Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
Seems entirely fitting that on the day following our remembrance of the Conversion of St. Paul and the close of the Year of St. Paul, we should be remembering two of his loyal disciples, Timothy and Titus. Isn't it amazing to think that within so few years after the death of Jesus Paul should be able to exercise so much influence? To think of the loyalty to his person he was able to engender and, even more, the absolute attachment to the person of Jesus Christ in his followers. This is even more breath taking. He had the Madison Avenue advertizing executive's power to persuade without modern trappings, media or dreadful jingles! It seems he was chosen by God expressly for the message. What exciting times those must have been!
But in my breviary, appears a small, simple penciled note next to the names of Timothy and Titus. It just says, "St. Paula." This was noted because one of our sisters bears her name. Now Sr. Paula's names and feasts are rather convoluted because her name in religion was Sr. Mary Peter and she returned to using her baptismal name, Paula, many years ago. The feast of Sts. Peter and Paul seems to suit her these days. But it is good to remember St. Paula too.
What I have learned about Paula comes chiefly from a marvelous book by Patricia Ranft. The following comes from Macmillan Publisher's website.
Patricia Ranft, Professor of History, emerita, at Central Michigan University, is the author of numerous studies on religious, intellectual and women’s history. Her books include Women and the Religious Life in Premodern Europe (1996), a History Book Club selection; Women and Spiritual Equality in Christian Tradition (1998); A Woman’s Way: The Forgotten History of Women Spiritual Directors (2000); and Women in Western Intellectual Culture, 600-1500 (2002), all published by Palgrave Macmillan. With this current study she returns to her earlier interest in the medieval religious renewal movement, about which she published some dozen articles.
In writing about Paula, Ranft quotes extensively from St. Jerome. Now Jerome has a reputation for being somewhat of a curmedgeon, to say the least. But, it turns out that some of his best friends, supporters and intelectual partners were women. One third of his surviving letters were written to women. He met Paula and her circle of influential and holy women friends in Rome. She and her daughter followed him to the Holy Land. Later she founded monasteries, mastered Hebrew and continued to assist Jerome. He wrote, "If all the members of my body were to be converted into tongues, and if each of my limbs were to be gifted with a human voice, I could still do not justice to the virtues of the holy and venerable Paula." He praise her as a mother, scholar of Holy Scripture, linguist, and advisor. The great variety of her roles is particularly attractive to this contemplative nun who has her own checkered past as wife, mother, scholar and now nun. What a model she provides.
It is no wonder that Professor Ranft includes Paula in the ranks of female spiritual directors of note. Her book is a fascinating and informative corrective to many erroneous notions about the influence and contribution of women through the ages of both secular and religious history.
More about spiritual directors will come on another day.
HAPPY FEAST DAY to all named Paula loving and serving God as wives, mothers, teachers, scholars, advisors AND spiritual directors.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
God's Love Tears Through the Heavens
Since the end of last summer we have had the blessing of the presence of a new priest at Mt. St. Alphonsus Pastoral Center - the large former seminary building with which we share this property. Father Thomas Deeley, CSsR, former missionary in the Caribbean, who spent the last ten years ministering in the South Bronx, is finding new ways to promote the Redemptorist mission in our local community, among the growing Hispanic population in our area, and for us contemplative nun in Mother of Perpetual Help Monastery. His homilies are a blessing and very creative. With his permission I am going to be using his material on occasion.
Last Sunday we entered chapel to find paper doves like the one here scattered on the carpet in front of the altar. Later, each of us present was invited to take one to us for our meditation. Here is part of Fr. Tom's homily:
The heavens were torn open... When we pray we are trying to tear open the heavens. We reach toward God and know that God is reaching toward us and speaking with us as much as he does today during Jesus' baptism, saying "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."
God has torn open the heavens and sent Jesus to us. God has torn open the heavens to send the Holy Spirit over and upon Jesus and the Church. God invites us to know and see him tearing open the heavens to be with us, to forgive us, to speak to us, nourish us and then send us to be his witnesses.
In prayer we literally tear open the heavens as we ask God to make us more conscious of his love for us, more grateful for his love of us. When we evangelize others we are inviting them to also tear open the heavens to plead with God to bless them, to make them free and strong and generous in living the Gospel of Jesus.
When we are born again in Baptism the life of Christ happens within us. We love, we forgive, we heal, we reconcile. We see peace and justice. We do not live ever in fear...but in HOPE. We have overcome the world when we are born again. The world here always means forces that are against God's love and God's plan. They are the 'anti-Kingdom' works. From these forces of death we near to tear ourselves away. God's love and salvation are tearing through the heavens as in the Creation. God's love has literally torn through the heavens to get to us.
Friday, January 02, 2009
All religious communities but especially contemplative monastic ones have long held traditions preserved and continued because they effusively refocus lives to settle again, even more deliberately, on what is central to our way of life. St. Gerard Majella
One of our customs is to receive by random selection a Patron, Title of Mary, Prayer Intention and Spiritual Practice for spiritual emphasis for the new year. In a sort of 'Holy Spirit Lottery' I received:
St. Gerard Majella for Patron
The Redemptorist General Chapter 2009 for Prayer Intention
Mystical Rose for Title of Mary
The following excerpt from our Rule as Spiritual Practice:
41. Our Vocation of prayer in the Church is to live-out the unceasing prayer of Christ and to make our own this essential element of His redemptive mission. That is why we must live in a climate of intimacy with the Lord and of silent intercession for the salvation of the world.
I am afraid I must admit that I have yet to develop a relationship with St. Gerard, the most well-known of Redemptorist saints. He was a brother in the congregation during the lifetime of St. Alphonsus. He was very fond of our foundress Mother Maria Celeste Crostarosa and sought permission from Alphonsus to visit her at her monastery in Foggia. When she died he said he had seen her soul fly to heaven. Although he is most famous today as the patron of expectant mothers, his intercession is sought for all kinds of needs and intentions. I guess this is the year for me to get to know him better.
The title of Mystical Rose for our Blessed Mother reminds me of the Christmas carol Lo How a Rose Ere Blooming, a long time favorite of mine. "It came a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter" says the song. All of us experience days of dark and cold, an image I get from the carol, yet we are told that in such conditions a rose did bloom. That is the miracle I must ponder.
It will require no great effort to pray for the Redemptorist General Chapter. Our brother Redemptorists are so generous to us that we cannot help but be interested in and try to support in prayer all of their missions and activities. These are critical days for all religious congregations so we invoke the guidance of the Holy Spirit to work powerfully during their deliberations.
The practice of unceasing prayer and the cultivation of silent intimacy with the Lord requires daily dedication and commitment. If one does not believe in the power of intercessory prayer than one cannot comprehend at all the meaning and importance of the contemplative vocation. This is our life.