Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Narrow Image or Capacious Image?

Although the Second Vatican Council made clear that the church is a mystery of Christ present with the earth, some people still equate it with the pope and bishops. They are a slender sliver of church membership who, by their own admission, cannot have the effect on the world which the laity can: their "effort to infuse a Christian spirit into [their communities] can never be properly performed by others" (Constitution on the Laity, The Second Vatican Council).

The church is
a vast universe of individuals, movements, parishes, schools, journals, international networks, and all manner of other slices of life, engaged in a dizzying variety of activities, from contemplative prayer to feeding the hungry, to striving to translate the gospel into art, politics, finance, medicine, and other realms of secular culture
to use the capacious image of John A. Allen, Jr.

Last week Mr. Allen offered his capacious image of the church at the beginning of his fine reflection of recently deceased Abbe Pierre. Abbe Pierre motivated lay people to infuse the world with love in the concrete expression of care for the homeless. Read Mr. Allen's most recently weekly column to enjoy both meeting Abbe Pierre and to gain a more expansive image of Christ's mystery on earth.

Photo of Caritas in Our Lady's Church, Trondheim, Norway, is in the public domain.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tuesday word, 30 Jan 2007

Tuesday, 4th Week of the Year (30 Jan 2007) Hb 12. 1-4; Ps 22; Mk 5. 21-43
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Whole Package

Recall the earlier Marcan passage in which Jesus saw the faith of the friends of a paralyzed man? Jesus said to the man, “Your sins are forgiven.” That caused lots of angry puzzlement.

Imagine you are a disciple touring with Jesus when Jairus begs him to cure his daughter. Now what will Jesus do? Wondering that on the way, the woman suffering from hemorrhages appears. Notice what Jesus told her: “Daughter, your faith has saved you.” When people report the little girl was dead, Jesus told Jairus, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

No longer did Jesus alone see another’s faith. Jesus explicitly connected faith, which forgives, with himself and healing power. Jesus affirmed others’ faith and demonstrated its healing power. Many refused to accept this “whole package,” to use a contemporary, American phrase.

Yet a great cloud of witnesses has accepted the whole package of faith in Jesus. They pray for us to accept Jesus and his faith more whole-heartedly. Jesus perfects our faith with his own. Jesus endured to the point of shedding his blood so that we might endure in lesser ways.

The Apotheosis of the Slavs, 1926.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

For What Purpose?

Pope Benedict closed Sunday's Angelus by lamenting the violence in both Lebanon and in Gaza.
"Violence has again bloodied Lebanon," the Pope said from the window of his study overlooking St. Peter's Square, in reference to a recent outbreak of violence between government and opposition supporters that has sparked fears of a return to civil war.

Benedict XVI said: "It is unacceptable that this path is undertaken to defend one's political reasons. I feel immense sadness for this beloved population.

"I know that many Lebanese feel the temptation to abandon all hope and feel themselves disoriented by all that is happening." [Source:, ZE07012804. Copyright 2007, Libreria Editrice Vaticana]
Standing for peace so that it may blossom everywhere in the world is each Christian's baptismal responsibility wherever one lives.

Standing for peace means defending life at every moment. Individuals feeling overwhelmed by global situations is natural. Just the same--perhaps more intensely-- people feel overwhelmed when it is close to home, even in the home, hospital or care-giving center.

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family, a Canadian resource backed by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, made available this month its leaflet, Living, Suffering and Dying...what for? Its website describes it this way:
This leaflet offers to people who are struggling with illness, as well as to all others, the opportunity to discover or deepen their understanding of the unexpected meaning that Christ gives to our lives and to our suffering.
Read more of its introduction at that website and even download a copy of Living, Suffering and Dying...what for? for your own learning, prayer and reflection. Caringly defending a single life teaches how to defend and promote life and peace the world over.

Monday word, 29 Jan 2007

Monday, 4th Week of the Year (29 Jan 2007) Hb 11. 32-40; Ps 31; Mk 5. 1-20
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
To Cooperate With Grace Means Life

The preacher to the Hebrews encouraged his hearers by rehearsing the great cloud of witnesses to Jesus. They didn’t have easy lives: we heard some were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword-point; they went about in skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented. They persevered, were clothed in glory and seated with our High Priest, Jesus.

Their perseverance was grace, and they cooperated with the grace Jesus gave each one. That cannot be stressed enough: cooperating with grace to persevere in witnessing to Jesus. When we forget that we feel everything is on us and up to us. We naturally ask how could I endure what they endured?

God has created each of us to endure in each one’s own way; and God in Christ by their Spirit graces each of us to endure. Our responsibility is to cooperate with our grace to endure. In a few moments of reflection each one of us can recall we have endured much already. We can marvel that we did and the manner in which we did. That we did endure means that we did cooperate with grace. We can cooperate again.

