Gems from the Catholic Writers Conference Online 2017

cwglogoThe Catholic Writers Guild’s Online Conference—just held this past weekend—is a fantastic conference for Catholic writers who are just starting to write, writers who are seeking to publish or are publishing their work for the first time, and for established authors who want the companionship of a like-minded writing community that offers spiritual support (as well as writing support), or for those writers who simply want to explore or deepen the connection between their writing and their life of faith.

This year, my schedule allowed me to participate in only five of the workshops—and I missed three that I really wanted to attend—but I have to confess that I really enjoyed connecting with other writers.

Just a few takeaways:

  • Colleen C. Mitchell’s amazing workshop on integrating our writing with our everyday life, especially her personal witness of how she keeps writing during challenging times. Her witness inspires me.
  • How Terri Ong’s presentation connected St. Therese of Lisieux’s “Little Way”  with the writing life. If you’ve read much of this blog, you know that, for me, St. Therese articulates Saint Paul’s spirituality in a contemporary, accessible way. More and more, I see how essential the humility and obedience to the Holy Spirit are to the believer’s ability to respond to their call to write. The Founder of my community, Blessed James Alberione, encouraged us to pray these words often—and now I start every writing session with them: “By myself I can do nothing, but with God I can do all things. For the love of God, I want to do all things. To God, honor and glory; to me, the eternal reward.”
  • Although I have read dozens of writing books, published 7 books, and been studying writing craft for over 15 years, I can always learn something new. I learned a new way to improve the manuscript that I hand in to my editor and some ways to fix problems in developing a scene. But the best part? Connecting with other writers who consider writing a call from God, and a way to serve God’s People. Plus, I was delighted to be able to volunteer to moderate some of the workshops, and so contribute a little back to this lovely writing community.
  • Finally, I was reminded how important writing is to me. For a number of reasons, I have had to put writing on hold—at least, the “deep writing” that I feel called to do. These reasons included transition, a different schedule, new responsibilities, and my preoccupation with several difficult circumstances. The precious gem I received from this conference is a deeper insight into how much “deep writing” energizes me and assists me in doing other important apostolates that I carry out. No matter how busy I am, I cannot completely put it aside any more. I’m eager to find ways to write deeply again—even if it is just 20 minutes a day. 

A profound thank you to the Catholic Writers Guild, and all of those who worked so hard to bless dedicated, hard-working Catholic writers the training, tips, and encouragement we need to continue writing.

Christ as Our Way of Communicating

slide1

This week, we Paulines are praying the Novena to Jesus Divine Master. (The Pauline Feastday this year is Sunday, October 30th.) It is a beautiful, Scripturally-based novena in which we contemplate Jesus as Master, Teacher and Guide. Jesus is our way in everything, including how we communicate. Blessed James Alberione shared a beautiful reflection on how we are called to learn to communicate as Jesus did:

How did Christ communicate?

[Jesus] spoke in a simple and clear way even when he was teaching lofty doctrine. He adapted his teaching to the needs of every audience. The Gospel notes that he knew 
what was in every person (cf. Jn 2:25). He adapted himself to fishermen and shepherds, to those from Galilee and those from Judea, to the Pharisees, to his disciples, 
and to his opponents. How different is his conversation with the Samaritan woman from that with Nicodemus, who came by night! How different his teaching to the crowds from that given to the close circle of apostles! Yet it was always a question of the message of salvation.

He wanted his disciples to work in the same way.

The apostle [communicator], in fact, is not some great thinker who proposes his or her own conclusions, or has to defend his or her own teachings….. 
The apostle is a witness of what he or she has seen and heard from the Divine Master and from the Church in which [Christ] continues to live, teach, and guide.

