joseph, there must be some generous people in one of the parishes in Lakeland who could put me up for three nights! Please help me!” The clock was ticking away, and I still had no place to stay. I mentioned my dilemma to one of my sisters and she began making calls trying to help me. She had no luck either. 

“St Joseph, please help me!” I prayed. Suddenly a thought popped into my head: “why don’t you call St. Joseph’s Parish once again?” I had called this parish on the previous day with no luck, but I would try again. The same secretary answered the phone, and as she did Angela just happened to walk into the office and overheared our conversation.  “What do you mean the Presbyterian Home has no room for Sister!  They are trying to promote good relations with the Catholic Church. I will handle this!” I left my phone number with Angela, feeling a renewed sense of hope. “St Joseph, please find me a room. This is your parish that I’m calling!” The next morning Angela called me. “Sister Laura, I have a room for you at the Presbyterian Home. Their guest room is occupied but they have a vacant apartment for you! Here is what you need to do when you arrive…” And she gave me instructions.

The next day I flew to Florida, arrived safely, and was amazed to find a beautiful apartment waiting for me. It was complete with large bedroom, bath, living room and kitchen. This was way nicer than the guest room I had stayed in previously…!

At 6 pm the doorbell rang. I opened the door, and an attractive gray-haired woman was standing there with a covered dish in her hands. “Hello! You must be Sr Laura?! I’m Angela, the woman at St, Joseph’s parish. Here is your supper! And in case you are wondering, St. Joseph got you this room!” My mouth dropped open. Of course, and he wanted to make sure I knew it was him!

This was my first big experience of the goodness, the providence, and power of St. Joseph in my life… St Thomas Aquinas certainly believed in his power, too, as he wrote this impressive quote: 

“There are many saints to whom God has given the power to assist us in the necessities of life, but the power given to St. Joseph is unlimited: it extends to all our needs and all those who invoke him with confidence are sure to be heard.”

St. Joseph, pray for us!

Sr Laura Rhoderica Brown, fsp,made her first vows as a Daughter of St Paul in 1985 and made her final vows in 1991. She has been assigned to many of our communities in the US and currently lives & ministers in St. Louis. Here she coordinates parish and school exhibits, plans Book Center events and conducts the formation program for the local Pauline Cooperators. Sr. Laura has an MA in theology and participated in the Pauline Charism Course in Rome from 2008-2009.

WILL THERE EVER BE UNITY?

Common lionfish (Pterois miles) at Shaab El Erg reef in the Egyptian Red Sea by Alexander Vasenin, selected as “picture of the day” on Wikiedia Commons for July 27, 2021

A priest friend occasionally laments that, “it’s easier to create division than to create unity.” Well, in the strict sense of the word ‘create,’ only GOD can create but suffice to say his lament often seems true, and in our current times in which we live today may be seemingly even intentional on the part of some. … And not just exclusively along party lines or international affairs, in the Church or within any other group … but especially, when we are honest, within our own hearts. Wherever sin lies, division lives!

Seemingly, even JESUS Himself tells us that He has come not for peace, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division…“ (see Lk 12:49-53). JESUS of course does not ‘sow’ the seeds of division but rather recalls for us that when we follow Him there will be even those closest to us who will turn away. But if this is true, who can possibly unite us? How can we ever hold out hope? Who could possibly overcome the divisions in our hearts and in the world? Well, JESUS! And He has shown how to overcome it.

In one sense, I often think it’s amazing when we do see unity. Unity in marriages and families, within groups of friends or among employees, between organizations and even on the borders of nations is remarkable because everyone is so different, no two people are alike: not even identical twins! We have such a diversity of interests, desires, hopes, talents, physical and mental abilities, gifts and paces and yet when one sees unity it can bring an overwhelming joy: a joy that was meant to be. But alas, then I, too, look around and see that disunity does begin to overtake such an optimism, such an ideal.