The gospel describes this as a gift. The man possessed by the manifold evil spirit lived among the dead--talk about being cast out! And was always crying out and bruising himself with stones--talk about a violent and inhuman existence! Why he was that way or how he got that way are questions which blind us to the message of this passage and seduce our gaze away from Jesus. The message, which Mark has made in the earlier chapters preceding Chapter 5, is this: Jesus is the Strong Man, who can enter the house of Satan and bind Satan who constrains and imprisons so many.

After Jesus freed the man, who once lived among the tombs and violently harmed himself, the people, who feared him, found him sitting there clothed and in his right mind. We shall see someone like him again clothed in white and seated in Jesus’ tomb with startling news/*/ proving that Jesus is that Strong Man who will free each of and seat us with himself if we persevere.

/*/ See Mark 16

Photo by wallyg used with permission of author under this Creative Commons Deed.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sunday word, 28 Jan 2007

4th Sunday C (28 Jan 2007) Jer 1:4-5, 17-19; Ps 71; 1Co 12:31—13:13; Lk 4. 21-30
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Altered States

In doing many things day to day we operate on automatic pilot: getting out of bed; making coffee; pulling in the paper; getting ourselves to school and to work. We give those and many other things little thought and at times we aren’t aware we are doing them--like breathing.

Our usual waking state isn’t the only way we are aware of the world around us. It is not how we are more aware. We are more aware not on automatic pilot but at certain frequencies of awareness called altered states of consciousness.

Sometimes we enter these altered states accidentally: indigestion; fever; trauma; when we’re deprived of sleep, of food, of oxygen. Altered states of clearer awareness can occur naturally as they do in ecstatic moments; when we are overjoyed or sad; and during dreaming.

As we know, we can intentionally alter our consciousness by means of alcohol and other chemicals. We also alter our conscious awareness when we relax, focus ourselves and when we pray. None of this is novel; ancients were well aware of this. Artists, poets, scientists, as well as preachers make stunning connections while in altered states of awareness. Swimming makes me and my mind more receptive.

God communicates to us in altered states of conscious awareness. We happened on Jeremiah when he was more receptive. We heard him aware that God shaped his life in a prophetic way. Jeremiah, fully aware of the difficulty of the prophetic life, grew to know in his bones that I am with you to deliver you says, the Lord. Such felt knowledge fuels clearer awareness and action

God communicates with us, which is why we pray. We may not think praying alters our awareness, but it does. Praying in the Ignatian manner both recognizes our conscious awareness and assists us to grow more alert to God inviting us to help fulfill the scriptures by the way we live--even when making coffee as well as here around Jesus’ altar-table.

Our baptism into Christ Jesus makes all of us prophets, people who proclaim with our lives the same mystery in which we have been trans-formed: the death and resurrection of our Messiah Jesus. The effects of praying--which is different from saying prayers--the effects of praying make us more aware of the more real world of God’s desires for us and our planet.

God’s desires both include us and they reach beyond us. In a moment of more clear and deep awareness, God’s desires challenge us at best and threaten us at worst. What’s the challenge? What’s the threat? God is not just for me or you; or people like us; or those who side with us. God is for everyone; for people unlike us; for people who hold opposite opinions; and especially for people who experience the world from the margins.

This was Jesus’ prophetic message: I am not only for the poor among you, I am for all the poor with every poverty; I am not sent to release you from bondage but for all who are constrained by every sort of bondage; I am come not only to help you recover sight and gain deeper insight, I am come to do that for each and every person. Indeed, the more blind, the more bound and the more needy have a greater claim on Jesus’ heart.

Those in the synagogue heard Jesus say the salvation he was bringing was not for them alone but for everyone beyond the boundaries of the Israel of his day. Jesus wa announcing he was a prophet like Elijah and Elisha who extended their prophetic visitation to Gentiles: Elijah was sent...only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon; and of all the lepers Elisha healed only Naaman the Syrian. That the prophet Jesus and his message were meant for all provoked those hearing Jesus to attempt manslaughter, so furious were they with him.

In your 10 minutes with Jesus each day this week, open your heart to Jesus. Trust him with it. Speak to Jesus: whether you can tolerate Jesus’ universal loving concern; and name what prevents you from living it yourself. Jesus’ own prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, will not be the same for you again, especially when your conscious awareness is clear, receptive and honest.

Photo used under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Christian Unity

The Week of Christian Unity closes on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, the Apostle to the Nations. While the week is one of intense prayer that all Christians may be one, each day deserves a prayer remembering these words of Jesus. by AngMoKio is used under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wednesday word, 24 Jan 2007

Memorial St. Francis de Sales (24 Jan 2007) Hb 10. 11-18; Ps 110; Mk 4. 1-20
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Wisest Approach

The priesthood of Jesus Christ, which the Letter to the Hebrews is concerned in a most sustained and explicit way, sanctifies us. In liturgical celebrations “[our] manifested by signs perceptible to the senses.”/1/ The Letter to Hebrews states our High Priest’s sanctification establishes a personal relationship with God, who in Christ, fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophecy: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them upon their minds. This is the covenant.