What an immense privilege: to follow the Divine Master and cooperate with Jesus Christ in proclaiming his message of light, grace, and salvation.
-Blessed James Alberione

 

Quiet Success

perfectcommunicatorquot

Our very first weekend Clay Pots Retreat for writers, artists, and media professionals was a “quiet” success! (During the 30-hour retreat–with an additional optional Friday evening–we had 19 hours of silence.) According to the retreatants, the combination of conferences, quiet prayer time, spiritual direction, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the celebration of the Eucharist, all made for an “awesome experience.” According to another retreatant, “The retreat was a great space for deepening relationship with God, understanding our role as evangelizers in media, and discovering and overcoming spiritual blockages/obstacles.”

For me, this retreat was an experience of communion, with the sisters on the retreat team and the retreatants. Working with the retreat team was a really beautiful experience of putting all our energies together for the sake of the spread of the Gospel and feeling together the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I also felt really  “at one” with the retreatants. We share so many of the same struggles: keeping up with the newest media and using them effectively with young people. We also share similar desires for deepening, for renewal in Christ, for responding to the call of Christ to evangelize; and we share similar challenges in overextending ourselves, fragmentation, facing “burnout,” and the need to discern God’s invitations to us in a daily basis.

My focus for the weekend was communication spirituality, with my presentation helping us to focus on Christ, the Perfect Communicator. 

Sr. Michael and I tried to tweet a few of the conferences. Here are a couple of my favorites:

We hope to have another retreat for media artists, writers, catechists, and people in ministry. Let me know if you’d like to be informed about upcoming retreats!

Retreat Invitation to Artists, Writers & Communicators

ChristLivesinMeAs Catholic communicators, you have the awesome call to communicate the beauty of the Gospel. It’s a demanding call: you are busy, with too much to do, too little resources, and your creativity stretched to its limits.

When is the last time you could “tune out” the noise and “tune in” to God?

Save the dates for this retreat especially designed for your needs as a Catholic artist!

Saturday, Oct. 8—Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016

For more info or to register, visit: www.pauline.org/retreat

The Daughters of Saint Paul (aka #MediaNuns), a congregation of women religious dedicated to living and communicating Christ through the media, are offering a special retreat for those who breathe, live, and work in our media- saturated world: writers, graphic designers, artists, marketers, actors, musicians, producers, editors, etc.
Clay Pots: Finding the Treasure, Communicating the Glory invites us to nurture our contemplation of the Treasure within our flawed clay pots, and revitalize how we communicate God’s Glory in a compelling way.

WHERE: St. Thecla’s Retreat House, Billerica, MA

WHEN: 8:00 AM Sat., Oct. 8th – 12:00 PM on Sun., Oct. 9th

A weekend retreat to refresh the artist’s soul, with opportunities for Eucharistic prayer (Mass and adoration), the Sacrament of Reconciliation, silence, spiritual conversation, and conferences on spirituality specifically directed towards artists and media professionals. Conference themes include:

  • Waiting at the Well: An Encounter with the Living God offered by national vocation director, speaker and retreat leader, Sr. Margaret Michael, FSP
  • That Christ May Live in Me offered by director of novices, Sr. Carmen Christi Pompei, FSP
  • Jesus at the Every Day Well offered by author, spiritual director, and manager of Pauline Digital, Sr.Kathryn Hermes, FSP
  • Can Holiness Be Digital? Encountering the Beauty of Christ in Our Communications Culture offeredby author and blogger, Sr. Marie Paul Curley, FSP

I’m really excited that this year we are finally able to get our long-awaited retreat for communications arts professionals off the ground! A wonderful team of Daughters of Saint Paul—Sr. Kathryn Hermes, Sr. Margaret Michael Gillis, Sr. Carmen Christi Pompei—will be leading the retreat with me. Taking a Pauline approach, we will focus on the special gifts and challenges of centering our lives on Christ, while fully engaging in the often-fragmenting world of communication. I will be sharing material from the recent seminar on apostolic mysticism that I participated in in Rome. I hope to see you here!

