Praying with Saint Paul

The sisters are posting up a lovely Novena to Saint Paul, which started several days ago. You can join in now, or start from the beginning today and continue on after Saturday!

You can follow the entire novena here (click on subscribe so you receive the daily notifications), and you can also post your prayer intentions so that we can pray for you as we continue the novena!


Update on Archbishop Sheen’s Cause

This weekend I enjoyed myself so much celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi with the parish of  St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish in Somersworth, NH. Since our sisters were sharing our mission with the people at the parish, the pastor invited me to lead a couple of short meditations on the Eucharist during the Corpus Christi celebration in the afternoon. The afternoon consisted of time for adoration, Scripture readings, a procession,  three stations (in honor of the Holy Face of Jesus, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and Divine Mercy), and Benediction. I felt so blessed to be able to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi in such a beautiful way.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen (1895-1979), prolific writer who used mainstream radio and television to evangelize in the 1950s with his Emmy-award-winning “Life is Worth Living” series, is further along the road towards being declared a saint. In March, the Vatican’s medical panel officially approved the miraculous nature of the recovery of an infant who was stillborn but recovered after his parents prayed to Archbishop Sheen to heal their son. He is now a healthy three-year-old. This past week, the Vatican’s theological commission also acknowledged the miraculous recovery of the baby. Read the full story here and here.

Of course, you can find many episodes of his radio and TV shows online, as well as read his books. If you have seen favorite shows of Archbishop Sheen online, please share them in the comments below! To find out more about Archbishop Sheen’s life and cause, visit:

You can even download an app to listen to talks from Archbishop Sheen! (Some talks are free, others require payment.) The app is available on iTunes for the iPhone and on the Google Play store for Android phones.

A one-hour documentary was produced about Archbishop Sheen a couple of years ago. The trailer is below:





“Media Nuns” on Spirit Catholic Radio

Spirit-Mornings-Header-crop2Spirit Catholic Radio, which streams online and broadcasts throughout much of Nebraska, has asked me to talk about today’s blog post on tomorrow’s show. That’s Thursday, June 19, from 8:35 AM – 8:45 AM CST. If you can, tune in! I’ll be talking about my community, the Daughters of Saint Paul, and our Pauline spirituality that nurtures our media mission.

Media Nuns: Who Are the Daughters of Saint Paul?

Sr. Kathryn Hermes

Sr. Kathryn Hermes

One of the delights of my week is taking a solid chunk of creative writing time with Sister Kathryn Hermes, who manages the website. We rise, pray, and then leave for a nearby coffee shop where we hunker down for the next three or four hours, drink coffee or tea, and write. Sometimes this is my only truly creative writing time for the week, and it’s definitely the most uninterrupted time. Occasionally we exchange greetings with others who come in for a cup of tea or coffee; usually they stop to ask us for prayers. I love writing in the midst of the very people whom I’m hoping will read what I write.

Last week while Sr. Kathryn and I were out together, a woman stopped and said in a surprised tone, “I’ve never seen a nun with a laptop before!” (Those who know me well will laugh at this! The laptop that I use is practically another limb, because I take it everywhere with me.) Since the woman was so taken aback,  I explained that I was a Daughter of Saint Paul and that our mission is to communicate Christ with our lives and all forms of media. She seemed to want more of an explanation, so I tried to capture in a sentence what I do and how it connects to our mission. I failed miserably, as that’s too hard to do in one sentence.

We are preparing to celebrate June 15, 2015 as the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Daughters of Saint Paul. To “kick off” the centenary year on this blog, I thought I would return to my initial inspiration for Windows to the Soul and share with you a little about how Pauline religious life, writing, media, Eucharistic adoration, and Saint Paul all fit together so wonderfully in my life. For me, several phrases really “capture” what life means for me as a Daughter of Saint Paul, and I’d like to share these over the next few weeks.

A Daughter of Saint Paul contemplates the longing of humanity that drives us to go to the mall.

A Daughter of Saint Paul contemplates the longing of humanity that drives so many to the mall.

Contemplatives in action:
“Listening to the heart of the world with the heart of God”

Religious life–with its single-minded focus on God through the vows, and significant daily prayer–makes us Daughters of Saint Paul “tune in” to the media culture in a special way. My three hours of prayer each day allow me to bring the light, joy, and depth of my relationship with Jesus into my daily life…including the people I meet and the media I use. Every Daughter of Saint Paul is called to be a contemplative in action: to see every aspect of our lives with the “lens” of the Gospel. Without spending that loving time of adoration each day, I would never have written the books that I’ve written, and perhaps I never would have been inspired to create this blog.

