Monday, July 31, 2006

For the feast today: Lay people moved by St. Ignatius, too

Laity Reflect on Life of Ignatius of Loyola
Mark 450th Anniversary of His Death

ROME, JULY 28, 2006 ( St. Ignatius of Loyola sought to find God in all things, including in city life, says the director of the Lay Center at Foyer Unitas.

This was the lesson Donna Orsuto delivered to a pilgrimage group from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., ahead of July 31, the 450th anniversary of the death of the founder of the Jesuits.

The group of lay professionals, including attorneys, government employees and diplomats, participated in a course offered by the center entitled "Praying in Rome From the Martyrs to St. Ignatius of Loyola: History, Architecture and Spirituality."

Orsuto, also a professor at the Gregorian University in Rome, spoke to the participants about the spirituality of the founder of the Jesuits, who always considered himself a pilgrim, although he spent the last 19 years of his life in the city of Rome.

"Actually, when Ignatius arrived in Rome in 1537, it was more of a small town -- with probably just over 50,000 people -- than a big city," Orsuto said. "Nevertheless, Ignatius wanted to live in the center of it all where he would be caught up in diverse activities, such as starting a house for reformed prostitutes, giving the Spiritual Exercises to important citizens, and governing his companions who were eventually scattered from Europe to throughout the world.

"Ignatius the pilgrim was a city dweller in the last years of his life, finding God in all things."

Spiritual Exercises

Orsuto said that "the greatest gifts that Ignatius gave to us, though, are his Spiritual Exercises. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius exemplify the pattern of purification and transformation at work in the life of a person who opens himself to God."

"They are about God's creative and redemptive work in the life of an individual, leading him or her to greater inner freedom so that he might recognize and respond to God's call with great generosity in the here and now," she said.

The group visited various Ignatian sites in Rome, including the rooms where St. Ignatius lived and died in 1556.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sunday word

17th Sunday of the Year B (30Jul 2006) 2Kg 4. 42-44; Ps 145; Eph4. 1-6; Jn 6. 1-15
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
A Different Beat of Pulse

How many gospels does the New Testament contain? Yes, four. And, you know their names are: . . . Yes, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. As you know Mark’s gospel is the shortest of the four. You also recall the Second Vatican Council desired us Catholics to encounter more scripture during Sunday Masses and did so by recalling tradition and exercising creativity. The gospel of John had been the traditional gospel of Lent and Easter. In tandem with Tradition the Council revised the lectionary by devoting a year of continuous reading at mass of Matthew, Mark and Luke. So, what gives today? Why in this year of Mark is today’s gospel reading taken from John? The short answer is because Mark's is the shortest gospel.

The gospels of Matthew and Luke each can cover a liturgical year assisted by John’s gospel during the Lenten and Easter seasons. Because Mark’s gospel is shorter, we would finish it over a month before Advent would begin a new liturgical year--even with John’s gospel used during Lent and Easter! To remedy this otherwise early ending of the gospel during each Year of Mark the Second Vatican Council revised the lectionary so that we hear the sixth chapter of John’s gospel for five Sundays. This year it will be four because next Sunday we celebrate the Transfiguration with its own set of scripture readings.

Through the modern era many have spilled much ink about John’s gospel and about its sixth chapter in particular. Pioneering and notable scholars put forward opposing views, at times inferring things the text does not support.

One of my teachers frequently reminded his students “to stick close to the text” in order to avoid inferring what the text can’t or doesn’t mean. That teacher taught my other teacher, who believes we profit most by the process of reading any scripture, which he overemphasized with a memorable statement: “When I am invited to preach on a scripture text, I have an urge to lock myself in a hotel room for a weekend and read the entire bible.” Overemphasis, yes; but he made the point that God’s revelation clothed in human language is one, grand chronicle of God entering human history.

As we begin our weeks with Jesus identifying himself as the Bread of Life, I take my cue from a word in the first reading from the Christian Old Testament: firstfruits; and from its psalm, The hand of the Lord feeds us.