For more information or to register online, visit: www.pauline.org/retreat

Apostle of Love

Photo by Sr. Mary Emmanuel Alves, FSP

Photo by Sr. Mary Emmanuel Alves, FSP

Although June is traditionally observed as the month of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and we as Daughters of Saint Paul have a special devotion to the Sacred Heart, Blessed James Alberione encouraged us to also consider June the month of Saint Paul, since the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul is celebrated tomorrow (June 29), and then the Feast of St. Paul for the Pauline Family is celebrated on June 30.

This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about how certain themes keep running through my writing—even when I don’t intend them to be there. The main theme that keeps showing up—even unintentionally—is God’s love for us. Partly this is because I continually realize anew how much I need to grow in trust in God’s love for me, which means that I often focus on God’s love for me in my prayer and meditations. But also, I’ve been realizing that many people in our society allow unprocessed feelings to guide their decisions—sometimes even unknowingly—which often leads to poor decisions and unhappiness. Sometimes people are in so much pain from broken relationships that they need healing on all levels—including healing of their feelings. For me, the remedy to healing our feelings is twofold: 1) knowing God’s love for us and 2) falling in love with God.

As a society, we have a familiar catch-phrase: “do whatever feels good.” But allowing our feelings to always rule us leads us down a self-centered and earthly-based path that can actually become a prison of unhappiness. We are made for so much more than bodily pleasures, which don’t last.

Denying that we have certain feelings—especially the ones we consider negative or uncomfortable—gives them the power to influence us in ways that we are not aware of. Once again we become trapped by our feelings, but this time we don’t even know we are imprisoned.

The Pauline spirituality, which can be summed up in Saint Paul’s famous phrase, “Christ lives in me,” means that all the aspects of our person—mind, will, heart, body, strength—are to be completely dedicated to Christ to the point that we are in Christ, that our entire person is sanctified by Christ. That includes our feelings.

Our Founder Blessed James Alberione encouraged us: “Prayer should also involve our feelings.” In another place, he says:

“Charity is the virtue that leads to the greatest holiness. In fact, it unites the whole person to God: mind, will, feelings. It transforms the soul in God; establishes an intimate friendship with him; multiplies the person’s zeal and energy: “for love is as strong as death” (Sg. 8:6)… The same struggle takes place in every Christian:  it is a struggle between Jesus Christ and our whole human nature, which battle each other, competing for the person’s heart. Jesus Christ wants the whole person: mind, will, and feelings.”

And I realize that, as much as I’ve tried to bring my feelings to Christ to be sanctified, I still need more healing in this! This month especially, I’ve been praying to Saint Paul as the Apostle of love. (Saint Paul can be called the apostle of love for so many reasons, but if you have any doubts, read 1 Corinthians 13. Also, St. John Chrysostom said about Saint Paul: “The heart of Paul is the heart of Christ.” Wouldn’t it be awesome if that could be said about us? About every follower of Christ?)

I became a Daughter of Saint Paul so that my whole life could be about love. Now, I would describe this desire this way: I want my whole life to be a hymn of love to Christ—a hymn made up of tiny individual notes, tiny acts of love. Every moment, I have an opportunity to choose to act out of love; at this moment, that includes every letter I type and every breath I take. So I’ve been praying to Saint Paul to help me to truly be an apostle of Christ’s love, as he is.

In this image of Saint Paul commissioned by Blessed James Alberione, Saint Paul has a hand over his heart, to symbolize the great fire of love in his heart that impelled him to spread the Good News of God’s saving love for us—Christ crucified and risen—throughout the then known world. Saint Paul, Apostle of Love, pray for us!

OurStPaul

Can You Be a Contemplative on Twitter?

media_joyCatholic World Report’s online magazine has a wonderful interview with a sister of my community, Sr. Helena Burns, Media Apostle: the Church’s New “Media Saint.”  Among many other efforts at evangelization, Sr. Helena wrote and produced the documentary on the life of our founder, Media Apostle: The Father James Alberione Story.  The film is a truly-inspiring documentary that is not only a fascinating biography of one of the most prolific founders in the Church, but it’s also full of insight into media spirituality. The interview on Catholic World Report is an informal commentary on how we can engage with media today as faith-filled Catholics.

first_apostle