a conversation between faith, culture, and the church

kazuend cherry blossoms

Whenever a community receives the message of salvation, the Holy Spirit enriches its culture with the transforming power of the Gospel. …In the Christian customs of an evangelized people, the Holy Spirit adorns the Church, showing her new aspects of revelation and giving her a new face.

—Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 116


Image: detail of a photo by Kazuend

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love is faithful, and yet it is also completely unpredictable

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This past week my religious congregation, the Daughters of St. Paul, officially closed the centenary year of our foundation. We are one of ten religious institutes of the Pauline Family all founded in the the Twentieth century by Blessed James Alberione (1884-1971). What started as an experience of enlightenment from the Eucharistic Lord during a night of prayer in 1900, grew to a family of religious and consecrated persons dedicated to using the new means of communication and apostolate to proclaim Christ Jesus. Today our institutes make sense, but in those first decades, Alberione’s vision of “writers, technicians, and evangelizers, who were also men and women religious” [1] seemed quite radical.

Tecla-0022Our co founder Venerable Thecla Merlo (1894-1964; seated to the left) along with the first sisters drew the ire of some and the ridicule of others for behavior that was audacious for women to undertake in the 1920s—behavior that was deemed completely unsuitable for women religious at that time. In the early days we wrote diocesan newspaper columns, ran printing presses, sewed books together (literally), and then sold them door-to-door and in bookshops. Was it novel? For the times, yes. Was it faithful to tradition? Yes. Was it an undertaking inspired by deep love? Absolutely! Our first sisters were responding a need of their time, which continues to have relevance today. And yet even within our community the pull to remain faithful to the charism means that  we have had to shift our initial self-understanding from being apostles of the good press to being evangelizers in the world of communications media.

The whole long history of religious life in the Church is a story of communities of disciples responding in love to the needs of their time and place. Did Anthony of Egypt think he was doing something new when he decamped to the desert? Who knows! In a sense he was innovating, and yet in another sense he was searching for that completely self-outpouring response to the Gospel which he believed that the Church had lost in a post Edict of Milan Empire where asking for baptism was becoming politically expedient, and martyrdom was less and less likely. I think of the many attempts to found groups of religious women that were not bound by cloister. Was Jane Frances de Chantal attempting something new? Yes as far as the ecclesiastical authorities were concerned; no in terms of fidelity to the Church’s commitment to the works of mercy.

Love is faithful, and yet it is also completely unpredictable. Love is the foundation of all that is true and good, and at the same time deep love is profoundly unsettling.

Love communicates. In the face of new circumstances, love finds a way to keep on loving.

“Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining” —1 John 2:7-8

 

[1] James Alberione, Abundantes Divitiae: Charismatic History of the Pauline Family, 45


Photo credits: MediaApostle.com and Daughters of St. Paul archives

the love that moves me to speak

Aaron Burden Bible Study Write

The driving force behind God’s giving human beings his ineffable gift of the Holy Scripture was love: Deus qui amas animas (cf. Wis 11:26). This same love must be the driving force behind the apostle’s writing: “It was love that moved me to speak.” Love of God makes God become the hub of one’s being…

Awash with this love, endowed with the right intention, strengthened by prayer, and steeped in Scripture, the apostle will be able to take up the editorial task confident that his or her writings, like the holy book, will succeed in being light, guide, and support for people; or, in other words, be for them, way, truth, and life.

—Bl James Alberione, The Publishing Apostolate, 166-167

 


Photo credit: Aaron Burden

conversion—grace at work in the community

Baptism_of_St_Paul_-_Capela_Palatina_-_Palermo_-_Italy_2015

The Lord said to Ananias, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying. …Go for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel.”

—Acts 9:11,15

The Acts of the Apostles narrates the conversion of St. Paul three separate times (in chapters 9, 22, and 26), which means that it is more than just an interesting story. Saul’s conversion had a huge impact on the early church, and the writer of the Acts of the Apostles wanted everyone to hear this story several times so that the message would sink in. This conversion story still has a huge impact on us today. Among other things it tells us that reaching out beyond our comfort zone is what Christians are called to do. It highlights the primacy of God’s grace in our lives, and at the same it showcases the fact that grace works through the members of the community.

When Ananias worked up the nerve to follow God’s instructions to go to the house of Judas and ask for Saul of Tarsus, he reached out to someone who until a few hours before posed a real threat to Ananias and his fellow Christians. At the same time, this Jew born and raised in the Roman city of Tarsus, educated in Jerusalem, was a real catch for the Christian community. Because of his background and education, Saul was perfectly positioned to bridge the cultural divides present in the first century Mediterranean world. Without losing his Jewish identity, Saul became a Christian and took the name Paul. He answered the summons to preach Jesus Christ “before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel.” But all of that would not have happened if Ananias had not been in an attentive conversation with the Lord in prayer. Each conversation with God in prayer, and each conversation we have with others about God, is an opportunity for grace to build bridges between us.

Saul’s conversion came about because God intervened powerfully in his life. But it was not a simple matter between Jesus and Paul. God’s grace involved Ananias and the other disciples in Damascus; and then it involved Timothy, Titus, Priscilla and Aquila, and countless others. God’s grace sparks a conversation that spans generations until it reaches us. It is a conversation that changes hearts and lives.


Photo: Baptism of St. Paul, Capella Palatina, Palermo Italy (cropped)  © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro  / CC-BY-SA-4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

it’s not enough to get the story

Tobias Negele Bridge Keys FL

… it’s not enough to get the story, but it’s also important to figure out how to make it compelling.

Right now, one of the problems is that there’s a lot of information out there that is technically available but it’s not absorbed by people who aren’t interested in these issues.

We tend to preach to the choir. I think our most fundamental challenge in journalism, especially those of us who want to have an impact is to preach beyond the choir and reach people who might disagree with us, might be challenged by our views and that’s a complicated answer that involves images, video and great story-telling and it’s hard, but it is so important.

Nicholas Kristof

 

Photo credit: Tobias Negele

communication & evangelization

AmadorLoureiroType

When these means of communication are used for evangelization they receive a consecration, they are ennobled. The writer’s office, the printing room, the book center become church and pulpit.

—Bl James Alberione, UPS, I 316

 

Photo credit: Amador Loureiro

introductions

Hello I’m Sean.

@srseanm on WordPress, Twitter, and Instagram.

I’m a member of the North American province of the Daughters of St. Paul, a group of religious sisters who work with the media. On various social media sites my sisters and I use the hashtag #MediaNun. (So I’m a bit cheeky in swiping that phrase for my blog address.)

My mission-field right now is in the heart of the city – New York City to be exact. I’m the local superior of our convent here, and I work in our Pauline Book and Media book store in midtown. It’s an adventure!

Why this blog?

The Good News is just that—good news. God’s grand story of salvation makes a difference in life. In a sense, the experience of faith is a conversation we have with God and about God. And like all good conversations, it often takes place in the context of a meal. So here’s to good news, good food, and good conversation!