In Windows to the Soul, I try to see each film, book, website, song, or app as a window to the soul–both of its maker/producer/writer, and of our culture as a whole. Media are not created in a vacuum. What are the beauties and gifts to discover in the latest popular novel? What are the limitations, longings, emptiness, or sinfulness that humanity struggles with today as revealed in the top-grossing film? Only in really getting to know others am I able to offer a perspective that may allow them to draw closer to Christ. Our Founder called it “reading the signs of the times.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEucharistic adoration, a prayer that focuses on Jesus-with-us, offers a unique perspective. In the Eucharist, Jesus walks with us on our journey, just as a Daughter of Saint Paul is called to walk with humanity. Under the form of bread and wine, Jesus offers us astounding proof of his love. Using the forms of words, image, light, music, and movement, the Daughters of Saint Paul offer to the world proof of God’s love for humanity, and an invitation to respond to that great love.

Before I start writing any project, I always bring it to prayer. The bigger the project, the more prayer time it gets. I’m not praying so much for the project itself as for the people who will see and listen to it, and for myself that I am open to God’s inspiration (which usually comes in the form of a whisper that I need to be really quiet to hear). When I’m deeply immersed in writing something, my interior resistance falls away and the writing itself becomes a prayer.

Every Daughter of Saint Paul seems to be passionate about communicating Christ. Some of the creative sisters that I’m surrounded with: Sr. Maria Kim Bui tweets; Sr. Rose Pacatte reviews films; Sr. Helena Raphael Burns is making a film and gives TOB talks (in-between watching hockey games, which is one way she gains followers on twitter); Sr. Anne Joan Flanagan tweets haikus on the day’s Gospel reading; and dozens of Daughters of Saint Paul are eager to help you find the resource to help you to grow in your faith at one of our Pauline Book & Media Centers.  (Next time, I’ll blog about the New Evangelization and the mission of the Daughters of Saint Paul.)

Quick Facts About the Daughters of St. Paul

Founded: June 15, 1915 by Blessed James Alberione and Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo
Mission: To communicate Christ through our lives and all forms of media; evangelizing with the media.
Spirituality: Pauline, based on Saint Paul’s motto, “For me to live is Christ”; shared with the other nine institutes of the Pauline Family
How many & where: About 2400 Daughters of Saint Paul in 52 countries
In the USA & Canada: About 120 Daughters of Saint Paul in 14 communities
Founded in the US: June 28, 1932 by Mother Paula Cordero
Lay Associates: the Pauline Cooperators
Marian devotion: Mary, Queen of Apostles
Patron saint: Saint Paul

Key elements of the Pauline Charism

  • Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life in the Eucharist
  • Eucharistic adoration
  • the Word of God
  • evangelization
  • Pauline; to be Saint Paul living today
  • technology at the service of the Gospel
  • Galatians 2:20, Philippians 1:21, and John 14:6


Living “in the Trinity”

MotherTheclaQuote_01Today starts our centenary celebration for the hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the Daughters of Saint Paul on June 15, 2015! How appropriate that a congregation whose spirituality is founded on the ultimate communication–communion–found in the Most Holy Trinity should begin its celebration on the feast of the Most Blessed Trinity. I posted a short post on how the Holy Trinity is the foundation for our communications spirituality here.

The event from which we date the beginning of the Daughters of Saint Paul is the meeting of our founder, Blessed James Alberione, with our co-Foundress, Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo. I haven’t written very much about Mother Thecla because I haven’t had access to her writings in the same way as those of our Founder. But this year, as we have reflected more on her life and have read some new translations of her personal writings, I was amazed to discover how much Mother Thecla prays to the Blessed Trinity.

Here are a few of her beautiful, personal reflections. (For more, visit our new webpages dedicated to her.):

“It is Jesus who lives in me, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. To remain united to the Divine Master.”
“Holiness–I want it! To live the Trinitarian life like Mary most holy. To trust the heavenly Father; to love his Son, who came to save me; to rely on the grace of the Holy Spirit. The heavenly Father is always close to me, within me, thinking about me and providing for everything. Jesus is with me; the Holy Spirit sanctifies me. To live in union with the three divine Persons.”
“To think often that the most Holy Trinity is within me. Adoration, union, recollection…and…to keep such distinguished guests company.”
“The Trinity is my family.”

So often for the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, I focus on the theological mystery. Instead, Mother Thecla goes right through the mystery and focuses on what’s most important–her relationship with the Trinity! Absolute confidence in the Father, living in the love of Jesus Master, counting on the gift of love of the Holy Spirit to open her further to the action of the Holy Trinity in her life: this is how she describes her relationship with God. What a model for us as communicators today!


Happy Feast of Mary, Queen of Apostles

QueenofApostles SmallerHappy Feast of Mary, Queen of Apostles!