The Creator, Blessed be God, provides all our needs by giving us the natural world. God feeds us via the earth. Firstfruits, the earliest ripe portion of the crop or newborn live-stock of herds, allowed people to honor God. When money replaced bartering crops for cloth or animals for daily goods people gave first a portion of their income to charity and to their places of worship: hence, tithing and others forms of stewardship we know.

Our triune God is a giver in another, uniquely relational way. God not only became human for our sake. Our God gave Jesus to us as divine firstfruits, the firstborn and only Son of God. And more: Jesus gives us himself, his body and his blood to nourish on our faith journeys, our pilgrim way on earth. Jesus feeds us with bounty to spare even though his body and blood as we consume them as a bit of bread and a sip of wine do not satisfy our human appetites.

We receive the Lord Jesus’ whole being each time we ingest a consecrated morsel of bread and a sip of consecrated wine. Jesus' fondness for human means focuses us on eating and drinking. When we ingest any food we digest it: our bodies absorb food’s nutrients so that they become part and parcel of us: fueling, shaping, strengthening and fortifying us until our next meal. Jesus gives us himself so that his Real Presence nourishes us really to be his presence in our world.

Pause 10 minutes each day this week to relive and relish your communion in the Lord this hour. Leisurely entertain what the Lord Jesus moves you to notice, perhaps: his presence; his affection; his direction; his counsel and the like. Aware that your cells and inmost self pulse with Christ, ask him to give you the grace to live in a manner worthy of the [the One] you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love. Our scarred and riven world needs us to ask for that grace each day.

Re the coherence of scripture and the process of reading that way: The Church of St. John Neumann in Strongsville, Ohio, has added a new page summarizing the Church's three guidelines for reading scripture.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

LinkTV, a supplement to viewing news

When I was a boy Detroit had already become a two-newspaper town. As a teen I learned that cities in other countries had a large number of newspapers. Of course, each one had its editorial bias. The larger number of papers offered readers a greater range of views and opinions on current events.

Print has been joined by other media to disseminate news and to reflect on it and issue opinions. First from my elder family members, who hailed from different countries, and after traveling some myself, I have noticed that we in the U.S. don't have as wide range of considering the news. Perhaps our two-party governmental system and two- (and now often only single-) newspaper circulation in our cities and towns limit us in this respect. However, we need not be limited even if our cities offer us just two or only one newspaper.

I discovered earlier this week LinkTV. I cannot view it on my set where I live, but I did visit it on the web ( I was surprised at the number of offerings. Some may criticize LinkTV itself of having its own editorial bias. That may well be the case; I haven't watched it long enough to be sure myself. Whatever its slant may be, its offerings give one a look into current events and the people involved in them that our now numerous channels do not.

I was impressed that someone would want to allow U.S. and Iraqi young adults to converse with one another before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. I got a glimpse into the hearts and minds of young people that I never knew any cable or network news station made available here in the U.S. It was about 30 minutes in length and well worth the time.

I want to set aside another half-hour to view its follow-up conversation by satellite link when the groups "visited" each other again after the invasion of Iraq. If I am not aware of the hearts of people as well as the news about people, then I will fail to form good opinions. LinkTV offers us a broader view of both the news and the people it affects and how others outside our country view the news.

Friday, July 28, 2006

38-8. . .

. . .no sports score that pair of numbers. They indicate support in the latest Beirut Center poll measuring Lebanese feeling that the U.S. supports Lebanon. In January of this year 38 per cent of Lebanese felt the U.S. supported Lebanon. Now only 8 per cent feel that the U.S. supports Lebanon. (Source: The Christian Science Monitor, When I looked at the front page of today's New York Times one headline shouted, "Tide of Arab Opinion Turns to Support for Hezbollah" ( The photo captured an aerial view of a large demonstration in Cairo.

The U.S. prides Egypt as one of our closest Arab allies. Egypt is also an autocratically-ruled state. Another track record of the U.S. is that it backs autocratic regimes when it is to its advantage. How will the U.S. and this Administration in particular respond to our Arab allies?

