Friday, February 1, 2013

Paper Mates

It’s crunch time at the Charism Course here in Rome. After an eight-day retreat last week, we rounded the bend and began the second half of the course, which will take us to the end of May. Besides class each weekday, homework, three hours of prayer, and community commitments, there hovers over us The Thesis.

Sr. Germana & Sr. Bernadette
Depending on your perspective, it’s actually either a mini-thesis or a glorified paper. It’s supposed to consist of a minimum of 25 pages, single-spaced. In fact, we can look forward to a class on the formatting requirements. Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, an American FSP who is serving now in our International Multimedia Center near the Vatican, e-mailed me her 111-page behemoth from six years ago. This way, provided the requirements are the same, I just have to type over hers, after I make a copy for bedtime reading once I go Stateside.

It just so happens that I picked the same adviser she had—Pauline historian Don Giancarlo Rocca. A prolific writer for the past fifty years, he was co-author and director of the ten-volume Dictionary of the Institutes of Perfection back in the 70’s and director of the magazine, Madre di Dio, for six years. His rigorous scholarship and no-nonsense approach to work are legendary. Thank God he has a great sense of humor…and he reads English. We also had him for thirty hours of classes on the history of the Pauline Family. So I know something of what I’m getting into—I think.

Sr. M. Grazia
I’m telling you right now, there’s no way I’m going to churn out 111 pages! Maybe 110, but no more. This afternoon Bernadette coached me on taking research notes using an Excel worksheet. I’ll be forever grateful. Still, I teased that she’ll be a tough act to follow; Rocca has not forgotten her. Her research covered the thought behind Bl. James Alberione’s book, Woman Associated With Priestly Zeal, seen within the context of the feminist movement in Italy. Mine is much less daunting: “The Donor as Pauline Cooperator: History, Charism, Future.” According to Sr. Maria Grazia Gabelli, who works in the Daughters’ International Secretariat for Spirituality, no one here has ever written anything on the topic, and both she and Don Rocca see a need for it. They’ll be my ticket to the archives of the FSP and the SSP. Through contacts and friends, I’ve already been able to get access to some resources in English and Italian at various places, including the Gregorian University Library. We’ll see what really emerges.

What I know will happen is already happening. Besides learning, I’m growing in a real reverence for those who’ve preceded me in the Pauline Family. I sense within myself a deeper appreciation for the complexity of our history and our current reality. Above all, I’m constantly amazed at how Jesus Master has stuck with us, guided, forgiven, and encouraged us, just as he promised to the first Paulines in a dream-vision to Fr. Alberione: “Do not be afraid; I am with you. From here (from the Eucharist) I want to enlighten. Live with a penitent heart.”

What all this means, “Gentle Reader,” is that given the demands, I won’t be able to continue regularly with Pauline Faithways until the end of June. If I manage to get a moment here and there and if something happens that might interest you, based on your survey answers last year, I’ll post it and notify the people on my e-mail list. If you’d like me to add you to that list, send me a note at Many thanks for the comments you’ve already sent, either here on the blog or in my e-mail box. Thank you for your suggestions, encouragement, and prayers. And, especially next Tuesday, Feb. 5, when the Pauline Family gathers to remember co-foundress Venerable Thecla Merlo 49 years after her death: my prayers for you as you evangelize, passing along some part of the Good News to family and friends.

1 comment:

  1. It is 27 minutes into Ash Wed. (PST) & I've just read your note. I wish you all the best. YOU are a very good writer & St. Paul, Bl. James Alberione & Ven. Mother Thecla Merlo -- with guidance from the Holy Spirit, will assist you in producing a FINE thesis. All best & many blessings, Carol Anne W.


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