Which Came First?

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

When we reflect on the life and mission of Jesus, do we think that He came to found a church on the twelve apostles, and that then they were to go out on mission throughout the world, preaching about Him? Or do we think that His primary purpose was to send the apostles throughout the world, on mission, of which the outcome would be that churches would spring up as a result across the world? Or, in other words, which came first: church or mission? Did Jesus want to get the church underway first, and then have it go out on mission throughout the world? Or was He first of all intent on sending the apostles out on mission to various places, so that local churches would then spring up as a result of their preaching? This is a variation on the chicken and the egg quandary: which came first, the chicken or the egg? On the one hand, we see Jesus, early on, sending out His disciples to preach, expel demons and handle deadly vipers, but on the other hand, on Pentecost Sunday, we find the Apostles all gathered together in the upper room where they received the Holy Spirit and then went out on mission onto the streets of Jerusalem. Are we to first get our own act together before we try to help others, or do we first try to help others, and in the process find that we get our act together? Did Jesus establish His own community first, before going out on mission? Or did He first go out on mission and in the process gather followers? When missionaries go out on mission, do they first gather a church together, or do they first find other helpers to send out on mission?

Blue Lady


by James Lehan Paulin (November, 2010)

Humility of divine proportion

Open, constant permission

without conditions








Sanctified and glorified

Her mantle, azure hue of sky

descending to indigo of seas

 Sun aura

Crown of stars

  Moon underfoot



Katharine Preston

I came by this Youtube video quite by accident, but then maybe not. I read an article entitled “Mourning for the Earth” by a Katharine M. Preston. Yes, she spells her name with an “a” (I believe it should be Katherine). I enjoyed the article so much I went online to see who she was. I found this Youtube Interview and was totally taken with it. Then I wondered if this was the same Katherine. I don’t think she is, at least I couldn’t corroborate that fact.

At any rate, Katherine would make a good Partner. She may never have heard of the Passionists, but she does know the value of taking up her cross daily and following Jesus. The video is quite long, twenty-six minutes, but if you are interested in seeing the Passion of Jesus being lived today, I think you will enjoy the video and think your time well-spent.

Fear vs Courage ?

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

Fear and courage seem incompatible.  From early childhood we shrink before the charge that we’re afraid, a “scaredy-cat”.  Yet we’re taught that “fear of the Lord” is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.  And the sacrament of confirmation is supposed to confer the Holy Spirit upon us to make us brave and courageous.  Are fear and courage compatible?  After all, one of the foundational virtues of the Christian life is courage (along with prudence, justice and temperance).  How can two things so different from one another both be recommended to us?  We think of the martyrs of the church, who underwent terrible torments.   What courage!  They certainly could not have been afraid.  Courage is a matter of one’s testosterone’s level, so we’ve come to believe.   But, if so, how could so many of the early martyrs have been woman, even young girls, with no testosterone whatsoever?  We look to Medal of Honor awardees.  Were they afraid in doing what earned them such an honor?  Absolutely, they tell us.  Can fear produce courage?   Doesn’t fortitude preclude fear?  On a (Lutheran) church sign standing in its front yard, in the small town of Escanaba, (Upper) Michigan, is the message: “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”   No fear, no courage, only a high testosterone level.  Does this mean that one who experiences no fear cannot be courageous?  Or would an injection of testosterone give us courage?

One Crown

From: mommamindy.files.wordpress.com
From: mommamindy.files.wordpress.com

by Jim Paulin, Detroit CPP

Coronations are magnificent. The formality and splendor bear witness and impart legitimacy to the ascension of a sovereign to the throne. Typically, the ceremony includes a coronation oath, anointment, investiture, enthronement, and homage. The custom whereby the Holy Roman emperor was crowned by the pope dates from the coronation of Charlemagne on Christmas Day, 800.  Certainly, the presence of the pope indicated a divine bestowing of the power to rule the kingdom. This regal tradition was of tremendous significance as there was little to differ between the authority to be reckoned with either from the Church or the King. Power is ordained from a higher authority. Unlike every other coronation, there was one in which a crown was not necessary nor was there any power greater able to endow anything more, yet a crown was given and received.

“Crown him with many crowns, the Lamb upon his throne”. The opening verse of this popular hymn by Matthew Bridges in 1852 reflects a yearning by Christians to glorify their Lord and Savior. The hymn goes on to crown him eight times with titles like “Lord of Life” ,”Lord of Peace” and “Lord of Love”. While these titles and crowns are appropriate, the Scripture passages describing Jesus ruling in all His power in John’s visions as described in the Book of Revelation never mention His wearing a crown even though His attire is given in vivid detail.  Crowns are laid down before the Lord by twenty four elders in worship however, The King of Kings radiates splendor and might and needs no such symbol.

God is Love. The title of Pope Benedict’s first encyclical gives insight upon why the Almighty would accept a crown. “In His death on the cross, Jesus, giving Himself to raise and save mankind, expressed love in its most sublime form.” Inconceivable by human standards, the Lord of Lords who sits at a white throne with even the Earth and sky fleeing His presence and judging the living and the dead by their conduct on the last day does submit to His coronation.

The pageantry is a ceremony alive with sights, sounds, scents, tastes and most of all, tactile sensations exquisitely applied. A cohort of Roman soldiers do the honors as they represent all of mankind; everyone. Anointed by flagellation rendering open wounds and blood, investiture by mockery, ridicule and spit and coronation with a woven cap of piercing thorns, The Lamb of God accepts His one and only crown of love as an integral part of His kingdom.