Israeli hatred is beginning to beget calls for more and harsher military retribution in Lebanon. Are not the two--Israeli hatred and U.S. arrogance--related to turning the turning tide of Arab opinion? Will both dance around the issues involved instead of addressing them honestly and openly? Will the U.S. continue to flout the morality inherited from Christ Jesus? Not only will more innocent Lebanese (Christian, Muslim and Druze) and Israelis (Arabs and Jews) be harmed and killed. Even the opionion of privileged, educated, moderate Arabs in the region will continue to change against the U.S. One example is Dr. Ghassan Farran.

Dr. Ghassan, a physician "and head of a local cultural organization, gaze[d] in disbelief at the pile of smoking ruins which was once his home. Minutes earlier, an Israeli jet dropped two guided missiles into the six-story apartment block in the centre of Tyre.

"'Look what America gives us, bombs and missiles," says this educated, middle-class professional. "I was never a political person and never with Hizbullah but now after this I am with Hizbullah'" (Source: The Christian Science Monitor,

That, too, is a victory for Hizbollah.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Getting Back on Track

The situations (not one but many exist; no monolithic approach will do) in the Middle East are dreadful. The now-two-week-old Israeli destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure is a disproportionate response to defend itself. This week Pope Benedict "reaffirmed the 'right of the Lebanese to the integrity and sovereignty of their country, the right of Israelis to live in peace in their state, and the right of Palestinians to a free and sovereign homeland'" (, 23 July 2006).

Haifa, an Israeli city, home to Jews and Arabs, some Muslim, some Christian demonstrates no black and white exists; or better, that a black-and-white approach is not helpful. In Haifa many Jews and Arabs (a small minority) coexist peacefully. With a quarter million population "Haifa is renowned for the harmonious relations between its Jewish and Arab citizens." And this in the face of persisting suspicion and distrust!

Now some Muslim Arabs in Haifa have voiced anger at the militant members of Hezbollah. They consider Hezbollah to be destroying their lives as well as Israeli lives. One young Arab, a worker at the port of Haifa, now because of the shelling, is without a job (Source: BBC; How many more times can his story be multiplied?

In the face of this disaster (which has surely been coming for a good while) one fact close to home wrenches my heart. My country, the United States, has a had a track record of negotiating and of setting the stage so that Israeli and Arab parties could negotiate. President Jimmy Carter did what no one else could do at Camp David. (See Jimmy Carter's journal of those days,The Blood of Abraham: Insights into the Middle East, October 1993.) President Bill Clinton furthered President Carter's efforts and the efforts of all who had continued that work between the Carter and Clinton Administrations.

The two most recent Administrations, however, refused to continue to maintain that track record. Others know better how thankless and fruitless it appears and feels. Yet following, maintaining and building upon this track record may, as others demonstrated, promotes peace. It may be the most promising contribution the United States can make for the entire world as well as to promote the dignity, sovereignty and freedom of people who live with out them on most days.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Take Action for a Cease Fire

A friend just gave me some stats about casualities in the Lebanese-Israeli disaster. These stats now include U.N. personnel because of Israel's bombing destruction of one its facilities in southern Lebanon.

--United Nations Peace Keepers casualties...

4 peace keepers - (Chinese, Canadian, Finnish, Austrian)

--Lebanese casualties...

375 civilians
20 soldiers
27 Hezbollah fighters

--Israeli casualties...

18 civilians
24 soldiers

NONE of these numbers accounts for the thousands of displaced persons within Lebanon or Israel who face the terror of this war every day.

Visit in order to urge your elected U.S. officials to support House Concurrent Resolution 450, introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich and joined by 23 co-sponsors. One might be in your state!
Faith’s Freedom--a brief reflection

"Domineering over your faith is not my purpose," wrote St. Paul to the Corinthians after establishing the church there (2Corinthians 1.24). Yet developments frustrated his plans to travel again for a visit. St. Paul desired to intervene in person in the Corinthians’ concerns, but his second letter and the presence of his coworker, Titus, among them more than satisfied St. Paul.

