Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Family, the Maestra, and the Broken Nose

From all appearances, especially mine, this has not been a pleasant week. After a wonderful annual retreat, a capillary in my eye burst, a seven-pound metal tray got dislodged off an upper kitchen shelf and broke my nose, and now I’ve been struck with poison ivy. Sr. Kathryn jokingly calls it bad karma. I’ve been tempted to grouse, “Back to reality.” Why should the minuses in life, though, get the fantabulous name of “reality,” while the plusses, even when tallied, get labeled the exception rather than the rule? It’s all reality, even the highs. I think the highs are there to carry us through the lows, which, to be honest, make us really grateful for those highs. We all know what a flatline means.

The couples who gathered for their own retreat on The Weekend of the Broken Nose in Still River, Massachusetts, had a taste of that, too. Seven husbands and wives from the Northeastern seaboard, vowed members of the Pauline Family’s Holy Family Institute (HFI), met for prayer, reflection, and fellowship, along with members of the Society of St. Paul, Daughters of St. Paul, Sister Disciples of the Divine Master, Institute of Jesus the Priest (IGS, for diocesan clergy), Our Lady of the Annunciation (for single women), and Pauline Cooperators. The couples came with their 25 kids in tow, and Fr. Mike Harrington, IGS, who organized the event, brought his YHope young adult group for music ministry and KP duty. They also helped those who led the youth sessions.

Our days centered around Pauline witnesses of holiness. Br. Aloysius Milella gave a talk on St. Paul as Bl. James Alberione knew and loved him. Sr. Tiziana, PDDM, told the story of Mother Scholastica Rivata, co-foundress of the Sister Disciples, while Sr. Kathryn and I introduced participants to our own co-foundress, Sr. Thecla Merlo, the “First Teacher,” or “Prima Maestra.” Sr. Kathryn has developed a retreat experience that helps women relate to the Word of God through questions they ask themselves: “Am I beautiful?’ “What if everything falls apart?” “Will my children be saved?” etc. She decided to add the words of Thecla Merlo. Wonderful. And their spouses? Those lucky men! They got me. With help from some fine men I know, I cobbled together an hour with Thecla Merlo: The Maestra for Men.

Minutes before showtime, my nose collided with that antique, silver plated tray. Greg and Kim Burke—he a doctor, she a nurse—came to the rescue. Within 45 minutes they mopped me up and put me back together again, pumping me with Advil, at least so I could introduce the men to the woman who was both co-foundress of the Daughters and Mother of the entire Pauline Family. And what an introduction it was! I was moved more than once to hear how those men of Paul connected with her and to see them pray with the conviction of faith and heartfelt devotion. For my part, I couldn’t have been more blessed. One more inch and I would have lost my right eye to that offending tray. Prima Maestra shielded me with her hand as any mother would. Through a comment of the Burkes, she also kept in my mind the women who face this sort of thing regularly from the men they love, and I found myself praying that they might have the wisdom and courage to do what they must to protect themselves and their children.

HFI members repeated throughout the two days how renewing and uplifting the retreat was. Fr. Mike has been concerned that since they live hundreds of miles from each other, they don’t often have the chance to see one another and share aspects of their lives with each other beyond what social media can do. Several don’t live near any other Paulines, either. So with assistance from his friend and classmate, Fr. Ed Riley, he planned a terrific weekend and worked it like a trooper. The under-eighteen crowd—and a crowd it was—enjoyed hanging out with each other, too, whether around the altar, discussion table, activity room, or barbecue grill. Don't miss the slideshow at top right!

Hats off to the HFI members on the West Coast, who helped the Easterners sponsor the weekend. They were remembered in prayer during those blessed days.

Low points have no doubt already elbowed their way into HFI lives in the ten days or so since then. During those times in her own life, Mother Thecla recalled that “beyond those stars is our Father’s house”—her home. Desire for this, her ultimate destiny supported her through some unbelievably trying periods, so that she could live in the conviction that “even if you cannot always be joyful, you can always be at peace.”

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your turn! Share your good word with us.