Today is a beautiful reminder for Catholic artists how Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is the best communicator of Jesus. Mary’s few words  in the Gospels are simple and eloquent, leading us directly to Jesus. “Do whatever he tells you,” is a beautiful example of how every word and action of Mary points us to Jesus. But Mary’s example is even more powerful than her words. She is the ultimate model for an evangelizer through her witness of life: Mary’s entire life is a portal to Jesus  for others. Mary “proclaimed” Jesus through her life, actions, words, canticle of praise, silence. And Mary continues to be a portal to Jesus from heaven.

In his meditations on Mary, our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, specifically honors Mary as Queen of Apostles. (Blessed James not only gave the Pauline Family this particular devotion to Mary, he named one of our sister-congregations after her.) In one of these meditations, he describes the “apostolates” that we are all called to, in order of urgency:

1) Interior life–in other words, working for our sanctification

2) Prayer

3) Witness

4) Suffering

5) Word

6) Action (all active apostolates)

Mary lived all of these aspects of being an apostle. She was present not only at the beginning of Jesus’ mission, at the wedding feast of Cana, but she was also present at the beginning of the Church’s mission, gathered in the upper room, praying with the disciples at Pentecost.

With Mary in mind, Alberione goes on to describe what a real apostle is:

  An apostle is one who bears God within and radiates him everywhere. An apostle is a holy person who stores up treasures and bestows the surplus on others. An apostle has a heart filled with love for God and for people; she cannot restrain or repress what she feels and thinks. An apostle is a vessel of election that overflows, and to whom people rush to slake their thirst. An apostle is a temple of the Blessed Trinity, which is at work in her at full power. An apostle is a person who exudes God from all her pores: through her words, works, prayers, gestures, attitude…  Inhale God! Exhale God!

This “inhaling and exhaling” of God–that our relationship with God is our very life’s breath–is what it means to be an apostle. And Mary can show us how. I love how St. John Paul II called Mary the Star of the New Evangelization. We certainly need a  model for all our communication…but often, we need a reminder of where our “apostleship” begins–where all our communication starts: in our hearts.

To Mary, Queen of Apostles
by Blessed James Alberione

I thank you, merciful Jesus, for having given us Mary as our Mother. And I thank you, Mary for having given to the world the Divine Master, Jesus, Way and Truth and Life, and for having accepted us all as your children on Calvary. Your mission is united to that of Jesus, who “came to seek those who were lost.” Therefore, oppressed by my sins, faults, and negligence, I take refuge in you, Mother, as my supreme hope. Turn your eyes of mercy toward me. Bestow your most maternal care on this, your most needy child.I place all my trust in you for pardon, conversion and sanctity. Form a new class among your children, that of the most needy: those in whom sin has taken root, where formerly there abounded grace. This will be the class that will most move you to pity. Receive my poor soul into this class. Work a great wonder by changing a great sinner into an apostle. It will be an unheard-of-wonder, and a new glory for your Son, Jesus, and for you, his and my Mother. I hope to receive everything from your heart, Mother, Teacher and Queen of the Apostles. Amen.

* * *

A last note: I was unable to preview the film, The Fault in Our Stars, opening this weekend. But for those who are interested, I would like encourage you to check out Sr. Rose Pacatte’s reflective, well-balanced review here.


If You Haven’t Seen It: Gimme Shelter is worth watching

A number of pro-life feature films have been made in recent years, covering life issues such as abortion, euthanasia, genocide, and human trafficking. These films vary greatly in quality, ranging from thinly-disguised sermons to corny fables to deeply moving tear-jerkers.

Because abortion has been legal  in North America for over forty years, feature films that realistically deal with abortion have a particular urgency to challenge the mainstream attitudes towards abortion. But movies about this topic face special challenges as well. A well-done, pro-life film that handles the issue of abortion must:

  • be true to life but presented in an original way
  • address a difficult, demanding topic
  • make the subject and story accessible to a wide audience, avoiding preachiness or being a “message movie”

My favorite pro-life film so far was not probably not intended to be pro-life. Oscar-winner Juno is a powerful movie about a young woman who learns about love, life, procreation, and motherhood backwards. The scene where Juno visits to the abortion clinic is one of the most powerful pro-life scenes ever filmed.

Although not as successfully as Juno, the recently-released-to-DVD Gimme Shelter stands up to these challenges too.  In particular, the film’s strong  performances and realistic perspective gives this film an honesty that even Juno lacks.

SaltandLightheader_920x105_a2I reviewed Gimme Shelter back in January to encourage people to attend its limited theatrical release. Because it’s now available on DVD, iTunes and amazon, I want to bring it back to the attention of those who haven’t seen it yet. My previously-posted review is below, and I also spoke on Salt + Light Radio this week about the film. 


GimmeShelterPosterLargerBased on the true stories of several homeless teenagers, Gimme Shelter focuses on Apple Bailey, who at sixteen years old works up the courage to leave her addicted, abusive mother, but ends up on the street pregnant and homeless.

