Saturday, March 31, 2007

Catholic Charities Info Website

This site is worth bookmarking. It lists news updates as links with the most recent date at the head of the list.

At the top of the left-hand sidebar allows people to find their local Catholic Charities agencies. That same sidebar offers much more.

The Catholic also has an advocacy department which allows people to contact their members of Congress about pressing matters in an efficient way.

Saturday word, 31 Mar 2007

5Lenten Saturday (31 Mar 2007) Ez 37. 21-28; Resp. Jer 31; Jn 11. 45-56
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
One Question, Two Tones

As we approach Holy Week, we might be more aware of the cross. Yet, all Lent focuses us on the cross, one of “the great events which gave us new life in Christ.”/1/ A few years ago, writer Lauren Winner became aware of the cross as if for the first time. Her words are worth hearing:
I’ve grown a little cynical about Lenten devotion. Too often, Lenten disciplines remind me of New Year’s Eve resolutions—we all make these pledges, we vaguely gesture toward keeping them, but we know we’re never really going to take off those five pounds/join a gym/work weekly at a soup kitchen.

It was with that faint cynicism that I turned to the lectionary for Lent, and as I read through John and Mark and Paul, I realized that I (like Mark’s disciples) had missed the point, mis-taken what was supposed to be a devotional aid as the end in itself. And that—an end in itself—is the very thing Lent is not. Rather, Lent is a trail, an “in between,” a going toward. “Above all,” wrote Orthodox theo-logian Alexander Schmemann, “Lent is a spiritual journey and its destination is Easter.”

So don't pick up the lectionary if you want to devote this Lent to breaking your caffeine addiction. For what the readings come back to—over and over—is the cross. I wear a cross around my neck every day, but somehow I had forgotten./2/
I, too, had forgotten. I noticed that Lent that I gained a deeper appreciation of the cross. Then I forgot it again, and this Lent has restored my vision of it.

The cross is at the center of Christian life: it is the standard under which we place ourselves; we sign ourselves with it often to remind us that the cross is the door of our salvation; the cross is a favored place at which to converse with Jesus--as St. Augustine said, we ought to place ourselves with the suffering Christ as well as with the victorious Christ. Of course, Easter victory cost the cross.

The cross was imperial Rome’s instrument of capital punishment. Jesus transformed it into our badge of identity, our standard of peace. Easter peace, which is true peace, cost the cross. Jesus’ dying and rising transformed human suffering: by his struggle Jesus did not eliminate struggle he gave it new meaning.

Not every human struggle parallels crucifixion, however, the dynamic of the cross is every present. An example whispered itself to me in today’s gospel in the form of the question of the chief priests and Pharisees: What are we going to do?

The scene suggests that their tone of voice was desperate. They had long plotted to rid themselves of Jesus, and they often had failed. They were at their wits’ end because, seeing people believing in Jesus, they felt that spelled the end of both our land and our nation. That is desperate.

Luke recounted that question during the Baptizer’s days and after Pentecost. People heard about repentance and heard about Jesus and they are moved to ask. What shall we do? They were not desperate, urgent but not desperate. They were finding peace because they found what gave them hope and meaning.

Lenten disciplines are not ends in themselves. They help us return to Jesus. It is never to late to begin Lent. Jesus desires to set us at peace in order to follow him on his mission. On mission with Jesus we discern more clearly what to do.

/1/ Preface for Lent I
/2/ Her “Journeying Toward Resurrection” appeared at
Flickr photo by ramoo76 used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0

Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday word, 30 Mar 2007

5Lenten Friday (30Mar 2007) Jer 20. 10-13; Ps 18; Jn 10. 31-42
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Schooled In Peace

Jesus’ long conversation with Jews is divided and serve as the gospels in the weekdays of Lent leading to Holy Week.

In today’s part of the conversation Jesus alluded to Psalm 82, which said in part: I declare: “Gods though you be, offspring of the Most High all of you, Yet like any mortal you shall die; like any prince you shall fall.”