How helpless St. Paul felt at not being able to address the concerns in person! How human we know that to be from our own experiences. One thing that frustrates us in those moments is being unable to do anything. An oft’ spoken, modern phrase which captures our frustration is “unable to be in control.”

Unable to control and to change the circumstances preventing his visit, St. Paul nevertheless enjoyed freedom--an enviable freedom as I ponder it. Domineering over others' faith--even long-distance control by means of a letter--was not St. Paul’s purpose.

How quickly we humans desire to lord it over others: whether that “it” is control, influence, knowledge, expertise and the like. Faith’s freedom is not only freedom from the "principalities and powers" of the world, the "elemental spirits", to use St. Paul’s phrasing. In addition, faith’s freedom liberates us from controlling, lording over others, domineering.

Faith’s freedom allowed St. Paul to state what his purpose was: I prefer to work with you for your joy. Each of us has to cultivate one’s own faith. Ministers of the church as well as lay people, who exercise particular ministries in the church, and all of us help one another grow more adept at joyfully living faith even in strained and unhappy circumstances.

In what way am I blocking God from creating me to become freer?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

25 July 2006, Tuesday word

St. James, Apostle (25 Jul 2006) 2Co 18. 18-.20; Mt 20. 20-28
Homily of Rev. Paul Panaretos, S. J.
As Usual--or, A Martyr's Mom

It was never easy to read her face and know her mind. She was an energetic girl, and she caught onto things quickly. But satisfaction—or what’s related to it: tranquillity, relief, fulfillment—never seemed to register on her bright face. Don't get me wrong: she wasn’t a problem-child. Her family was proud of her, and she was popular with other kids in the neighborhood and at her lessons. She was her own from the start.

As a young woman she excelled at her work. When she married Zebedee, she demonstrated how strong and how much her own she was. Her family didn’t want her to marry a fisherman. They thought he wasn't good enough for her. Never mind that he owned his own boat and had shares in a few others. Never mind that fishermen the sea 'round so respected him and his insight and wisdom that most would have stepped out of his boat—and their own!—to walk on water if he told them. Never mind that she would say, “We have to eat! I’m honored to be married to a man who provides for everyone.”

She was her own when it came to her marriage, too. Don't get me wrong: she wasn’t spoiled. Her parents stood their ground, never withholding their feelings; and when their daughter became Mrs. Zebedee, they just as strongly stood by her and their new son.

As the Zebedees prospered, so did everyone else. Mr. Z was generous: people never realized that much of their money for his fish maintained their synagogue. Mrs. Z told them. Don't get me wrong: she wasn’t a gossip. She was very hospitable. During her hospitality once, she mentioned it. Mr. Z wished she hadn't, but he never berated her. They both seemed content—until their boys came along. Remember how she was never satisfied as a child? It all came back—it really had never gone; rather, it all came out.

She wanted the best for her sons—who doesn't? Everyone admired her for that. Unknown to everyone, motherhood didn't fulfill her. Don't get me wrong: she was a good mom who was driven. She was driven. Others never noticed it for what it was. They thought she was self-possessed: she always knew what she was asking. Until the day she realized she didn't.

Initially, she felt she humiliated herself and her sons. They deserved particular thrones. But as she got closer to home, she felt her driven burden vaporize. People would notice ever after that her face reflected more radiant beauty. As her husband gazed at her like he met her for the very first time, she smiled and said, "Any rabbi understands martyrdom, but only the martyr experiences the fire."*

Nodding affirmatively, Zebedee smiled and embraced her, saying, "My wife and mother of our sons, you're right as usual."

* Robertson Davies, The Manticore (New York: Viking Press, 1976), p. 101:
"Any theologian understands martyrdom, but only the martyr experiences the fire."