Director Ronald Krauss gives us a film that is not meant to make us comfortable, bravely taking us beyond predictable “Hollywood” choices. Gimme Shelter demands a lot of its audience with its realism, extreme close-ups, intense emotional scenes, and unrelenting honesty. In return, we are rewarded with a film that draws us immediately into the depths of what it might really be like to be a pregnant teen who finds herself on the streets. The filming and acting is superb and includes the convincing, often understated performances of Vanessa Hudgens, Brendan Fraser, Rosario Dawson, and James Earl Jones.

The film is powerful yet restrained enough that younger teens who are mature enough will greatly benefit from seeing it. The theme of honoring life is beautifully portrayed throughout the film, as well as exploring the meaning of family (even when it’s broken), finding family outside of one’s own home, and the importance of outreach and ministries such as Several Sources Shelters, whose founder, Kathy DiFiore is compellingly portrayed by Ann Dowd.

I rejoiced in the many details of being Catholic that this film gets right—and without preaching! To me, the film feels a bit heavy due to the subject matter, but it’s far from preachy. While in some ways Gimme Shelter could be considered a borderline “message movie” because of its many powerful, life- and family-affirming themes, it uses the power of film artistically to draw us in close to Apple’s experience. This is not your typical Christian “message movie” that we need to cringe at the artistry…goes beyond that.

Gimme Shelter isn’t a perfect film. I would have appreciated a protagonist with a better defined character arc, and tighter dialogue that has more subtext. But Gimme Shelter negotiates its challenges in more than adequate way, offering an insightful story that rewards and enriches on both a human and spiritual level. You don’t need to be pro-life to enjoy this film—it’s a beautiful and powerful testament to a mother’s love. And it’s not so gritty that it limits its audience: a mature 11 or 12 year-old could get a lot out of this film.

Seeing and sharing this movie with others is one way that we as Catholics can promote Gospel and human values, building up a civilization of love.

What other pro-life movies would you recommend? Here’s a list from Students for Life.



Inspiring Nun Stories–Daughters of St. Paul Around the Globe!

WhoWeAre_Welcome_Banner1_2_2While I’m getting back from a week mostly offline, here are a couple of inspiring reads/videos that I’ve enjoyed about or from sisters in my community, the Daughters of St. Paul. As we are approaching our 100th anniversary of foundation of the Pauline Family (August 20, 2014) and the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Daughters of Saint Paul (June 15, 2015),  it’s really exciting for me to share stories of our sisters from around the continent and the world!

Yesterday’s A Good Catholic Life Radio Show centered around the Pauline Family and the ten institutes who make it up. You can join us in celebrating our centenary by listening in!

“The Voice of Constant Motion”  is an inspiring article about Daughter of Saint Paul Sister Anne Kiragu, a missionary in Juba, South Sudan, and how she seeks to help bring peace to the lives of those torn by war and violence–through the radio, her words, her outreach to refugees, and helping people to find hope.

Sr. Rose Pacatte is a prolific Daughter of Saint Paul as an author, film reviewer, and director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Los Angeles.  In March, she received the Daniel J. Kane Award from the University of Dayton. Her acceptance speech  is a beautiful reflection on her journey of becoming an always better communicator of Christ:

“Sr. Helena Is on a Media Mission” is a fun article recently posted up by NBC News Online about media nun Sr. Helena Raphael Burns, who has 15,000+ Twitter followers, is making a documentary film about Blessed James Alberione, and whose Twitter tagline is: “media nun tweets God.” (And she also shares her love of hockey in her tweets.)

“Go Tweet It on the Mountain” offers ideas and insights about using Twitter to share our faith in Christ. (And yes, the writer joined Twitter because of Daughter of Saint Paul Sr. Anne Joan Flanagan’s inspiring tweets! Sr. Anne @nunblogger tweets a daily haiku from the Gospel of the day.)

Finally, Daughter of St. Paul Leads Life of Peace and Quiet Bravery is a recent article about Sr. Evangelina Canag, a Daughter of Saint Paul in the Philippines whom I have been privileged to meet and speak with when I visited our sisters in Manila.


#True Encounter Challenge

ImageWe celebrate World Communications Day 2014 next Sunday, June 1st–the feast of Pentecost.

Pope Francis wrote a beautiful message for the day–if you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to. My original January 24th blogpost highlights my favorite quote from his message: Pope Francis Shows Us the “How” of True Communication.

The folks at in Australia are partnering up with Catholic Talk for a very special initiative: they are challenging us to use social media (Twitter, Facebook) as a way to have a true encounter of love with someone: #TrueEncounter. For their full reflection, visit:

I invite you to join in–whether you use social media or not. To intentionally communicate lovingly with someone you know is the best way I can think of to celebrate World Communications Day!