Chicago Partners Meet

Penny, Fr. Sebastian, Mary Ann, and Irene enjoy dinner and meeting. Not shone, Mary Kay, Nancy and Dan
Penny, Fr. Sebastian, Maryanne, and Irene enjoy dinner and meeting. Not shone, Mary Kay, Nancy and Dan

Seven members of the Chicago Partners met Wednesday, October 23 for their regular monthly gathering at Cucina Biagio’s to pray, dine and share. Irene reported on her recent two-week trip to Poland (see above picture) where she got a chance to visit the gravesite of her great grandparents and to buy a statue of Saint Pope John Paul II, no, not Blessed but Saint. She explained that when she pointed out to the proprietor of a gift shop that they would have to soon replace the statues of Blessed Pope John Paul II, the proprietor said no problem. He went to the stock room and returned with the St. Pope… statue.

Father Sebastian also just returned from vacation where he encountered, or at least heard stories of encounters with the wild animals like mountain lions, bobcats bucks and deer coming down the mountain near the Passionist Retreat House at Sierra Madre, California. We all celebrated his safe return home.

On the business side Dan demonstrated how to become a follower on our Blog and encouraged all to not only read the blog but also to let your friends on Facebook know of our blog by clicking the Facebook Icon and sharing. He also encouraged members to write posts as well as to comment on posts they like.

Dan encouraged everyone to use Meetup to RSVP for the coming meeting. That allows Penny to call the restaurant and let them know how many people are coming as well as lets people who may have noticed the Partners’ Meeting on Meetups weekly announcements and are thinking they might like to come. They would more likely come if they knew there were more than a few people coming already.

Finally in an attempt to attract new younger people to our meeting, Penny suggested and all agreed that anyone who brings someone half their age to a meeting, the Partners would pay for their dinner.

We ended the meeting by all participating in the British Jesuits Media Initiatives’ Pray-as-you-go prayer for the day.

David and Goliath

Today there seems to be a great battle going on between the mega rich and the average American. According to Wikipedia in 2007  “the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country’s wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15%.” [1]  I suspect that spread has widened greatly since 2007.

This is hardly a new battle. History is replete with example after example of this battle. Malcolm Gladwell in his book “David and Goliath” (2013) tells of some of these battles, starting with the title battle of his book. What is interesting to me is Gladwell chooses battles where the little guy, the underdog wins. He tells us how recognizing our weakness leads us to success even against the worst odds.

I believe “recognizing our weakness” is just another phrase for recognizing who we really are. All of us have weaknesses. All of us have disabilities. All of us are little people needing others in our lives to love us, to heal us and simply to be with us. Not all of us recognize this. Many of us think we are self-made heroes. Many of us think we are better than another person because of our economic standing, our education, or our position of authority over others (earned or bestowed).

Recognizing who we are is at the heart of Passionist spirituality, or any spirituality for that matter. Alcoholics’ Anonymous (AA) calls this step one: “We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”[2] St. Paul says: “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” [3]

I think Mr. Gladwell would make a good partner and on top of that he’s a good storyteller.

From Montecassino to Virtual Community

Community life has taken many shapes down through the ages, from early simple tribal communities to the mega cities of the 21st Century. One type that was prominent in the 15th Century at the outset of the Protestant Reformation was the monastery. St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists first lived in a Hermitage with his brother John Baptist and eventually moved to a “Retreat” at Mount Argentario. [1] Today Passionist often call their homes, monasteries.

Today there are arising new types of communities, one such community is the virtual community.  Wikipedia defines a virtual community as “A social network of individuals who interact through specific social media, potentially crossing geographical and political boundaries in order to pursue mutual interests or goals.”

This article you are reading is on a Blog (web log) a type of social media. Blogs used to be written by one individual, but today more and more blogs are being written by groups of people with similar interests. My hope with the Community of Passionist Partner’s Blog is that we can develop such a group or community, i.e. a virtual community where we all can post articles of interest to us.

Who are we? Our mission statement which can be found on the “About Us” page of this blog states: “We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.” Hopefully you’ve seen this happening on our CPP Blog to a greater or lesser extent. Even more hopefully, you’ll join in through sharing your writing, your comments or simply your reading.

[1] Mercurio, Roger, Sucher, Frederick, The Letters of St. Paul of the Cross, Vol 1, New City Press (2000)

To Help vs To Do No Harm?

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

Students in training to become medical doctors early on encounter some foundational principles for conducting themselves in the medical profession.  And one principle goes back a long way, to the Greek world and the wording of the Hippocratic oath: DO NO HARM. That’s the first rule for a budding physician to learn: not DO GOOD, but, rather, DO NO HARM.

It’s interesting that a budding doctor is advised to void injuring someone, before being counseled to help someone.  There’s an issue here of comparing good and evil, and it applies beyond the medical field into the personal and private field of our own personal lives.  If one of us was asked: what is more important: to avoid hurting someone, or to do something good for someone, how would I answer that question?

For instance, if I found myself before someone, and I had to make a sudden decision between “don’t hurt that person” and “do something kind for that person”, what would I decide?  This is a pretty simplistic reduction of a real life situation, and we could easily argue about the “either/or” scenario presented here, namely, that one melds into the other. However, there are life situations where the melding doesn’t occur so easily, as when I’m talking to another and I have to decide

between telling the person one truth, which hurts/harms him/her, or telling the person another truth, which benefits/helps him/her.  DO NO HARM, DO GOOD TO EVERYONE.

As a follower of Christ, how do I steer myself properly between these opposites?  As a Christian, am I to be primarily known as one who never hurt anyone (never said a bad word about anyone?), or as someone who always said the truth, come what may (whose word was as good as gold?) Would you rather have a physician who never hurt you, or one who always helped you feel better?  Does Jesus’ life teach us anything about this?  How would I want to live my life: in a way that never hurt anyone, or in a way that always helped someone?  After all, I may never hurt anyone but also never do anyone any good at all, or I may always manage to help everyone but in doing so never hurt them at all.