Author's note: St. John Chrysostom preached a homily on this gospel selection, and he used the query of the mother of the two apostles to begin to consider what Christ did in response. Inspired by St. John Chrysostom, I chose to imagine what may have moved their mother to make her request.

Monday, July 24, 2006

23July2006 Sunday word

16th Sunday of the YearB (23Jul 2006) Jeremiah 23.1-6; Psalm 23; Ephesians 2.13-18; Mark 6.30-34
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
We Are God’s Skin

Last Sunday's gospel reminded us that Jesus sent his apostles on mission. The Twelve and Jesus were separated for some time, and we might imagine that they returned to him in a week because our gospel selection today reminded us of their return. Away the disciples were busy. They preached repentance; and they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them. On their return from doing Jesus' work for the first time, it was apt that Jesus have them "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while."

People kept coming and going in great numbers cutting short their retreat, both to rest and to speak more about what it was like to have been conduits of Jesus' power. Of course doing Jesus' work is more than exercising power. Jesus' response to the crowds showed us that relationship, and its counterpart, presence, was and is as important.

Jesus felt for the crowds, Mark told us, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. That's no throwaway line. It is a clue for us, and it was a cue to the first hearers about Jesus. The first hearers would have recalled that from Jacob's sons--esp. Joseph--to Moses, to David, to Amos the shepherd was a favored image for God and God'’s graciousness toward creation. In fact God, the mighty one of Jacob was named the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel.* Another place describes God'’s compassion:

The compassion of [humans] is for [their] neighbor[s], but the compassion of the Lord is for all living beings. [The Lord] rebukes and trains and teaches them, and turns them back, as a shepherd his flock.**

Jesus' self-designation made God’s relationship with humans one that humans could touch and appreciate: I am the good shepherd.*** I'd wager that when most Christians say the Lord is my shepherd of Psalm23, they imagine Jesus.

At the outset of the divine relationship with humans, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was no god of wind, fire or thunder. God personally intervened, hearing the cries of the ragtag band enslaved in Egypt and led them out of it. God became their rock, their king, their shepherd. It's difficult to have a personal relationship with wind, fire, thunder or a statue. It was no wonder that God's people early on wanted a king to rule, lead and guide them. Humans in every age need a God with skin, to use a phrase of Fr. Ronald Rohlheiser.****

Yet often people imbibed power til they got drunk with power. When you and I use it, that familiar phrase, drunk with power, suggests self-concern and not concern for others, not desiring relationship, not caring to be present to others for their sake. Lest we think this a new phenomenon, the prophet Jeremiah reminded us that it'’s age old, something that was current in his own day generations before Jesus. God's heart was just as keenly responsive to abide with us as true king, as a gentle shepherd, who will lead us and not dominate.

This was, is and remains the desire of our Triune God, whom we name as Father, Son Holy Spirit. We want to make ourselves more present to the Trinity. How can we? you ask.

Allow me to offer you this spiritual exercise for your coming week. Set aside 10 minutes each day and allow yourself to be aware of God present to you with care and love, creating and guiding you each moment. More deeply aware of God’s gracious concern for you, savor one way that God has or continues lovingly to create you, lead you and guide you.

You may want to write Psalm 23 on a note card and carry it with you this week and slowly read it, moving your lips, as you begin your 10 minutes. Whatever help you choose, feel Jesus' response for the crowds for you alone: Jesus tends me so that I will not be like a sheep without a shepherd. Noticing his loving attention for each of us is how we can begin to proclaim it to those who are near and who are far off for the sake of the world. That is how we effectively preach repentance, cast out demons today, as well as anoint and heal.

* Genesis 49.24b.

** Sirach 18.13; Israel was the analogue in this image. E.g.,[prophet Micaiah, son of Imlah,] said, “I saw all Israel scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd; and the LORD said, ‘These have no master; let each return to his home in peace"” (1Kgs 22.17). Presence is mutual; religion and godly living help humans be present to the One who remains ever present to us.

*** John 10.11, 14.

**** The Holy Longing: The Search For Christian Spirituality. Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2001 (date of the audio version).