As believers, as Christians, when we look around the world and see such varying degrees of division, chaos, confusion, animosity, corruption and violence, we don’t think, ‘where did this come from?’ for we know Scripture, we know the WORD of GOD, we know the history and heart of man, we especially know our own hearts. And so although we may even ‘sigh’ we do not do so without hope for we can hear again the great priestly-prayer of JESUS on the night before He was to suffer and die for us, when speaking with the Father: “I pray not only for them, but also for those who believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (Jn 17:20-21).

So, where do we begin so as not to become overwhelmed or despair about the great division in the world or even in our own hearts? What must we do to fill ourselves with lasting hope and true faith? Well, where else? The WORD of GOD (especially in this Year of the Bible for Paulines) is our first stop (or rather beginning!). Read the Bible? Read it everyday? Read it possibly in a year? Well, yes, … to all three questions.

read the bible in a year2

Many members of my family and I are enjoying very much a podcast by Fr. Mike Schmidt called, ‘The Bible in a Year’ where he literally reads through (although we’re only seven months into it) every book in the Bible based upon the work of Scripture scholar Jeff Cavins’ called ‘The Great Adventure Story of Salvation’ (see www.ascensionpress.com/ for more on this Bible Study). Fr. Mike is literally ‘reading’ us through the whole Bible, the whole story of Salvation History, and relating it to our everyday lives – not to current events – where we can both learn more about GOD and the history of His People, as well as see our own lives within the context of God’s WORD and His Plan for us … all the while falling more in Love with GOD and seeing that the Bible is not completely impossible to understand!

We have not yet gotten to St. Paul’s Letters in this podcast (and how can I write a blog for the Pauline Family without mentioning St. Paul!) but let me say that our Founder, as Blessed James himself referred to St. Paul, is all about unity: unifying and bringing about authentic community. He does this by recognizing that the only true way to unity is by virtue of the Great Commandment Christ gives us all: to ‘Love GOD and love our neighbor’ (cf. Mt 22:34-40). St. Paul speaks in many of his Letters about unity – with great passion and at a great cost of personal suffering – but most beautifully he does it when speaking about how the many Gifts of the Holy Spirit can be seen as both the parts of man’s body as well as the One True Body, the Church.

This familiar icon of ‘one body, many parts’ (see 1 Cor 12) eventually leads us not to the elimination of differences to find unity but rather through the more ‘excellent way’ (1 Cor 12:31b) of love (see 1 Cor 13) and Christian solidarity. It is truly when we begin to see every person as a brother or sister, not simply as ‘other,’ that we begin to approach the fulfillment of the Prayer of JESUS. It is rather then when we might begin to hear the inner-heart of our neighbor, listening to the ‘said and unsaid’ of the other’s story that we begin to see, as St. Paul compels us to ‘see,’ that all are children of GOD: for “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female,” but rather that we are “all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).

Yes, we all know this is not easy but this is it: the way to unity, the way to eternal life, the way to participating in the Beatific Vision of the Blessed Trinity (our ultimate goal!) is through love: loving GOD, loving self, loving neighbor (loving self often the hardest)! So can I offer a little nudging for some and a challenge for others? Read a little of the Bible every day. Many of you do already and yet the summer may be the best time to take ‘extra’ time to kickback and read more, taking the time to reflect upon what we have read and how it applies to our own daily lives, our relationships with others. Maybe take a little more time for Lectio Divina, as particular way of reflecting upon the Scripture passages we read. In anyway we choose, we will begin to experience deeper and more deeply the true steps to unity: conversion of heart, my heart. Enjoy!

(And if you want an extra challenge, sign-up for ‘The Bible in a Year’ with Fr. Mike Schmidt and stay with it!)


Fr Ed Riley_ IGS

Fr. Ed Riley was ordained to the priesthood in May 2000 for the Archdiocese of Boston. He was assigned to three different parishes in the Archdiocese from 2000-2010 before his appointment to the Faculty of Saint John’s Seminary, Boston, where he is Dean of Men and Director of Pastoral Formation. He is also the Spiritual Director & Liaison for the Archdiocese to Catholic Homeschooling Families as well as the Spiritual Director to the World Apostolate of Fatima (Boston Division). He is perpetually professed in the Institute of Jesus the Priest of the Pauline Family, an institute for diocesan priests.

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: