Thursday, August 31, 2006

"Unsafe [and] Destructive"

I recently overheard someone say if the levees in would be rebuilt in Louisiana, then that Gulf state would return to normal. Normal
didn't include development as humans have long known it. Rivers have lives, and those lives include building banks and overflowing them.

Over a one and one-half centuries ago, Louisiana's state engineer, A.D. Wooldridge wrote:
"I find myself forced to the conclusion that entire dependence on the leveeing system is not only unsafe for us, but I think will be destructive to those who shall come after us."
The Christian Science Monitor cites Mr. Woolridge, as well as his predecessor, in its article in today's issue. [This article also conains links to the Monitor's 3-part series on Katrina's effects on states in the Gulf.]

No native of our South and no Dutch boy, either, I am ignorant of low lands. Levees sounded like an idea that would work. However, after reading "side-comments" about New Orleans in novels, I began to think of it like a Venice, Italy, a city which is always fighting rising waters and living on borrowed time in its fight.

The fact is that levees are not--have not been since 1927, when the idea followed the worst flood in history up to then--good ideas. Levees prevent banks from growing. They "raise the river and allow the land to sink," as Mr. Peter Spotts reports in the same article.

While I remain ignorant about what can be done for the states abutting the Mississippi delta region, I am more convinced that humans need to be more wary about what we do to the environment and more concerned about how what we do will affect the environment in the long term as well as the short.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Week Old and Ever Fresh

At last Wednesday's General Audience Pope Benedict continued his meditation series on the church and the apostles. In it the pope spoke clearly that

"John wants to instill in his readers [of the Book of Revelation] an attitude of courageous trust. With his strong and sometimes difficult images, he certainly des not intend to propose enigmas to solve, but to suggest a path to certain hope."

That reminded me that the point of the images (numerical, animal, human, celestial) is that they have no other point than this "attitude of courageous trust." The imagery, so alien to us, was at home in the symbolic world-view of the 1st-century church.

It is worth reading Pope Benedict's entire message. It is equally worthy to recall that approaching the Book of Revelation with an eye to figuring the date of the world's end is like reading a plane schedule: no matter what a schedule may say flights may arrive early or late. Plus, Jesus warned against trying to schedule the Last Day: "But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Mark 13.32 || Matthew 24.36).

That being so, I read the Book of Revelation to deepen my attitude of courageous trust in God's victory over all. Try it and pay attention to who is in control of what takes place in that vision of seeing and hearing heaven.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"Where Would the Church Be Without Women?"

So my father asked aloud as we stood together at an outdoor reception at a parish I was leaving. The women of the parish orchestrated the reception and worked it for hours one bright, summer Sunday. I've never forgotten Dad's observation, which extended beyond menial tasks to the equally important ones forming so many of us. For example, a group of Adrian Dominincan Sisters began my elementary school, even living in a portion of a wing of it until their convent was built.

A handful of young women, doing missionary work of teaching at an Alaskan boarding school, were the first of what would become the Jesuit Volunteer Corps [JVC]. Women on the front lines of the serving church yet again!

This year marks the golden anniversary of the JVC. Its younger, international incarnation, the JVCI, has been around as long as I have been a priest (which makes it easy for me to remember). Read about their histories in the articel entitled with the motto of Corps members, "Ruined for Life."

Beheading of John the Baptist (29 Aug 2006) 2Th 2. 1-3a, 14-17; Ps 96; Mk 6. 17-29
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Light from Light

The sister of one of my Jesuit brothers recently died. Joan was fascinated with light as it revealed the mystery of God. Her brother recalled that in his homily, mentioning Joan’s fascination with the image in our creed, “Light from light.”

Jesus referred to his cousin, John the Baptizer, the forerunner of Jesus, saying, He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.

Light points the way; it allows us to see and to read. Light effects us positively, which is why some of us are sad to see the hours of daylight gradually diminish as summer slips away.

Light also can blind, it can hurt our eyes, not to mention age and damage our skin if we get overexposed to some of its wavelengths. Also: think of rousing and beginning to wake in a darkened room. Someone flips a switch and floods the room with light. What is our reaction? We cover our eyes, we squint open our eyes a little at a time as our eyes adjust to the light of day.

That image helps me appreciate the reprobate Herod: When he heard [John] speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. Herod’s spirit squinted, yet he liked the light of this burning, shining lamp. I wonder how many times after he put John in his prison that Herod went to hear him. Yes, he was afraid to kill John because the people admired him, but more than fear moved Herod’s heart.

I once wrote off Herod as a worthless villain. But even Herod was more sensitive to John and his message and to Jesus and John’s message which he continued: transform your lives!

Our Orthodox brothers and sisters fast today to recall the strict life John led. We might choose to fast from what keeps us from drawing nearer to the "Light from light" and living as the shining lamps Jesus said our vocations are--light for the sake of our world.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Today and Yesterday. . .

. . .remembered Sts. Monica and St. Augustine, respectively.

Pope Benedict used his concise, noon Angelus address yesterday to remember both of them and how their stories can console families. The pope's address is reproduced as it appeared at

Code: ZE06082701

Date: 2006-08-27

On Sts. Monica and Augustine

"Their Testimonies Can Be of Great Help for Many Families"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 27, 2006 ( Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today at midday, before and after reciting the Angelus with the crowds gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today, Aug. 27, we remember St. Monica, and tomorrow we will remember her son, St. Augustine: Their testimonies can be of great consolation and help for many families also of our time.

Monica, born in Tagaste, in present-day Algeria (in Souk-Arhas), of a Christian family, lived in an exemplary way her mission of wife and mother, helping her husband Patricius to discover, little by little, the beauty of faith in Christ and the strength of evangelical love, capable of overcoming evil with good.

After his death, which occurred prematurely, Monica dedicated herself with courage to the care of her three children, two boys and a girl, among them St. Augustine, who in the beginning made her suffer with his rather rebellious temperament.

As Augustine himself would say later, his mother gave him birth twice; the second time required a long spiritual labor, made up of prayer and tears, but crowned in the end by the joy of seeing him not only embrace the faith and receive baptism, but also dedicate himself entirely to the service of Christ.

How many difficulties there are also today in family relationships and how many mothers are anguished because their children choose mistaken ways!

Monica, a wise and solid woman in the faith, invites them not to be discouraged, but to persevere in their mission of wives and mothers, maintaining firm their confidence in God and clinging with perseverance to prayer.

As to Augustine, his whole life was an impassioned search for truth. In the end, not without a long interior storm, he discovered in Christ the ultimate and full meaning of his life and of the whole of human history. In adolescence, attracted by earthly beauty, he "fell upon" it -- as he says honestly (Confessions 10, 27-38) -- selfishly and possessively with behavior that caused some sorrow in his pious mother.

But through a toilsome journey, thanks also to her prayers, Augustine opened himself ever more to the fullness of truth and love, to the point of conversion, which occurred in Milan, under the guidance of the bishop, St. Ambrose.

Thus he remains as model of the way to God, supreme truth and good. "Late have I loved you," he wrote in his famous book of the Confessions, "O beauty so ancient and so new .... For behold you were within me, and I outside; and I sought you outside .... You were with me and I was not with you ... You called and cried to me and broke open my deafness: And you sent forth your beams and shone upon me and chased away my blindness" (ibid.).

May St. Augustine obtain for us also the gift of a sincere and profound encounter with Christ, an encounter above all also for all those young people who, thirsty for happiness, seek it in mistaken ways and get lost in dead ends.

St. Monica and St. Augustine invite us to turn with confidence to Mary, seat of wisdom. To her we entrust Christian parents so that, like Monica, they will support their children on their way with their example and prayer.

To the virgin mother of God, we commend young people so that, as Augustine, they will always tend to the fullness of truth and love, which is Christ: He alone can satisfy the profound needs of the human heart.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in seven languages. In English, he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Sunday Angelus, including the new students from the Pontifical North American College, and the former all-Ireland hurling champions from Offaly.

Today's Gospel invites us to join Peter and profess our complete trust in the Lord, who alone has the words of eternal life. May your stay in Castel Gandolfo and Rome renew your faith in Christ, and may God bless you all!

© Copyright 2006 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana [adapted]

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sunday word, 21st Sunday of the Year B

21st Sunday of the YearB(27Aug2006)Josh 24.1-2,15-17,18 Ps34; Eph 5.21-32; Jn 6.60-69
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Sacrament of What If?

What if we stood at Shechem with Joshua that day knowing the rest--that's 87%--of the scriptures of the people of Israel would call people again and again to fidelity and deeper intimacy with God? If we knew that, then Far be it from us to forsake the Lord for the service of other gods would come from our lips more as a prayer than a declaration. Many things tempt us to make them our gods.

What if we knew by personal experience the culture of the world of St. Paul, one in which the accepted order was women were less than men, not just paid less than them? (In that culture women and children were property. Women played no legal role; no one would call them to give official testimony!) What if we all were eager to hear what this Saul-become-Paul, this Jew-become-Christian looked and sounded like, maybe what he had to say?

What if we walked in on him speaking as we heard the echo of his voice today? Respect one another, don't think oneself greater than another: sensible; it makes for a good society. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. If we stood inside that time and culture, we couldn't disagree at best, we might nod off at worst. This hot-shot apostle wouldn't be telling us anything we didn't know.

What if we were nodding off, when Paul said, Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her sanctity? We would snap awake so fast, especially the men. Love our wives? What! would be our response. Or, This is new; or, Hey, that makes them our equals! That was what Paul realized in Christ. And if we had been hanging around listening to Paul already while he was in town, then his words about diversity is united in Christ would be personalized. The diversity of male and female helps each man and each women know Christ better as each one responds in love. As a Canadian woman expressed, "Yet too many women still haven't experienced this love and too many men have missed the challenge."

What if we took up that challenge more often? Here’s something to take with you from mass into your week. Each day set aside 10 minutes and sit with open hands. In those minutes consider your experiences up to that moment--the way God has created you in love for loving; what you may have chosen to do or not to do; people you encountered.

What if you took your experiences up to that moment--all of them--and as they surfaced in your awareness you turned them over in your heart, not declaring, "See what I have done!" but take them out one by one in leisurely prayer. As each surfaces on your heart and mind, ask, "Where did I meet Christ, and how did I respond to him?"

Growing more aware of meeting Christ in our daily experiences convinces us afresh that he is the Holy One of God. Growing more aware of meeting Christ in our daily experiences inspires mutual love. Growing more aware of meeting Christ in our daily experiences not only sanctifies us; it reminds us that we also play our part in sanctifying our world.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Katrina One Year Later

U.S. Catholic parishes are taking up collections these final August weekends (Gesu will make available this weekend and next weekend to allow parishioners to help relieve the devastation that is one year old. A powerful storm left untold damage. U.S. officials consider Katrina the most destructive hurricane ever to hit this country.

New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes was interviewed by Peter Finney Jr. of the Catholic News Service. Mr. Finney begins:

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- For New Orleans Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes, the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina elicits tears and emotionally charged flashbacks. read more

Friday, August 25, 2006

Don't Miss This Larry King Live

The Larry King program for Wednesday, 30 August, will include an interview with Greg Boyle, S.J. The interview will focus on Homeboy Industries and Jobs for a Future.

While I was in Sri Lanka, Fr. Boyle addressed the First Friday Club of Greater Akron, and he was very well received.

Two years ago this month Bob Edwards recalled his interview with Fr. Boyle:

"I was talking to a Jesuit priest named Father Greg Boyle the other day," Edwards begins, narrating his remembrance with the same voice that has animated millions of morning commutes. "He works with Latino gangs in Los Angeles. He gets them jobs and counseling and gets doctors to do tattoo removal for free. This is a wonderful man doing fabulous work. It was the best interview that I have ever done, and was the best program that I have ever done, and it was just last week."

From the August 24-31, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.
Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.
The above is the final paragraph at this archive.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

ATTN: Gesu Parishioners desiring to travel--only 5 spaces available

Wonders of Turkey and Greece

Manresa Jesuit Retreat House in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, asked Fr. Panaretos to be chaplain for this tour 07-20 November 2006. He asked if any places were available for any Gesu parishioners who may want to take advantage of it. He received the following information

Base price is $2599 from Detroit.*

08Nov arrive in Istanbul, 3 nights;
11Nov arrive in Cannakale via Istanbul and Troy, 1 night
12Nov arrive in Izmir via Cannakale and Pergamum, 1 night
13Nov arrive in Kushadasi via Izmire and Ephesus, 1 night
14Nov embark on cruise of Aegean isles of Patmos, Rhodos, Santorini, 3 nights
17Nov arrive at the port of Athens and visit Corinth en route to Athens, 3 nights
with free day and visits to nearby sites
20Nov arrive in Detroit

* Departure, port, embarkation taxes and Turkish visa fee are extra as are the four land excursions on the Aegean cruise; their subtotal is $453.00;
European taxes and local airport fees will depend on the airline and the
connecting city that airline uses.

Manresa Jesuit Retreat House informed Fr. Panaretos that full payment must be sent with the registration (form available from Fr. Panaretos).

Operator is NAWAS INTERNATIONAL, a pioneer in Christian tours with a 56-year history. During those years NAWAS says, "we have won an international reputation for reliability."

Cost. Fr. Panaretos: "I added the fees and the base price and they are $3052.00, which is near enough to the actual price to help anyone budgeting. I don't know if this is based on double-occupancy. Of course, personal costs and tips are not included."

[While I am not endorsing any products for sale at, I pass along a link to its latest article on easing the airport security process for anyone interested.
--Fr. Panaretos]

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mark the Calendar, or. . .

. . .Never Again

I'm hoping for clear skies on 27 August. The planet Mars is drawing nearer to our planet Earth. As this month began it has been appearing, rising in the eastern sky, around 22:00. I did not know its rising has been leading up to a stellar event.

I received an email from my sister with these facts:

1. The next time Mars may come this close: 2287.

2. In the beginning of August it rose in the east at 22:00 and reached its azimuth at about 03:00.

3. The encounter culminates on 27 August as Mars comes within 34,649,589 miles of Earth.

4. It will be the brightest object in the night sky after the moon.

5. Some optical specs: Mars will attain a magnitude of -2.9 and will appear 25.11 arc-seconds wide at a modest 75-power magnification.

6. To the naked eye Mars will look as large as the full moon!

7. By the end of August when the two planets are closest, Mars will rise at nightfall and reach its highest point in the sky at 12:30a.m.

8. No human being in recorded history has seen this planetary phenomenon.

9. No one alive today will every see it again.

These events move me to glorify God with astonished wonder.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Royal Son, Royal Mother, Royal Children

As the first half of the 20th Century drew to a close Pope Pius XII sent a letter to all the faithful of the world. It began with the words, “To the Queen of Heaven.” Pope Pius taught what the church intuited very early: Mary’s role is parallel to but not exceeding the role of her son, the redeemer of the world.

A more recent affirmation of Mary’s role echoes our destiny is similar to hers:

"She was exalted by the Lord as Queen of all in order that she might be more thoroughly conformed to her Son, the Lord of Lords and the conqueror of sin and death" (Constitution on the Church, 59, The Second Vatican Council; emphasis added).

This memorial of Mary reminds us of two things: her royal function in bearing God into our world; and, Jesus’ desire that we “might be more thoroughly conformed to her Son.” Today is only a single day in the church’s liturgical calendar. Nonetheless, have many opportunities to lose ourselves in the mystery of Mary’s royal function for the church.

At easy reach is the Fifth Glorious Mystery of the rosary, “The Virgin Mary is crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth.” Losing ourselves in that mystery allows us to feel Jesus’ crowning touch as royal children: siblings of Jesus and of all people.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Commenting on My Blog

Yesterday at Fr. Von Tobel's delightful reception several parishioners told me they visited my blog,

Some parishioners wanted to leave comments but could not. Thanks for your patience, because it is one step at a time for me: first, getting the blog ready; and second, allowing you to comment.

As most everyone knows, a bane of the Internet is unwanted emails, and on blogs unwanted comments. These go by the name of SPAM. To prevent SPAM, which I have learned people can program their computers to send without being at their computers, I am making use of two common features: one is registration; and two is word-verification.

Wise bloggers, I am learning, deny anonymous comments. That discourages mindless and even rude comments. Denying anonymous comments is like not reading unsigned mail, which usually is written with little constructive observation. Registration opens the door welcoming serious commenting.

is a tool, which many of us who have ordered something via the Internet know but not necessarily by name. A string of a half dozen letters and numbers in random combinations appears as wavy lines. People are asked to type what they see in a box just beneath (that is, to verify the string). Word-verification denies computers with preprogrammed responses to generate them.

By visiting another’s blog, I offer you these steps to leave comments on my blog.

1. Beneath the post to which you would like to comment click on the link 0 Comments (or 2 Comments, if two comments preceded yours).
2. You will be asked for your Username and Password.
3. No Blogger account? (This appears beneath the Password box.) Then click Sign Up Here (it is a link to the right of No Blogger account?). Follow the directions that will appear to create your username and password for future visits.
4. When it appears complete the word-verification by typing the string of letters and/or numbers you see. Next, click Publish your comment.

I have made this today's post: one, so it will be here to help; and also “to scoop” the Gesu Bulletin. If you have trouble logging in, this link answers questions better than I can.
--Faithfully, Fr. Panaretos

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sunday word

20th Sunday of the Year B (20 Aug 2006) Pr 9. 1-6; Ps 34; Eph 5. 15-20; Jn 6. 51-58
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

When I was a boy the parents of one neighbor-family, who was Mormon, wondered aloud to my parents what use going to church was. My parents mentioned the neighbors’ question to me, which was a way of teaching me at a young age that plurality colored our society.

My impressionable mind already knew that because most of my Greek cousins are Greek Orthodox. My new learning was an appreciation that, unlike the Mormons, we are a sacramental church. Sacraments use natural things--water, oil, fire, bread, wine, words, touch--in order to make us aware of God’s relationship with us and to deepen our relationship with God.

Sacraments are not signs because signs have one meaning. Take an eight-sided red sign. It means stop and only stop. That is clear and fixed, so much so that stop signs are not only on streets. Their images are on web pages and on directions packaged with equipment. Sacraments are richer than signs.

Sacraments offer more than single meanings: dying and rising (baptism); sacrifice and meal (eucharist); healing by sharing in Christ’s cross (anointing the sick); two people making one life together with their two personalities (marriage). Those combinations don’t exhaust the meanings of those sacraments. Sacraments are richer than signs. They are “swamps of meaning and swamps of being”--a graphic expression of my recently deceased teacher, Fr. Aidan Kavanagh.

Sacraments also make real and present what they express through their swamps of meaning. They have their hazardous sides: we enter swamps at our own risk. Jesus invites us to live differently, promising to stand beside us as we stand against whatever oppresses, whatever mocks life or harms people and whatever defies God’s justice and wisdom.

As swamps of being, sacraments soak us in genuine life, divine life. Jesus announced with authority that he was both that life and the giver of that life to all.

Manna was bread from heaven, but it only nourished the body. Jesus is the living bread which came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.

Jesus is true food and true drink by which we abide in Jesus and Jesus in us. But does not a person always enjoy Jesus' presence within one’s heart? That was our Mormon neighbors’ question to my parents. Of course we do! Our eating and drinking at the Lord’s table, which is always a communal feast--first with our ears and eyes during the liturgy of the word, then by each one’s personal communion during the liturgy of the eucharist--allow us to intensify the relationship Jesus already has with us.

To feast on Christ’s body and blood saturates us with Jesus’ Spirit and connects us with what it is genuine, godly and wise. Many other things intoxicate us with the folly of the world, leading us to debauchery, to use St. Paul’s word. Debauchery is riotous living from which our relationship with Jesus keeps us. Debauchery, too, results in killing--human spirits as well as human beings. Debauchery is also--this is so subltle to note readily--a killing pace, against which all of us, adult and child, student and worker, spouses and friends and ordained ministers need to guard. Our greatest guardians are Jesus and deepening our relationship with him. Christ’s body and blood is one help to becoming filled with [his] Spirit and not intoxicated by other things.

After communion we pause to pray privately.** Our words or the words of another we may use help us to taste and savor the One we have eaten and drunk in order to become the One we have received, as St. Augustine taught his parishioners.***

Begin to notice what Jesus is doing in you and for you via his communion with you. Set aside 10 minutes each day this week and return to what you began to notice here because it is the beginning of Jesus’ invitation to you to live more intently as his friend and disciple and to live in a more friendly way with others and the entire earth. Don't be surprised if Jesus challenges you. Do remember Jesus graces you to live his challenge.
* I first heard him say it in class in 1980. No doubt he used in his published works.

** General Instruction to the Roman Missal [GIRM], 88.

*** Augustine's conviction of divine indwelling his Confessions make clear: “Why, then, do I ask thee to come into me, since I also am and could not be if thou wert not in me?” (I.2.2). His eucharistic teaching elaborates on the sacrament’s effects on us.
In Sermon 57.7 Augustine taught Christians "are what they receive." Also, Sermon 272 is often cited.
Another line is telling: “You [Lord] do not make me into yourself, you become me!”--I paraphrase from memory.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Theft and Tradition

Saturday has been Mary's day at least from the 9th Century. When no obligatory Memorial or Feast or Solemnity falls on a Saturday, priests may choose to celebrate one of the memorial Masses in honor of the Blessed Virgin.

A deeply sad irony soured my morning when I read the news of a theft of an icon of the Virgin from a monastery in the Peloponnisos (Pel-o-PON-ni-sos) region of Greece. It is a region as lovely as it is harsh.

I was impressed by the way the local mayor put his morning's harsh news in perspective:

"Dimitris Tsigounis, the local mayor, said he hoped the icon had been stolen on behalf of a rich collector because at least it would be safe." (BBC article linked herein.)

His concern for the icon reminded me that the Virgin Mary and the Trinity, too, do not need our protection to be safe. We, however, do need to safeguard our reverence and devotion to them. We do not always do well at that--as the BBC headlined today.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Pairings We Don't Make Naturally

Scripture--and worship which flows from it--heaps images upon images. One result is pairing things that make no sense (e.g., I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain [Hebrews 5.6]).

Hebrew poetry, of which the Psalms are perhaps best known, was fond of expressing things in pairs. Such as:

On Zion sinners are in dread,
trembling grips the impious;
"Who us can live with the consuming fire?
Who of us can live with the everlasting flames?"
[Isaiah 33.14]

The temptation is to read quickly "correcting" the useless repetition. However, reading slowly--moving one's lips helps--allows us absorb what God desires to communicate at a given time.

This morning one pairing moved me:

The poor when they see it [praising God with one's life] will be glad
and God-seeking hearts will revive.

The ancient separation between the needy and God-seekers is probably more contemporary than we think. In ancient Israel down to Jesus' day, the poor were poor because of some trespass somewhere in their genealogy, and similarly were the diseased. Jesus dispelled that notion in deed and in word: Jesus associated with "the least" ones!

Jesus invites God-seekers to hold dear the needy and to demonstrate that concern as each one is able. That is true worship; joy for the poor ones; life for the comfortable; and the beginning of reconciliation for today.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Today is my sister and brother-in-law's anniversary and their first child's birthday. It's hard to believe the number of years that have passed for them all. God and the years have been very good to them.

This same day is also my 10th anniversary of entering the Society of Jesus. It seems like only yesterday. I also feel very much at home. Again God and the years have been very good to me. I continue to marvel at God's patience and graciousness: it took me a dozen years as a diocesan priest to realize that God had blessed my life with two vocations, priesthood and religious life.

Today my sister and brother-in-law's anniversary and niece's birthday give me pause to realize yet a third, hyphenated vocation: brother-uncle. Families are thanked for giving the church sons as priests, and religious communities thank families for giving them sons and daughters to enlarge their orders.

Ten years ago the provincial who accepted me into the Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus did that and more. John thanked my sister (my only sibling), too. Elaine and her family have shaped me in ways as invaluable--and inexpressible--as our parents shaped me to respond to Jesus invitation to be his Jesuit Companion and to serve the church as one of its priests.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Teacher's Passing

Yesterday, while consulting a portion of a book written by a professor of mine, the chime sounded on my computer indicating an email arrived. It was not from whom I was anticipating an email, but from The Divinity School, Yale University. It emails periodically about happenings at the school. As I scrolled down the page I read that Aidan Kavanagh, O.S.B., had died last month. I followed the link to the complete article. Aidan was a pioneer in liturgical theology. In fact, I had been consulting his seminal work, On Liturgical Theology, when the chime sounded. Aidan was only 77.

Aidan was a monk of St. Meinrad Archabbey. Its chronicle (number 9 of the July entries) indicated a long illness preceded Aidan's death. During his life, which he lived away from his monastery teaching, first at Notre Dame, then The Divinity School, Yale University, God used Aidan, anomalies and all (to paraphrase one of his many expressions: "warts and all") for the betterment of the church in the modern world.

He was always quick to remind his students and others who heard him that the Greek word we fashion into "laity" has a royal connotation. Aidan was convinced that the church praying at the Lord's Table is a dynamic orchestration of several orders: the assembly; servers; lectors; deacons; priests. That means all the baptized--living their faith in numerous ways day to day--exercise their royalty which they share in Christ Jesus for the sake of the world.

A final, personal note: Aidan was always teaching in any venue, although one would not realize it at the time--in part because Aidan instilled much joy into it. Aidan took me to lunch before I was ordained. He was sorry he could not come to the ordination. At that lunch Aidan taught me another remarkable thing. He said, "Paul, write down each of your homilies and save them. Periodically--6 months, 9 months, a year--review them, and you will see how you have grown." I did that (I always took Aidan's advice). He was, of course, correct! Now that I am in a position to do so, I recommend that to preachers, and I always give Aidan credit.

Aidan is truly deserviing to enjoy the liturgy of heaven. He devoted his earthly life to helping people experience it in some small way on earth by God's gracious gift.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tuesday word

Assumption of BVM (15 Aug 2006) Rv 11.19,12.1-6,10; Ps 45; 1Co 15.20-26; Lk 1. 39-56
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Awaiting Our Destiny

Consider this question for a moment. Which is first: dogma or worship? [Pause] No trick question that. If you are uncertain, here’s a clue by asking the question slightly differently. Which existed first: worship or dogma? Anyone venture a guess? Yes, worship is first.

The foundation of our Christian religion and our reason to practice it in our lives was and is the experience of the risen Lord. That is why we profess we are “apostolic.” The apostles proclaimed Jesus risen from the dead, Messiah and Lord. You and I have inherited their experience, and our vocation is to make their experience our own.

The experience of the risen Lord transformed everything for the apostles and all the first disciples. Their response to it and their devotion to the risen Lord gave birth to worship. Thus from repeated worship dogmas crystallized. The one that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven is recent, a dogma proclaimed in 1950. Long before it was part of the church's worship of our Lord. The church in Palestine made it a feast in the 5th century; Rome in the 7th; and the entire church in the 8th century.

Like everything about Mary, especially her feasts, she points to her son Jesus, the risen Lord we worship. As one ancient doctor of the church put it, “It was necessary that the Mother of God should share the possessions of her Son, and be venerated by every creature as the Mother and handmaid of God.”*

What then do we celebrate today? The opening prayer suggested our destiny of which Mary’s is the model: “May we see heaven as our final goal and come to share her glory.”**

This has practical consequences in our daily living. They pose this question to us: do we cherish more dearly the values of the world or the love of God? Money, position, control and other “ways of the world” always seduce us. Yet Mary is our model and mother because she valued God’s love for her above all. She had nothing, and in a culture which valued many children over few and no children, her virginity guaranteed her no esteem.

What may be more important and encouraging to us Luke’s gospel relates: the unsensational encounter with God’s messenger, the directness of Mary’s prayer and her simple response to attend to Elizabeth. Little things of great significance.

Take some time before you retire this evening--you could make this your night prayer: ask Jesus’ spirit to free your mind and heart to imagine Mary visiting you. How is she dressed? What color is her complexion? her clothing? What does she say to you? Notice above all your response to her. Close with a Hail Mary. The one who first shared in the resurrection Jesus promised all of us desires to deepen your hope in it and to make you more at home with it.

* John Damascene, quoted by Pope St. Pius XII; reprinted in the Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings for August 15.

** The Sacramentary, the Mass of the Day.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Still Good Enough

A friend of mine is traveling by air. The new security measures have changed the way he needs to prepare and the way he is to pack. My friend's is a trip of a long duration. In the face of the upset this has caused and the potential dangers everywhere, my friend concluded today's email to me with these words: "The world is still good enough."

That is completely correct! The Incarnation of God in Jesus by their Spirit quiets all challenges to the contrary. The Creator chose not only to live as a human being in every way; the Creator also chose to die a human death.

Today the Church remembers one of its priest-martyrs, Maximillian Kolbe. Focused by deep devotion to the Virgin Mary, Fr. Kolbe was deeply dedicated to the Christian faith. His supreme sacrifice of charity crowned his dedication on this day in 1941 when Fr. Kolbe offered his life in place of another prisoner at Auschwitz.

Auschwitz, and all the Nazi death-camps, were terribly cruel and inhuman places. At the same time God was present--in ways our minds fail to grasp--because Fr. Kolbe and others offered their lives for each other. Survivors offered goodnesses, too, though unaware of it. Indeed, "the world is still good enough."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sunday word

19th Sunday of the Year B (13 Aug 2006) 1Kg19.4-8; Ps 34; Eph4.30-5.2; Jn6. 41-51
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Allowing God To Teach Us What Matters Most

Different forms of literature use language differently in order to express best what authors seek to convey. Video-literature--movies--make a good example. Villains can be dressed in dark clothing; innocent people and heroes in light colors. Something happening in shadows or at night may be murky, mysterious or malicious. And if you’re like me and enjoy suspense films, sinister music--even a single, unresolved note colored with a touch of vibrato, “mmmmmm!”--is a clue as bright as daylight that something ominous is around the corner.

Biblical literature is no different because God’s revelation is clothed in human language. The Fourth Gospel exploits language in order both to convey meaning and deepen it. The word world in the Fourth Gospel connotes more than geography. The world means the way of living we know well: the familiar; the customary; and what human minds can grasp. The other realm is not familiar; it is not bound by our customs, our surroundings or our social standing. That realm is the realm of God.

The realm of God challenges our presumed, comfortable, secure ways of living. God’s realm invites us to live in new ways, ways in which we grow to appreciate the standards of the world as less real, less satisfying, less secure.

St. Paul, responding to practical concerns about living Christian lives, offered examples of ways of the world to avoid. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. St. Paul remembered Jesus had placed them on a par with murder.*

Another aspect of the realm of God is that it is unfamiliar to our usual way of diagnosing and perceiving. The Fourth Gospel places this conviction in the context of Jesus’ self-identification as the bread that came down from heaven. Many of those who heard him said that thought that they knew who he really was. “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven?’”

This was no abstract entertainment or debate about doctrine. It was presumptuous: because they knew his parents, and thus from where he came, they thought they knew his origins.

When we celebrate the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood, we shift our focus from the world--what is customary and familiar to us--and focus in a more alert fashion on the presence of Christ first in his word, which is offered to whet our appetites for his eucharist.

Its God-provided nourishment sustains us in unmatched ways. An angel of the Lord provided Elijah’s bread and water, which he needed at the very moment when he gave up on his vocation and even prayed for death.

The eucharist of Christ’s body and blood is communion which nourishes and strengthens us for what matters most. It is not merely part of the order of mass. Nor is the eucharist an extra, like an optional accessory to our autos or add-on for computers. “We come to share our story,” as the song sings it, that is, who we are in God as the scriptures unfold that knowledge to us.

We partake of the broken bread in order to live the godly life to which Jesus invites us for the sake of the world. Equally important, “We come to know our rising from the dead”**--what matters most. Paul, help us sing that into our hearts. [Musician accompanies us all in singing the entire refrain.]

Yet, we humans are tempted to complain often about what matters little or not at all. In the winter, it’s the cold. In the summer, it’s the heat. Of late it has been the price of gas. Those are a far cry from complaining to the point of death. We can’t compare them with parents grieving the death of children by rickets or rockets, disease or drowning. People terrorized by war’s inhumanity have a greater claim on God and a greater right to complain to God than we do about cold, heat and the price of gas. Jesus did not come to save us from such things but from sin and its consequences.

Reserve 10 minutes each day this week to consider how God is creating you to change the world. In those 10 minutes allow God to show you what matters most and how Jesus nourishes you to change the world: one deed; one word; one day at a time.

* cf., Matthew 5. 21-22

**”Song of the Body of Christ,” words by David Haas, which he arranged to a Hawaiian traditional melody. It may be found in Gather at #613.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

I Was Just Over A Year Old

Today in history: One year and three-months after my first birthday, the now-former Soviet Union detonated its first hydrogen bomb in a test. It was more portable and 30-times more powerful than the U.S. bomb it followed. The Soviet bomb was called the "Layer Cake Bomb" because its components were layers of hydrogen and an isotope of the same element.

Too often people give felicitous names to engines of death and destruction. We often consider our own injurious behavior as anything but that. Given time and an honest consideration of the feelings we name remorse and realistic guilt we realize the gravity of what we may have done.

Popular pschology often belittles both remorse and guilt, which flow from what I did or left undone (hence, realistic). In fact, they are baromoters of healthy personal development and healthy, inspirited living.

A synonym for inspirited is enthusiasm. We use enthusiasm to mean strong feeling. Our connotation of the word hides its original meaning. Its root is from the Greek, to have God within.

My reminder for today is what I often remind myself when I feel remorse:
Don't get down if you feel remorse. Feeling it is a clue that God-within is helping us to orient our lives anew and enjoy a layer of reconciliation, which always gives birth to life. Reconciliation in relationships does not deny what happened; rather, it allows us to live in new, enriched and healthier ways in the future.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Svelte--Earlier and Later; and. . .

. . .svelte hearts

In the early nighties I was flying home through JFK. A February blizzard closed airports all around. I had to stay over a couple nights. Fortunately a friend was at home, a short bus-ride from the airport. We went to a movie after dinner at a Chinese restaurant, the only one which seemed open in the neighborhood.

I forget the movie but it was a Columbia Pictures release. Lady Columbia appeared on the screen for her few seconds of torch bearing, and I was amazed. She was more svelte than I had seen her on a silver screen not so many weeks earlier. I grew up with the more ample Columbia lady of the 50s and 60s. You may see all of her makeovers and read about each one at this link. Even the early -generation Big Boy was more svelte, although he exceeded my boyhood girth.

"Where is all this coming from?" readers may well wonder. I've been seeing the desks in hallways and classrooms of Gesu school this summer. Their size, even the largest and especially the smallest, always make me wonder, "How did I fit in those things?" But what truly amazes me is not body size but the expansiveness of human hearts. What saddens me is how easily ephemeral things constrict our hearts and contort the actions that flow from them.

Madison Avenue would serve us well if it gave us those kind of images. It probably won't. So neighborly kindness, community service and regular attendance at places of worship will have to offer them instead.

The way to become truly svelte of heart is to speak to each other about the ways of the heart. One saying attirbuted to St. Ignatius of Loyola is my beacon: "If you want to grow in love, speak about it: speech is to love as wind is to the flame." That takes courage, which helps me appreciate that svelte is from the same Latin root as the word vulnerable.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Men and Healing

An often and too-prevalent silent loss of life is abortion. Abortion usually evokes women. While abortion is a concern of women, it is not exclusively a women's issue. While I admit it very rare in my experience, over the years a few men have sought me to speak about it. I suppose I am more correct to say that a few men sought a priest, and I was the priest they found.

Both men and women make babies, and I have always wondered why men seemed silent about abortion, and many helping professions seemingly overlooked men. Surely, men have emotional stakes in abortions--choosing them or opposing them. Well, I'm again grateful to the internet, this time for maintaining an article about men and abortion. It appeared in one of the most-read Catholic magazines in February 2005.

I missed reviewing that issue of U.S. Catholic, the award winning Catholic magazine. That issue ran an article about men and abortion. It is posted on its site to which I navigated tonight. You may find it confirms what you think, too, about the matter. Or, it may enlighten you. You may even want to forward it to someone you know--men and women.

The article has a great side-bar (as U.S. Catholic articles do). It ends with a list of resources. Humans' need for healing, which means not denying but living in a healthy, life-giving way with traumas, often does not seem necessary to us. This article shows healing is necessary and also offers us new life.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Common Good

Yesterday a coalition was at the State House in Columbus, Ohio, seeking to strengthen the common good of our society. I have yet to learn the outcome.

Ohio Catholic Leaders Support Minimum Wage Ballot Measure
Call for Public Policy Based on Justice, Human Dignity, and the Common Good

August 7, 2006

A coalition of Ohio workers, unions, and religious and community groups will present at the State House tomorrow enough signatures to place on the November ballot an initiative increasing the state's minimum wage. In line with Church teachings that a fair day's work deserves a fair day's pay, and that alleviating poverty should be a top moral priority of any society, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good is joining the chorus of support for this important measure.

"Catholic Social Teaching values work as a reflection of human dignity, and. . . more

The frequently scheduled ABC-Evening-News-investigative report, "It's Your Money," is not strictly about one's personal resources; often it reports on how corporations and governments (sometimes both together) squander resources that come from individuals. Often "It's Your Money" has more to do with the common good than a tight-fisted, closed-hand attitude toward personal wealth.

The Catholic social tradition relies on the principle of distributive justice in this regard. In practice distributive justice considers what a society or any large group owes (read, ought to distribute to) its individual members.

This distribution is in proportion to three things: first, what each individual needs and can contribute in a responsible fashion; second, the resources a society or any large group has available to the society (hard cash is only one example; health care, food and security are three more); and third, the society’s or organization’s responsibility to the common good.

Citizens have the responsibility to elect leaders who can develop and implement strategies for the good of all. That's why voting is a moral duty. Yet political leaders cannot do everything alone. In fact, we know too well that sometimes left to their own political leaders harm the common good.

That is why initiatives on a ballot are as important as the names of people. Sometimes what guarantees that leaders heed the common wisdom of the public is an initiative open to all voters--not only their elected leaders.

Whenever the President appealed to increased numbers of people in new jobs and concluded the economy was on the rebound, he lumped all jobs. Not all jobs are long lasting and provide security. For example, jobs in food-service were part of those numbers. Job-turnover in food-service is very high, not least because of the meager wages those jobs offer.

Increasing the minimum wage will not end poverty for everyone living in poverty. In Ohio this measure, as presented to the State House, will offer additional financial stability to an estimated 719,000 of this State's working poor. That distributes more security and more justice, and will allow that many more citizens to better themselves and, thereby, the common good. A just and compelling reason to vote for it.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Tuesday word

18Tuesday, St. Dominic (08Aug2002) Jer 30.1-2,12-15,18-22; Ps 102; Mt14.22-36
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
First and Often

H. Richard Niebuhr, theologian and professor at The Divinity School, Yale University in the first half of the 20th Century, counseled the order in which to ask these two questions: What should I do? and What is God doing in the world around me? “What is God doing?” I ought to ask first and often.

While H. Richard Niebuhr did not share our Ignatian heritage he was at home in it. He was in synch with Ignatius to ask first what God is doing. As parishioners and visitors of Gesu you probably know that we not only ask, What God is doing? we try to view ourselves and our world from the Trinity’s perspective when we contemplate the Incarnation? “In their eternity the Divine Persons decided that the Second Person should also become a human being to save the human race.”

Before I contemplated the Incarnation in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, I gradually became aware that God acted on my behalf. I followed God. I followed not very well. I still want to rush ahead of God. It is my wound, to use Jeremiah’s image, and I cannot cure it. I can prevent God from curing it, although it is God’s deepest desire to do so.

I cannot predict how God heals my wound. I can only see more clearly God at work. Faith seeks to see God healing and notes progress. It is a gift. Imagine yourself with the disciples in their boat that night.

I can only imagine that the disciples endured an eternity of toil, strained backs and arms and frightful uncertainty as waves and wind lashed their dinghy. An “eternity” because Jesus did not walk to them until just before dawn!

Peter rose above his fear enough to see what God was doing in Jesus: walking on the sea. Peter thought he should do what Jesus was doing. I sensed in my contemplation this time that Peter wanted to console his brothers by confirming for them Jesus’ assurance that he was no ghost. Strong wind distracted Peter’s gaze on Jesus and what Jesus was doing.

Each of us can recall in our own metaphors of watching Jesus act and acting with Jesus until the strong wind of temptation, desolation, doubt or another darkens our gaze, and we falter. Each time Jesus stretched out his hand and caught us: although we may not have realized right away Jesus’ lovingly strong and personal hold on us. That has been my experience.

Knowing that ever more certainly--that is, Jesus keeps reaching for me--is why I have been so long in hearing Jesus’ words to Peter and to me, you of little faith, more a term of endearment than stern chastising.

Peter did console his brothers, who worshiped Jesus as son of God after [Peter and Jesus] got into the boat. His consolation did not happen the way Peter thought it would. Peter was consoled immeasurably, as Jesus wants to console us, because Peter first saw what God our Lord was doing, and second, Peter heard Jesus address him with affection in the storm of the moment.

St. Dominic relied upon God to heal deeper-than-physical ailments: to heal whatever keeps us distant from God; to grant genuine charity.

"Frequently he made a special personal petition that God would deign to grant him a genuine charity in caring for and obtaining the salvation of [people]."**

Keep focused on Jesus, and try to see from his healing, in-touch-with-God point of view. Ignatius is toasting Dominic on his feast today for having done that in Dominic’s own way.
* Spiritual Exercises [102].
** Proceedings of the Canonization of St. Dominic, Rome 1935; quoted in Liturgy of the Hours, vol.4, p. 1302.

Monday, August 07, 2006

What Holds Us Back?

In 258 in a Roman cemetery Pope Sixtus II and four of his deacons were murdered by soldiers executing the edict of the Roman Emperor Valerian to the Roman Senate. After sending delegates to learn the details of the situation, the North African bishop and future martyr, Cyprian, wrote a letter to Bishop Successus. Cyprian informed him of the sad news and through him informed pastors everywhere in North Africa. Cyprian also encouraged them to strengthen all Christians in the face of systematic and legal persecution.

In his letter, Cyprian reported the chief tactic in Valerian's edict:

"...the truth concerning [what happened] is as follows, that Valerian had sent a rescript to the Senate to the effect that bishops and presbyters and deacons should immediately be punished; but that senators, and men of importance, and Roman knights, should lose their dignity, and moreover be deprived of their property; and if, when their means were taken away, they should persist in being Christians, then they should also lose their heads; but that matrons [ladies of the upper classes] should be deprived of their property, and sent into banishment."

While men were to be killed and woman banished, the ruling powers confiscated the property of both men and women of means. Early in its history Christianity and comfortable living were compatible. Some presentations of the early church incorrectly suggest that all Christians were not well-to-do.

In the ages of martyrdom (past and present) some of the upper class citizens may have renounced their Christianity. Those who did not were killed or banished for Christ.

I place no dollar amount on any of us. However, after living in Sri Lanka and India for almost seven months in 2005 and 2006, I have seen with my own eyes that nearly everyone in the U.S. lives far more comfortably than millions of people living in Southern Asia and elsewhere in the world. Yet, comfort doesn't determine human dignity.

Compulsions of one sort or another affect us all, including practicing Christians. Would we defect from Christ and living his gospel if powers confiscated from us property, people or daily comforts?

Cyprian closed his letter with a conviction: followers of God and Christ are not slain, they are crowned. That conviction summarizes the entire Bible because it describes God's upside-down way of working in our human history and individual lives.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sunday word

Transfiguration of the Lord B (06Aug2006) Dn7.9-10,13-14; Ps 97; 2Pt1.16-19; Mk9.2-10
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Allowing God a Turn

Art often depicts the scene of the Transfiguration as blinding the apostles with the light of divine glory. Without neglecting this and its accompanying awe Church Tradition has shaped the Transfiguration as an invitation to ponder God-become-flesh, who died and rose for us; and to unite ourselves with Christ suffering in all people who suffer as one pathway to sharing Christ’s glory. That’s why each Second Sunday of Lent offers this gospel scene. The annual feast of the Transfiguration also shapes it as a scene of prayer and as a call to prayer.

To pray connects us with the Trinity: to God through Jesus in their Spirit, as the ancient closing of prayer put it. To pray maintains our connection, deepening it and strengthening it. To pray shares in the divine glory and graciousness which Jesus continually reveals even now. To pray admits that clouds of mystery surround our experience of God through Jesus in their Spirit. The Transfiguration vision assumes as true that the more real, heavenly world is hidden from human perception unless God takes the initiative to identify its messengers. To pray allows our Triune God to communicate with us in an ongoing way.

Prayer has been called conversation with God. By definition conversation has two ingredients: one’s turn to speak; and, one’s turn to listen, quietly attending to what a conversation partner offers. A true incident helps us appreciate conversing with God.

A Russian Orthodox woman of many years and deep piety spoke to her priest after liturgy one day. She said, ‘Father, I have always prayed and do pray. I tell God everything. I ask God to help me and others. But in all my years I feel God does not hear me.’

Her priest looked tenderly at her before asking, ‘Do you ever listen and give God a chance to reply?’ Her face brightened. ‘Why no!’ she answered. ‘Pray as usual,’ said the priest, ‘and when you knit, quiet yourself and allow God to communicate to you.’ She soon reported his advice changed everything for her.*

Do we allow Christ to speak? Our opening prayer admitted to God that are vocations are to listen to the voice of Christ Jesus.** We listen to his voice with more than our ears.

The church reminds us: “Christ...speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in Church. He is present...when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: Where two or three are gathered together for my sake, I am there in the midst of them (Mt 18.20)."** St. Augustine said that one is an empty proclaimer of God’s word, “who does not listen to it inwardly.”*** His student, St. Ambrose, said, “we speak to [God] when we pray, we hear him when we read the divine sayings,”**** for even alone Jesus promised us, I will never leave your orphaned.

Christ the Speaker: that image balances our understanding of prayer as conversation with God. In the second reading St. Peter exhorted us to be attentive; Daniel, we heard, watched, alert to the vision given him. And on the mountain St. Peter: well, he was so much like us. He seemed immune to the awe and prophetic confirmation at Jesus’ transfiguration. The divine voice reminded him and us: Jesus is my beloved son. Listen to him. I hear the tone of the divine voice both pleading and commanding: Peter! Be still! Hunker down and drink in this present moment, which authorizes you to speak for Jesus and for his Father.

Are you ready for a challenge this week? I hope you are. This week pause each day for five minutes and calm yourself, quiet yourself. In your calm quiet be aware of God gazing on you with love. ...That’s all. ... Start with two minutes if you must and work up to five, to 10 minutes over the next seven days

If you knit, knit in quiet, both outer and inner quiet. If you walk, walk calmly and notice what you see as if for the first time. If you sip a cup of coffee, don’t make any list or think of anything. If you sit, sit quietly. Admit distracrtions for what they are, and refocus yourself on God gazing lovingly on you. Trust me. It may be uncomfortable at first, hence two minutes gradually working up to five, to 10 minutes. They may become the most valuable and daily 10 minutes of your life.
* The Tablet a few years ago. I recount here from memory.

** God our Father, in the transfigured glory of Christ your Son, you strengthen our faith by confirming the witness of your prophets, and show us the splendor of your beloved sons and daughters.
As we listen to the voice of your Son, help us to become heirs to eternal life with him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. [Sacramentary, Feast of the Transfiguration]

*** Constitution on the Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, #7.

****Sermon 179, quoted in #25 above.

*****On the Duties of Ministers I, quoted also in #25.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Traveling to reunion

Today and tomorrow I will be on the road. Today I leave for my 36th high-school class reunion. I'm looking forward to it. I understand that planning for our 35th began too late to gather a good number of people last August. I could not have made it because I was out of the country. Lucky for me the planning began late!

I will return in the afternoon on Saturday, 05 August.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Swimming Lesson

I am a regular swimmer, and I have been regularly swimming for 19 years. Moving through water challenges on-land intuition. If moving faster on land covers more distance, one would think to do likewise in water. However, water offers greater resistance than air. To cover more distance in water one needs to move gently in order to diminish the resistance water exerts. Adding other techniques for efficiency combine with a smooth stroke to increase distance.

Yesterday, I focused on one thing during each phase of my swim: to be more horizontal; to reach longer each stroke; and to breathe more deeply. I continue to learn to breathe more deeply. The more I breathe deeply, the more I am able to execute a smoother, longer stroke. Breathing is only one technique, and very important.

Catching up on reading, my experience in the pool helped me appreciate better a metaphor U.S. Bishop Wenski used in a 27 July interview with John Allen Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter. Speaking for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [USCCB], Bishop Wenski decried violence as an attempt to acheive peace between Hezbollah and Israel. The bishop said that

"the more people who are killed, the more the fighting escalates, the more infrastructure is destroyed, the more difficult it becomes for all sides to find common ground to negotiate. That’s why the cease-fire is so important. It would allow us to take a deep breath [my emphasis], to let reason direct policy rather than reactions of anger to hurts old or new. The escalation of violence will not bring us closer to a resolution which is just, but [a cease-fire] will take a lot of moral courage."

No deep breaths exist these days in Lebanon and Israel (not to mention Iraq, Afghanistan and forgotten other-theaters of violence, such as Sri Lanka, Darfur and Colombia) only painful sighs, contorting faces and hearts. The loud sound of a painful sigh masks that it is shallow compared to deep, relaxed breathing.

Both violent reaction as well as inaction which condones violence do not allow "reason to direct policy." The USCCB stands united with Pope Benedict XVI and his call for an immediate cease-fire in the Hezbollah-Israel conflict embroiling Lebanon and the cause of the death of innocents in both Lebanon and Israel. The result is an uncomfortable division of opinion on this matter between Catholic leaders and the U.S. and other like-minded governments.

Grace is not incompatible with discomfort. I see a grace in this distance of opinion: it puts in a tighter orbit around Jesus and his good news all who are willing to breathe deeply and respond in nonviolent ways--in thought, word, mind, heart, as well as action.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Critical Mass

Yesterday my Provincial wrote me and all the Jesuits in our Detroit Province. Fr. Scullin was in Jerusalem on 12 July when the Hezbollah and Israel intensified their attacks on one another with the ongoing, tragic consequence of innocent civilian deaths. On 14 July, his final day in Jerusalem, Fr. Scullin prayed at Christ's tomb.

"I am writing to ask you to join with our church leaders in calling for an immediate cease-fire in Israel and Lebanon. Both parties to the violence seem to demonstrate an indifference to the children, women and men who are innocent victims in this horrific conflict."

Since the U.S. invaded Iraq, many citizens have equated calls for an end to violence with disrespect for the U.S. and its leadership. That is a false premise. In fact people of faith cannot help but call for an end to violence. They also call all people of good will to unite with them in a clear call both to end violence and to preserve and protect innocent children, women and men.

"All of us have our baptismal commitment to a ministry of reconciliation," Fr. Scullin wrote. His sentence made my heart skip a beat. Baptism includes every Christian. Baptism shapes each Christian into a prophet as well as a royal and priestly member of God's people. Anointed with chrism, the sacred oil named after Christ, baptizing ministers say, "As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you always live...."

Yes, the cultural and political and religious terrain in the Near East is difficult, even treacherous. However, wholesale slaughter of innocents by anyone is the utmost treachery. Violence and war have no part with God. That may be the most difficult tenet of faith to accept. Difficult does not mean impossible. To put it another way, we have been baptized for the impossible not only the difficult.

[This link from the Christian Science Monitor is entitled, "Refugees Overwhelm Lebanon," little covered by many media.]

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Interview with Major Superior of the Jesuits

On the eve of the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, 31 July 2006, the international news agency, Zenit, posted on its website this interview with Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, the Major Superior of The Society of Jesus. His usual, clear language makes this timely interview informative.

ZENIT News Agency, The World Seen from Rome

On the Future of the Jesuits
Interview With Superior General Father KolvenbachROME, JULY 30, 2006 ( Last February, Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, father general of the Society of Jesus, convoked a general congregation for January 2008, to elect his successor.

It was an unexpected announcement, as the office is for life, but the superior general has his reasons.

In this interview with ZENIT, Father Kolvenbach explains why he called the meeting, and what other important issues the representatives of the world's close to 20,000 Jesuits will also address.

Q: What symptoms prove that the moment has come to call a general congregation?

Father Kolvenbach
: St. Ignatius did not favor the idea of general congregations being called at a fixed period. He thought that the preparations necessary to convoke a general congregation and to call a large number of Jesuits worldwide to Rome might affect the apostolic work in which they were engaged.

Therefore, he prescribed that only "for reason of great importance," when the issues were of such magnitude that they went beyond the capacity of the Society's ordinary government to address, should a general congregation be convoked. In fact there have only been 34 general congregations in the 465-year history of the Society.

The Church and present-day society are facing problems that require careful and creative examination.

Globalization, emigration, massive displacements, relativism, secularization and so many others are challenges that to one or another degree affect all countries and impose important changes on our apostolic planning. The general congregation is the instrument available to the Society to find, with God's grace, the way to serve the Church and the world.

To this very important reason is added another of a personal nature: the many years I have had at the head of the government of the Society and the suitability of electing my successor.

St. Ignatius saw valid reasons to prescribe that the office of superior general be for life. And, of course, it cannot be denied that it entails certain advantages.

However, that decision of St. Ignatius was made in the 16th century when life expectancy was much shorter than now. Ignatius died at 65, a rather advanced age for the time, after having been superior general for 15 years. His two immediate successors died respectively at 53 and 62 years of age, after a generalate that in both cases was reduced to seven years.

Compared to them, my period as superior general is already longer than 22 years, and if God so wills, in 2008 I will be about to celebrate 80 years of age and 25 as superior general. These are circumstances which question legitimately the appropriateness of putting an end to such a long period.

Q: There have been ups and downs in the relationship between the Society and the Pope. Why?

Father Kolvenbach
: In the framework of a special relationship between the Pope and the Society of Jesus -- desired and professed by both parties -- it is understandable and human that historical circumstances influence the tenor of this relationship.

On the other hand, as Pope Paul VI said so affectionately, in an address in which points of attention were not lacking in regard to certain tendencies he observed in the Society. The Jesuits have always been in the trenches, at the crossroads where problems have been debated that did not always have a clear answer.

It is not strange that, in the service of the Church, some abandoned the security of the trenches to launch themselves defenseless beyond the orthodox demarcations in search of new answers to new problems.

The case of Father Mateo Ricci is enlightening. Profoundly knowledgeable of the Chinese culture and mentality, he made the effort to show that reverence to ancestors was not an idolatrous worship as was said in the West, but a social and family custom which did not contradict the Christian faith or justify the denial of baptism to those who remembered their ancestors in that way.

This position made him the target of criticisms by other religious and, finally, of Rome's condemnation. There is no doubt that this closed the door to many possible converts. Only in the 20th century was Ricci recognized as ahead of his age in the proclamation of the Gospel and as a precursor of inculturation in the missionary endeavor.

Not all the Jesuits who have been called to Rome can attribute to themselves Ricci's preparation and nobility of intentions, but neither have those who have served the Church with faithfulness and dedication been few, who were not recognized until a long time after. Father Teilhard de Chardin is, perhaps, one of the most representative cases.

Q: The spiritual life of Jesuits is, of course, one of your concerns as superior general. Will it be a topic to address at the general congregation and, if so, in what terms?

Father Kolvenbach
: On examining the state of the Society at the meeting of all the major superiors, which we had in Loyola in December 2005, we came to the conclusion that the spiritual health of Jesuits was good. The instrument to measure Jesuits' spiritual health has always been and continues to be, unconditional consecration to the mission.

Today as yesterday it is profound personal identification with the Lord, the one sent by the Father, which characterizes and defines the way to proceed in the Society. However, it will in any case be a topic that the general congregation will address because it is proper to the Jesuits not to be satisfied with what they have achieved.

We must serve the Lord in a society in which trivial thought reigns supreme and tends to undermine a profound love of Jesus Christ and an unconditional commitment to the mission. That is why it is a topic of constant timeliness which undoubtedly the general congregation will want to put on the table, though it is still too early to venture into speculation on the congregation's agenda.

Q: There are many institutions of the world, especially universities in the United States, called Jesuit, but in which the presence of Jesuits is very reduced. Have you thought of some solution?

Father Kolvenbach: This situation has not arisen now. We have already addressed it before and we agreed to accept that this situation of a reduced presence of Jesuits has led us to discover new avenues: the incorporation of lay men and women in our works in consonance with the splendid rise of the apostolic awareness of the people of God, a "sign of authentic hope" as Benedict XVI called it recently.

We believe the desire of the laity to take an active part in the mission of the Church to proclaim the kingdom is a grace of our time, inspired by the Spirit. The last general congregation exhorted Jesuits to be "men for others and men with others."

It is true that the decline of vocations to religious life -- and also to the Society -- has been a stimulus to bring about that cooperation with the laity which the general congregation of 1965 had already urged. But it is not about alleviating a shortage, but about opening ourselves to a latent apostolic reality in the Church.

The "solution" which you refer to is to cooperate in our works with lay men and women who act under Ignatian inspiration. In fact, there is already a number of Jesuit institutions in which positions of responsibility are entrusted to lay men and women. The number of Jesuits physically present in these institutions is not decisive if we have men and women imbued with the Ignatian spirit to serve the Church.

Q: Will some juridical formula be studied, during the next congregation, to integrate lay men and women in the Society of Jesus?

Father Kolvenbach: The last general congregation gave it a green light so that for a decade, on an experimental basis, the provinces were able to establish groups of men and women associates united with a contractual agreement without that implying integration in the body of the Society.

In this way their lay vocation is safeguarded even when they take part in the Jesuits' apostolic work. The experience of these last years will be subjected, without a doubt, to discernment by the general congregation.

Q: The Xaverian and Ignatian Year is being celebrated. What do you expect from these celebrations?

Father Kolvenbach: The obvious desire is that on remembering the three first companions -- the memory of Blessed Peter Faber, next to Ignatius and Xavier, must not be forgotten -- the Jesuits will revive in their lives and in their apostolate the three charisms that they embodied: to encounter God and unite oneself to him through the work to lead everything to its fulfillment, as Ignatius did; to proclaim passionately the Gospel as Xavier; and to deepen one's spiritual life as Faber.

Q: The preferential option for the poor, social justice, interreligious dialogue, refugees, the realm of culture and education, are only some of the Society's priorities. Is there a new field in which the Jesuits want to be involved?

Father Kolvenbach: The Pope reminded us recently -- on April 22 on the occasion of the commemoration of the 2006 Jubilee of the Jesuits -- what the Church expects from the Society with special emphasis on the field of philosophy and theology traditionally cultivated by the Jesuits.

As geographic preferences we feel called to contribute in a special way to the evangelization of Africa and China. But it will be material for reflection on the part of the future general congregation to discern if some of the situations of today's world, such as globalization, the cultural dialogue or relativism, for example, require an adjustment of our apostolic commitment.


ZENIT is an International News Agency.