Covenant in the bible is always initiated by God. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them upon their minds. A human response always completes God’s covenant-initiative. God puts and God writes patiently. That is important to remember and so easy to forget. Jesus’ parables this week focus on seeds. Seeds, as we know, emerge slowly, more slowly than we may like, and they need our patient care. Our response to God’s covenant is often seed-slow.

If God is patient with us, we can take heart that being patient with one another and with ourselves is a godly thing. St. Francis de Sales offered advice which is as current today as when the 17th-century bishop-saint recommended it:
“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but constantly set about remedying them—every day begin the task anew.”
Perhaps our wisest approach might be this: to treat ourselves as God treats us--as God’s precious seeds, whom God desires to come to full flower every day. We do well to consider our limitations and imperfections but not to obsess over them. God works through them not in spite of them. Remember how God worked through the limited human body and human life of Christ his Son, our High Priest!

1. Decree on the Liturgy, para. 7, The Second Vatican Council.

Photo by tanakawho; used under this Creative Commons Attribution License.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tuesday word, 23 Jan 2007

(23 Jan 2007) Hb 10. 1-10; Ps 40; Mk 3. 31-35
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Daily Prelude

The Christian faith from the beginning emphasized the Incarnation: the Spirit incarnated the Second Person of the Trinity in the womb of Mary, who gave human nature to Jesus. Together with the Paschal mystery of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, the Incarnation is the other epicenter of our faith.

St. Francis of Assisi emphasized, and his spirituality continues to emphasize, the centrality of the Incarnation in its approaches to life and ministry. St. Ignatius of Loyola greatly admired St. Francis, the germ for Ignatian spirituality’s similar, incarnational emphasis. Human beings and their physical nature are every bit their concern as are peoples’ spiritual dimensions.

At times any of us can lose sight of that conviction. When we do, we compartmentalize ourselves and others. God in Christ by their Spirit never compartmentalizes people. The sanctity of our bodies our Creator and Redeemer, Jesus, affirmed when he took to himself a body like our own: a body you prepared for me, says Hebrews, which is more pleasing to God than any other oblation.

Not only did Jesus come to fulfill bodily God’s desire for humanity, he said that all who do so are his brother and sister and mother. Doing our parts to fulfill God’s desire for humanity and for our wold is as much a physical exercise as it is a spiritual exercise. The Incarnation is not only central to our faith; it transforms praying daily into a prelude to one’s mission to glorify God more.

Photo is used with permission of GNU Free Documentation License.

Monday, January 22, 2007

To Life!

Today more than 500 students from U.S. Jesuit high schhools and universities will be among the many people presenting themselves in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the unborn.

The Society of Jesus published its statement, Standing for the Unborn, on March 25, 2003. It remains timely. Read Standing for the Unborn at the U.S. Jesuit Conference website (where you may also download it as a PDF file for personal use).

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sunday word, 21 Jan 2007

3d Sunday C (21 Jan 2007) Neh 8. 2-4a,5-6,8-10; Ps 19; 1Co 12. 12-30; Lk 1. 1-4; 4. 14-21
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Gift For Life

Certain words in other languages can’t be translated into English. For example, Panayotis is a Greek name for a man named after the Blessed Virgin. When my grandfather came from Greece and secured a job in a hotel kitchen, the chef introduced him to the man in charge of hiring. He asked my grandfather his name. When he heard my grandfather answer, Panayotis, the man said to him, “You’re name is Peter.”

Arabs welcome you to their home with ah-lan wa sah-lan. Ah-lan means kin and sah-lan means easy: you arrive as part of the family, may your entry here be easy.

One of the most important Hebrew words in the bible is torah. It gets translated as law, but that not only does not do justice to a word whose root meaning is “to teach”; translating torah with law constrains our appreciation of it; of God, the giver of torah; of the hearers of Ezra and of Jesus and why their hearers responded so deeply.

We cannot translate torah with an English word. The root meaning is to teach, yet instruction is too dry. The best we can do to capture the sense of this untranslatable word is the phrase “rule of life.”

Jews have always struggled to appreciate this. San Antonio, TX, Rabbi Allison Bergman Vann reminded her synagogue last May that this rule of life is God’s gift. She said:
A gift is most tended, most cherished, when we know what it is. At its most fixed definition, Torah is the scroll that I read from, containing the five books of Moses. Moving towards a more broad under-standing, Torah is also the entire Bible: the five books of Moses; the Prophets; and the Writings. At its widest and most flexible definition, Torah is the entire compendium of Jewish teaching, from the five books of Moses to the most recent commentary.

Ultimately, Torah is the blueprint that guides the Jewish people. Contained within are ethics and moral lessons; a structure for Jewish life, including holidays and life cycle celebrations. From these stories and guidelines, we have derived our world view and theology. When we are able to unwrap it and allow it to inform our lives, change us, and help us to grow into our best selves, then we have fully received the gift of Torah. . . .

the gift of Torah is not to be stashed away in a drawer, or unwrapped without curiosity and challenge. A scholar, whose name is unknown, wrote in the 18th century: “When one utters words of Torah, one never ceases to create spiritual potencies and new lights. . .”/1/
For the Israelites returned to their homeland after their captivity in Babylon, Ezra’s reciting and unwrapping torah moved them to tears as well as shouts of Amen! Amen! as well as festive celebration, so deeply it touched their hearts.

For us Jesus embodied torah and lived his Spirit-anointing by fulfilling, that is, performing the prophetic reminder that all of us are to have especial care for those at the margins, to liberate those who are in bondage, to enhance others’ vision, to relieve those oppressed and burdened.

Jesus entrusts us with his mission to do that and nothing less. We do it in our own circumstances and in our own ways. All of us embody torah and fulfill it little by little because all of us are anointed with Jesus’ Spirit, his free gift, his lasting legacy. We translate torah not in words but by deeds. We are its witnesses, far more valuable than the most important teachers.

Each day this week, in your 10 minutes which you set aside to draw closer to Jesus, come into the presence of the Trinity and rest in their loving embrace. Hear Jesus announce his good news to you. Notice what his word stirs in you, to what his word invites you. Speak to Jesus as one friend to another asking for the grace to respond more generously to Jesus by responding more generously to others you encounter, especially anyone at the margins of your life, of society, of the Church. Close your prayer by slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words are the best translation we have of lovingly living his life, becoming “spiritual potencies and new lights” for our world.


Photo by Shirley q, who allows it to be used without any restriction.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Today begins the annual week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The week of prayer involves the whole church. The desire for unity is traced to Jesus' prayer at the Last Supper, "that all may be one." In the modern era, Pope John XXIII responded to Jesus' desire by creating a council to promote christian unity. The year was 1960--before the Second Vatican Council.

The council's initial work invited other non-catholics to attend the Second Vatican Council. Pope John decided invitations were not enough. In 1962 during the first session of the Second Vatican Council, Pope John made the status of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity equal to that of all the councils of the Second Vatican Council! Jesus' desire for unity took on new life because of Pope John.

In November 2006 Pope Benedict XVI visited Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul at his see of the Greek Orthodox Church. Pope Benedict has said his visit was "moving" and "opened my heart to hope." The pope described this octave of prayer:
The days from Jan. 18 to 25, and in other parts of the world, the week of Pentecost, are an intense time of commitment and prayer on the part of all Christians, who can make use of the supports elaborated jointly by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and by the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches. (Wednesday's Audience, "We Must Not Be Discouraged" Vatican City).
The Vatican website for its Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity bears an icon of Ss. Peter and Paul embracing each other. Our prayers are not for a merger, but as the icon invites to a deeper love, respect and union. While some may scoff that for almost 50 years we are still "separated brothers and sisters," we are closer than before. To overcome centuries of distrust and dislike in 50 years is no laughing matter. Our prayers for one another are necessary each week of the year.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Our True Selves Are a Scripture Passage Away

Today the church remembers St. Anthony of the Desert, the first monk. He discovered his vocation at mass one day. He happened to attend when the gospel of Matthew recalled Jesus speaking to the rich young man to sell all he had and give the proceeds to the poor and follow him.

Anthony did that. First he provided for his sister and her future, but the rest he disposed to the poor and retired to the desert. Anthony struggled--vocations are never free from that--and always entrusted himself to the Lord's care.

Anthony reminds us to keep alert to hear Jesus communicate to us in the scriptures we pick up and read as well as to those we hear proclaimed at mass or at any other liturgy. One passage can hold the key to the discovery of our "true selves," to use a favored phrase of a contemporary monk, Thomas Merton.

The Temptation of St. Anthony
by RyanDianna under this license.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

God's Justice and Human Deciding

While celebrating with friends on the evening of Martin Luther King Day, the conversation revolved for a while on justice. One person expressed her dismay that when the word is used she wonders, "Whose justice is it?"

That is a useful question, the answer to which may be as numerous as the speakers. Martin Luther King was clear that God's justice is the justice which eases burdens, affords hope and transforms the world. Humans are reluctant to surrender to God, let alone God's justice. Surrendering to God's justice means scrutinizing one's ways of operating.

We are tempted to proceed as children: it's fair or unfair; to operate as if all things are either contrast as sharply as the colors black and white. God embraces us especially when we blur categories or mar our or others' reputations. The Jesuits of the California Province have a great e-resource, Making Ethical Decisions. It is worth revisiting it because most human decisions must choose proportionally, not equally or even 100% one way or another. God's justice is the model and goal of all human decision making.

Photo's author New York World-Telegram and the Sun, which released into the public domain worldwide

Monday, January 15, 2007

Peace Warrior

Not long ago Sojouners Magazine's ezine,, issued a special edition about a sergeant in the U.S. Army, who became a conscientious objector while serving in Iraq. Logan Laituri and I have e-corresponded since I introduced myself the same way to him. His e-address was included in the special edition.

The Sojourner's special edition about Logan contained a video-link of his remarks at a Washington, D.C., rally of Veterans of Iraq opposed to continuing the conflict. I was taken with his witness and his conviction for peace. Also, I viewed that the number of U.S. military opposed to military presence in Iraq is not limited to a handful of soldiers.

Logan's unit deployed for the second time to Iraq; however, he was denied because he refused to go to Iraq without a weapon. He was separated from the service sooner than he thought possible. Two things of note here:
1. Logan's experience was a conversion: it led him to "recommit[] myself to taking my spiritual roots in Christianity seriously. ...In a job that involved a lot of killing, I felt I had to change if I were to be serious about following Jesus."

2. Logan encountered members of Christian Peacemaker Teams. Before he was released from the Army and after Israel invaded Lebanon last summer, Logan applied to work on behalf of peace in Israel.
I'm proud to be acquainted with Logan and to be one person among many he keeps informed about his missionary efforts to broaden peace in our world. Read yesterday's interview with Logan in the Orange County Register.

Photo of Ramallah by Soman is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sunday word, 14 Jan 2007

2d Sunday C (14 Jan 2007) Is 62. 1-5; Ps 96; 1Co 12. 4-11; Jn 2. 1-11
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Relationship In the First Place

Epiphany manifested Jesus as Savior and King of all nations. His Baptism manifested him as God’s beloved son. We commence the Sundays of the Year with Jesus manifesting himself and his divine power by the first miracle John’s gospel remembers at the wedding at Cana.

We know the story well. Do we notice its significant ending? Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him. Two things important for believers.

First, Jesus did not reveal all his glory by turning water into wine. That full revelation happened when Jesus died on the cross, lifting up all things to himself. Second, and even more significant for us believers is the disciples’ reaction: they began to believe in him.

If that was all Jesus did, it would have been enough because they believed in him. Jesus attracted them, indeed invited them, but attraction is not the same as trusting belief. This relationship of trusting belief God had spoken through Isaiah, likening the reformed people of Israel as God’s own Delight and Espoused.

Spousal ties have always been sacred avenues to deepen a relationship between spouses. Attraction gives way to intimate mutual knowledge.

The spousal metaphor helps us appreciate believing-faith. In making one life together, spouses give themselves to each other. Similarly, the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that “Faith is first of all personal God. At the same time, it is a free assent to the whole truth God has revealed” in Christ and continues to reveal in each of us. /1/

The significance for the disciples was that by believing they entrusted themselves to Jesus. Likewise for us. We can evaluate our own faith life by considering how we entrust ourselves to Jesus, our risen Lord, present to us by his spirit.

Evaluating personal relationship with Jesus, indeed making it the foundation of praying, may be the significant contribution of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Personal relationship with Jesus is the reason I entered the Jesuits. Personal relationship with Jesus shapes everyone’s vocation, whatever that vocation may be, that is, God’s desire for each of us from creation.

St. Ignatius offered an uncomplicated method which yields definite results when we engage the method regularly. It consists of quieting oneself in the presence of the Trinity; then becoming aware of the graces the Trinity lavished on us since the last time we set aside this 10-15 minutes. We allow a graced event or a word or image from scripture to capture and to focus our imaginations and our hearts on Jesus. Focused we consider ways we avoided living his gospel and express sorrow; and we consider ways we lived his gospel, and we express our gratitude to Jesus. We resolve to live more gospel-oriented, more Jesus-focused lives.

This method does help us entrust ourselves to Jesus. You’ve noticed in the six months I’ve been with you, I end each Sunday homily with an adaptation of this Ignatian style of praying. My reason is because it does help us entrust ourselves to Jesus, to deepen our relationship with him, his Father and their Spirit.

I’ve created a blog, Spiritual Exercise of the Week, to help you move through my adaptation based on the Sunday scriptures of Ignatius’ favored way of praying. I’m not working alone. In three weeks people of Gesu and St. Dominic Parishes will have an opportunity to pray with St. Ignatius both using his favored method I’ve described and encourage each week and to enter in a retreat in daily life with weekly gatherings on nine Tuesdays. You have already received a letter from Father Snow; some of you have already responded, Yes.

Praying, in Pope Benedict’s recent words, is a “commitment that arises from baptism [which] ‘listening’ to Jesus [so that] each one of us can aspire to holiness, a goal...the Second Vatican Council reminded, constitutes the vocation of all the baptized."/2/

In your 10 minutes each day this week give yourself to Jesus. Ask for the grace to entrust yourself and your life to Jesus with greater confidence. To believe in this relational way is to surrender to him in order that he will do everything for you./3/ Speak to Jesus as one friend to another, giving your allegiance, indeed yourself, to him. Praise him for his fidelity to you. Ask him to make you more generous in responding to his ongoing manifestation to you. Close your time by slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ own words begin, continue and sustain his ongoing revelation to us, helping us to grow more alert to it and to him each day.

1. CCC p. 150
2. Angelus, for Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, St Peter's Square, Sunday, 7 January 2007.
3. The first antiphon on Tuesday of the Office of Readings, Week II, is Surrender to God, and he will do everything for you. Belief is faithful trust above all.

Photo uploaded by edwin 11_79 at, under this license.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Friend and Colleague of the Gospel

I was away this week in Oregon to attend the funeral of Kurt Rizer, Lutheran pastor, my friend, classmate and colleague of Jesus' good news.

Kurt's was a sudden death. Kurt prepared for a sabbatical, which included a visit to the Holy Land, a visit he never took because doctors diagnosed an aneurysm. Kurt elected to treat it and made progress in that treatment. After a surgery in the first week of the new year, Kurt died of bleeding into his brain.

I always admired Kurt's passion for mission. His welcome to Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Beaverton, Oregon, struck that note immediately.
We are messengers of God's love. By embracing the faith God has given us, we respond with worship, learning, action on behalf of others, and round it out with laughter.
Although his life was short it was full, and mission in his personal vocation as spouse and father, son, brother, uncle and friend and his ecclesial vocation as Lutheran pastor guaranteed his full life.

Kurt inspired me when we studied together at The Divinity School, Yale University. I realize today that his inspiration then was but a preview.

Although it is very difficult to let him rest in God--not to mention believe he's no longer with us as he once was--many, many people have fuller, richer lives because of Kurt. He will continue to inspire and motivate many of us to give ourselves more freely to the mission of Jesus, who Kurt dearly loved.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Monday word, 08 Jan 2007

Baptism of the Lord (08 Jan 2007) Ac 10. 34-38; Ps 104; Lk 3. 15-16,-21-22
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Our Purpose, Our Mission

We pray that we are “a people set apart”/1/ by the Trinity to extend their work in the world. That is why we were created: the Trinity created us in the divine image as stewards of creation. /2/ “Set apart” has precise meaning in Scripture and Christian worship and catechesis. We don’t set apart ourselves. No. God selects us and shapes us by Jesus’ Spirit to be Jesus’ ambassadors in the world. In Scripture anointing with oil recognized Holy Spirit setting apart people for service as priests, prophets, monarchs. Anointing--God’s choosing--and praying went together.

Samuel conversed with the Lord and was sent to anoint David king. Isaiah had a vision of the Holy One filling the temple, when the Holy One appointed Isaiah a prophet. /3/ The Holy One wasn’t limited to professional prophets who often would speak what powerful ones wanted to hear. Such a one was Amos, who described himself: “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ Now therefore hear the word of the LORD.” /4/

God’s greatest prophet, Jesus, came to restore the divine image in humans. While he was praying after being baptized, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in bodily form and a voice set him apart as God’s beloved son. Jesus was set apart as no other.

By our baptisms we become sharers in Jesus the Son; we share in the prophetic mission of Jesus; by his Spirit we share his risen life and make him present in the world. This sharing in Jesus’ presence, life and mission means that baptism sets us apart as servants like Jesus.

St. Leo the Great encouraged us “to be servants, as best we can, of the grace that invites all people to find Christ.” /5/ To rejoice and to ponder Christ’s baptism leads us to rejoice and to ponder our own, and to pray that we may live better the baptism which unites us to him. the same baptism which bids us invite others to Jesus.

1. Sacramentary, Preface 29
2. Ibid., Preface 33.
3. The scene is in Isaiah, Chapter 6.
4. Amos 7.15-16
5. Sermon 3 on Epiphany, Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours, vol.1, p561.

Photo in the public domain. Source: Wikimedia.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Epiphany word, 07 Jan 2007

Epiphany (07 Jan 2007) Is 60. 1-6; Ps 72; Eph 3. 2-3a,5-6; Mt 2. 1-12
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Magi Followed a Star; Ricky and Diana Followed a Voice

We know the Christmas story very, very well. That’s good because the story of our God in the flesh is a nest for our ever-remembering, ever-expanding hearts. Our Christmas nest is no permanent abode. Mother birds wait away from, lure, even prod their ever growing, flightless children from theirs nests. Christmas is a traveling, exploring, risking story.

Born to Mary and Joseph, Jesus was a particular Jewish infant born in a particular Bethlehem in Judah over 2000 years ago. God’s human identity, God’s particularity as Jesus, had universal significance and worldwide purpose, which have personal precision for ever: all the sea will be converted to you, the strength of nations shall come to you.

From our limited, human perspective, we see God’s plan revealed in Jesus in its powerful, loving attraction in our personal experience. The entire story of Jesus speaks to our true selves in surprising ways. We open or close the door of our heart’s sanctuary to let in Jesus or not. Regardless of our choices, Jesus always waits with us and for us. The mystery of the magi is similar to Rick’s mystery.

A Russian child was born and named Vladimir, which means “ruling over the world.” He grew up in an orphanage outside Moscow until seven. (Hard to imagine anyone could rule from an orphanage, but we recall the magi were drawn to a manger-born child, whose name means “God saves.”)

Late in 1994 a National Public Radio program ran a story from that orphanage. The correspondent had met Vladimir and was taken with him. She desired to do something for him in part because he was an orphan; in part because he was beyond his years at that orphanage; in part because he couldn’t hold anything or walk due to a rare congenital disease that left him with no range of motion in his fingers, wrists, ankles and toes; in part because of his song.

He smiled, chattered and sang beautifully. The correspondent put Vladimir’s voice in the background of her story and let his song sound before she began speaking. On his way to work in Ohio, Vladimir’s future father happened to turn on his radio and heard him sing. Ricky described what he heard this way: “I felt a power in that boy’s voice. It was high and clear. I thought he sang with a little sadness, a certain wistfulness.”

The power wasn’t just the power of the boy’s voice, but power over Ricky, whose marriage to Diana almost ended because they could not have children. Vladimir’s young voice overpowered Ricky. He pulled over at a pay-phone, called his wife, and when Dianna answered, Ricky could say nothing other than, “Ah, honey, I just heard our son on the radio.”

Their story was a long, costly and miraculous one to adopt Vladimir, love him and seek surgery so that he now can walk. Whether we’re kids who want a baby brother or sister; or old enough to help care for one; or moms and dads whose love cares for life entrusted them, all of us enter the New Year well and enter the Gospel by longing to adopt Jesus as our own.

Pause 10 minutes each day this week to listen with your heart. Listen for the way Jesus calls, invites, sings to you. Ask for the grace to heed Jesus’ songs and follow his voice. Resolve to grow up with Jesus throughout 2007. A fine resolution prayer is none other than words of Jesus’ own voice, the Lord’s Prayer. Use it to close your 10 minutes and to open your new future of following our Messiah’s voice.

Source: “Vladimir’s Song,” Readers’ Digest (December 1999).

Photo by dleroy. Permission to use under this Creative Commons Deed 2.5

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Practically the Case

The title indicates one more milestone "in the evolution of yet another category in Catholic teaching: Positions which are not absolute in principle, but which are increasingly absolute in practice."

So wrote John L. Allen Jr. in his weekly observation on things Vaticana. Read Mr. Allen's insights and learn why "it's unlikely there will ever again be a war (defined as the initiation of hostilities without international warrant) or an execution the church does not officially oppose."

Photo of Vatican Commemorative Euro coin comes from the website of European Central Bank, which holds the copyright of it.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Catholic Education Got Systematized in 1850s

St. John Neumann is remembered throughout the church in the United States today.

He loved in many ways, not least was establishing the first Catholic school system in a diocese. St. John was bishop of Philadelphia at the time.

Read more about his life. You may also view a copyrighted photo of his body in Philadelphia.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Wednesday word, 03 Jan 2007

Christmas Weekday (03 Jan 2007) 1 Jn 2. 29-3.6; Ps 98; Jn 1. 29-34
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
An Evangelical For Catholics

The day after Christmas Jim Wallis, the Evangelical Christian preacher of note, reminded every Christian that “Christ’s Divinity Should Inspire Humility, Not Arrogance.” Faith is no idea. Faith modifies life: “faith life is [God’s self-]gift that brings us into a personal, loving union with” the Trinity./1/ God always graces us to respond to God’s invitation in Christ Jesus by their Spirit. Because we Catholics affirm that we cannot but agree with Dr. Wallis when he said, “Those who believe that Jesus was the Son of God should be the most loving, compassionate, forgiving, welcoming, peaceful, and hungry for justice people around--like Jesus.”/2/

We seek to fashion our lives on the truth as Jesus revealed it by his life. A temptation always accompanies standing for the truth: it is easy to think of oneself as better than one who is different or who holds a differing view. The community of the beloved disciple, who received the Letters of John were led by someone who refused to succumb to that temptation.

The First Letter of John is a clouded window on one divided, early Christian community. Though clouded, the letter is a window none-theless. Its author used strong language--like liar--to describe anyone of those who had gone out from them by refusing to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. (We don’t know the manner of disbelieving.) He was not sarcastic nor did he vilify them. In the ancient world slander was a conventional tool used to deflate one’s opponents. The First Letter of John is striking in that it does not bear that tone. The elder was convinced that one was not pure by contrast to the those of the liar and antichrist. Purity was the gracious result of hoping on God, who is pure--indeed, who is Purity itself.

Responding to God’s Messiah, to the Lamb of God to whom the Baptizer pointed, is living one’s life dependent upon Messiah Jesus, who is grace in flesh and blood and who abides with us by his Holy Spirit. Shaping our lives upon Jesus’ faith is how we invite others closer to him.

1. United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Washington, D.C., 2006, p. 37. This 1-volume resource is excellent both as an introduction to the Catholic faith life as well as a tool for lifelong catechesis.

2. The title above above links to his remark in context.

Photo from Wikimedia. As a work of a National Park Service employee it is in the public domain. See Ownership in the NPS disclaimer for more information.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tuesday word, 02 Jan 2007

Ss. Basil, Great & Gregory Nazianzen (02 Jan 2007) 1Jn 2.22-28; Ps 98; Jn 1. 19-28
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Our Life

Ss. Basil and Gregory, whom the church honors with this day, lived in the 4th century. Christians of that time were formulating their faith. Faith was evolving. In the heady years of these university classmates, who became close friends, some didn’t hold that the Word of God was fully divine. Basil and Gregory were two who expended all their energies that the Word of God was fully divine and that each also was a distinct Person of the Trinity.

In a way these saints are Christmas saints. They pondered the Word and welcomed the Word as fully God. We look at the crèche and see an infant. Do we also see God as well?

My question isn’t rhetorical because the wonder of the Incarnation demands a response from us as much as it invites us to draw close to God who draws close to us. Our response cannot only be mental nod in the affirmative. To respond to the infant as well as the man Jesus and to him as risen Lord means shaping our behaviors in certain ways.

This is what we will be hearing in the first reading this final week of the Christmas season. The First Letter of John describes a situation very early in Christian history in which two groups--God’s children and those who belong to the liar, to use the letter's own vocabulary--claimed relationship with Christ Jesus.

We don’t know the group of the liar, the antichrist, and we cannot know with any precision what their belief was. We can know from the elder who writes to God’s children that believing alone is complacent faith, and complacency weakens faith. Confessing the Son and his Father is never enough. Being faithful is living the anointing we receive from Jesus’ own Spirit. Being faithful lives in ways that abide in Jesus, who taught us how to practice our faith in our daily living. Not to practice our faith makes us people who do not recognize Jesus in our midst, often as silent and unassuming as the Infant we hasten to adore. Fully divine and human is our life not an idea.

Photo of St. Basil from

Photo of St. Gregory

Monday, January 01, 2007

Monday word, 01 Jan 2007

Mary, Mother of God C (1 Jan 2007) Nu 6. 22-27; Ps 67; Gal 4. 4-7; Lk 2. 16-21
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
What No Angel Can Do

The festival of the Incarnation--from Christmas Day through the Baptism of the Lord--is never enough time. It is never enough time to soak in the astonishing wonder of the divine become human, heaven on earth, God assuming our human nature. Mary’s motherhood of God began our redemption in Christ Jesus born from her.

This happened when the fullness of time had come, as St. Paul put it. Indeed, when heaven joined earth time became more than full, it flooded with God. Earth slowly--a person at a time--joined heaven: Mary’s response to Gabriel’s message from God; the action-response of the shepherds to the angelic Gloria; and the acceptance of Jesus as prophet and messiah of God by individuals down to us here and now. All those action-responses to the divine desire to restore and reunite humans with God means that time is full of the divine life of the Trinity, who decided in their eternity that the Second Person should also become a human being in order to save the human race, as St. Ignatius of Loyola expressed it.

In one sense time passes: 2006 seeps into 2007. In another sense time is full, and our reckoning it into hours, days, months and years is artificial. We live in the more real sense of time as flooded with God. The motherhood of Mary means we live between Jesus’ first arrival as human and his glorious return as risen Lord. We humans, not angels, are his ambassadors now. This vocation of ours satisfies humanity’s deepest hungers. We are to extend the message of the angels and do it in ways no angel can: we are sent to proclaim the Messiah Jesus with our flesh and blood; to proclaim him with our lives.

Because we have flesh and blood clothing our spirits, the angel-spirits pray for us and cheer us on to do our our part to make this fullness of time more humane as God in Christ by their Spirit make it divine.

Photo from Wikipedia Commons. It is in the public domain.