Jesus spoke to those whom God’s word made gods because they were offspring of the Most High all of you. How much more the one whom God had sanctified and sent into the world to do God’s desire!

We also are offspring of the Most High all of us. We are that by virtue of being baptized into Jesus our Messiah. Lent is our opportunity to polish our Christian identity and become brighter witnesses of Jesus in our daily living.

Whenever we fail to give witness to Jesus by our deeds and lives, our deeds and our lives denounce him.

Lent schools us to become brighter, clearer and more eloquent witnesses so that all our deeds may point to Jesus and lead others closer to him. Even our insignificant actions breed peace, something our world sorely needs.
Google Photo found in Creative Commons search; its original site of posting

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Links About Iraq's Current Situation

The BBC maps situations and charts numbers well. Regarding Iraq the BBC has continued to excel in helping readers appreciate the dire situations in Iraq.

Jeremy Bowen, the BBC Middle East Editor, has written a piece, "Middle East fears broken Iraq."

"Iraq violence, in figures" charts deaths for both Iraqis and coalition forces.

An excellent map shows the violence in Baghdad in an animated way for areas, bombings and ethnic divisions.

Dr. Stephen M. Colecchi, Director, Office of International Justice and Peace, the U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke at John Carroll University and Gesu Parish on 28 March 2007. Dr. Colecchi reminded listeners that the Christian population of Iraq is now half its size due to the current war.

Another population is swiftly shrinking: doctors. Many have lefts in recent months! The BBC post about this situation is entitled, "Iraqi medical crisis as doctors flee."
Flickr photo by stefrobb used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Holy See's Address to Panel on Palestinian Rights

Monsignor Pietro Parolin, undersecretary for relations with states of the Vatican Secretariat of State, addressed on March 22 an international conference organized by the U.N. Committee for the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. The conference was held last Thursday and Friday in Rome.

Msgr. Parolin noted that
This conference is taking place as the Government of National Unity set up by the Palestinian Authority on Saturday last, March 17, takes its first steps. It is surely positive that this government is the product of a compromise between the principal Palestinian political groups.
It brings to an end several months of severe, armed and violent conflict, which resulted in many victims, often innocent ones, among the Palestinian people who have already suffered so much.
The alarming and brutal events which happen so often among them
naturally give rise, in those involved, to recriminations and rage, leading them to thoughts of retaliation and revenge.

We know that these are not Christian sentiments; to give in to them would leave us callous and spiteful, far from that 'gentleness and lowliness' which Jesus Christ proposed to us as the model of behavior.

Wikiphoto is from the Open Clip Art Library, which released it explicitly into the public domain, using the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sister, Honduras and the Gesu Connection

"Sr. Maria Rosa Leggol: 'Nobody gave me this job -- I made it'" is how John L. Allen Jr. entitled his Friday column last week. Read how Sister Maria keeps the church moving forward in Honduras so that it does not "grind to a halt."

Monday, March 26, 2007

Monday word, 26 Mar 2007

Annunciation (26 Mar 2007) Is 7. 10-14; 8.10; Ps 40; Hb 10. 4-10; Lk 1. 26-38
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Mission and Spirit

The date of the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Jesus’ birth was fixed after Christmas had been set. The Solemnity of the Annunciation replaces Sunday celebrations except in Lent. The Solemnity when it falls on a Lenten Sunday is transferred to Monday in order to preserve the integrity of Lent and its rhythm.

The Annunciation is about the mission of Mary not her person: you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High.

We know well Mary’s puzzlement, indeed her consternation, at receiving such a mission. It was possible because, the angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you."

We also recall clearly Mary’s response to the angel, Let it be as you say. Mary’s response is not different than words we associate with Jesus: because of author of the Letter to the Hebrews used the Psalmist’s words to describe Jesus: I come to do [God’s] will, God’s desire.

The mission of each and every Christian is the same. God creates each of us to give birth to Jesus by our deeds. Mary’s confident trust in God’s desire for her began final phase in the history of our salvation. Her son was as trusting and gives us a share in his spirit.

Jesus’ spirit accompanies us on our missions. Jesus’ spirit consecrates us and empowers us to fulfill our missions life. Mary’s Annunciation reminds us to ask and to rely more on Jesus’ spirit to assist us.
Wiki photo of Rosetti's Annunciation is in the public domain.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sunday word, 25 Mar 2007

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Faith Is a Relationship

The Fourth Gospel portrays a most human Jesus throughout, something easily missed by most people, including scholars. Allow me to name a few easily overlooked human qualities. Jesus asked questions. Jesus longed for relationships; Jesus thirsted, was hungry, grew tired--recall two Sundays ago and his encounter with the woman of Samaria; Jesus spoke with real people in real places--recall that encounter and recall last week’s encounter with the man born blind, whose sight Jesus restored with his saliva-and-mud paste. Today we heard that Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.

This completely human Jesus opened his life--all that he was; all his relationships; all that he did--and was filled, even overtaken, by God’s spirit. Because of his openness to God’s spirit, Jesus became the stairway connecting the realm of heaven and the realm of earth. Jesus fulfilled in his person and his work Jacob’s vision- experience of angels ascending and descending on a ladder reaching from earth to heaven./1/ In Jesus earth and heaven meet. In this meeting God’s spirit transforms flesh. The is the meaning of St. Paul’s phrase, living in the spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead.

Jesus, the gateway and point of access to God, is not a tollbooth on our journey to God. Jesus was one with his heavenly Father in life and remains one in his resurrection, which we share even now.

In John’s gospel the ministry of Jesus, all his interactions with other humans and especially Jesus’ dying and rising, point to Jesus and his unique relationship with his heavenly Father. Faith in Jesus points us to his heavenly Father constantly working in us in life-giving ways.

Christian faith is no ideology, it isn’t mental gymnastics. Look at Jesus and his faith to see what it truly is: Christian faith is a relationship with the God of life; with the God who opens graves so that corpses will rise living, never more to die; relationship with the God who promised this and will do it, as Ezekiel reassured us and Jesus demonstrated by resuscitating his friend Lazarus.

Our human death does not sunder our connection with God in Jesus by their Spirit. Our responsibility is to be open to that connection, to that faith-relationship; to cultivate it and to desire to meet Jesus in all we do and experience.

Jesus gives shape to our desire so that it is not abstract, not beyond us. Remember: faith connects us with Jesus, sharing his unique relationship with our God, whom Jesus called my heavenly Father. God is most substantial, real, true. In Catholic vocabulary of matter and form, God who is most real, forms and shapes all that is, all matter. In today’s gospel the matter is life. Resurrection is the form Jesus gives human life. “I am the resurection and the life,” Jesus told Martha. Jesus shapes, forms and transforms all who give themselves to him.

Because Jesus was completely human, we need not censor anything about ourselves. Jesus welcomes us as we are. Because Jesus was completely open to God’s spirit and gave himself to us, we stand rooted on earth with a foot inside the open door of the realm of the spirit. We experience the beginnings of the promise God made real in Jesus and extends to all people by their Holy Spirit.

In your 15 minutes you set aside each day this week to savor Jesus’ relationship with you and your relationship with him, begin by quieting yourself and be more present to the Trinity lovingly desiring you. Martha came to believe in Jesus as the resurrection and the life; ask her to help you to deepen your faith-relationship in Jesus. Ask questioning Martha to present you to Jesus so that you may converse with Jesus. Speak to Jesus in your own words about what-ever keeps your faith from growing more alive and more trusting. You may want to focus on one thing as you converse with Jesus. Open your hands and allow Jesus to take what dulls your faith and let you walk into life more free to trust Jesus more. After thanking and praising Jesus in your own words, close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer in order to reshape you and help you walk more in Jesus’ spirit and faith’s freedom.
/1/ Genesis 28.10-19.
Flickr photo by Kevin Basil used under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 license.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday word, 23 Mar 2007

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Hour

4 Lenten Friday (23 Mar 2007) Wis 2. 1a,12-22; Ps 34; Jn 7. 1-2,10,25-30
From very early the Fouth Gospel was the one given pride of place in Lent and Easter. No other gospel-portrait of Jesus reflects on the community’s experience of his resurrection and his identity. In fact, the person of Jesus and the work of Jesus cannot be separated: Jesus lived to do the work of the One who sent him, an expression we have already heard Wednesday, today, and one we will hear again next week.

The readings this week and next week from John’s gospel are continuous: sections within a chapter are read over several days before moving to the next chapter. Chapters 7 and 8 comprise the gospel readings from today into next week. I want to suggest how to listen to these gospels readings.

First, remember that they are continuous: much of chapter 7 will preceded much of chapter 8. Both chapters together form a unit. It is structured as a dialog between Jesus and leaders of the Jews, yet it has the feel of an interrogation or a courtroom cross-examination.

Opposition was constant but at low levels at first. Chapter 7 opens and lets us know that an opposition was now furious: the [leaders] of the Jews were trying to kill Jesus. The reason had to do with Jesus’ self-identification with God and the saving work of God.

Second, be alert to who is cross-examining whom. While the leaders of the Jews--those few Jews who found Jesus a threat to them, to their power and to their self-understanding (they had hardened their hearts to God)--assailed Jesus with their questions and venomous remarks, often Jesus cross-examines them!

Last, pay attention to the hour--Jesus’ hour had not yet come. The gospel never explains to its hearers the content of the hour beforehand. Allow yourself to stand by Jesus, hear his voice and wonder about his hour, and above all, see yourself and how you share Jesus’ hour.
Wiki photo entitled in English, "Annual Honesty"; copyright held by photographer Christophe Moustier

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wednesday word, 21 Mar 2007

4 Lenten Wednesday (21 Mar 2007) Is 49. 8-15; Ps 145; Jn 5. 17-30
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Greater Confidence

The reading from Isaiah is from the portion of the prophet’s book written to announce the liberation of Israel, of Zion, from their exile in Babylon. Some of its language is familiar to us because Jesus used it about his own ministry.

In this and the rest of Isaiah the prophet uses creation language to express the heart of the creator: God will pasture the people; God will cut a road through all my mountains and make my highways level in order that God’s people may return to their land and so that all people might turn and find God, too.

Yet Israel found that too amazing: “The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” The prophet makes known God’s heart: I will never forget you.

Jesus told his hearers that some things amazed, however, one thing ought not amaze: Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. That indeed is a marvel, and it escapes human reason--true enough. We call it an act of faith.

Jesus meant not to be perplexed and disturbed by that marvel. Like the daily rising of the sun or the laughter of children or removing a golden loaf of bread from an oven causes us to marvel, none of those perplex us or disturb our spirits. Indeed, they have the opposite effect.

Jesus’ dying and rising point to Jesus and his unique relationship with his heavenly Father. Faith in Jesus points us to his heavenly Father at work in us in life-giving ways. Observing Lent makes us more alert and more confident in the ways the Trinity recreates us in each moment.
Wiki photo is in the public domain.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tuesday word, 20 Mar 2007

4 Lenten Tuesday (20 Mar 2007) Ez 47. 1-9,12; Ps 46; Jn 5. 1-16
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Today’s gospel selection makes clear that Jesus was more powerful than the waters of the pool called in Hebrew Bethesda. Like others healed by Jesus this man became an apostle, announcing to the leaders of the Jews what Jesus had done; they began to persecute Jesus because he [healed the man] on a sabbath.

What did the man do after that? Did he continue to exercise his newfound agility? Did he continue to walk on the way of the One who healed him?

Wondering this way isn't idle. It leads us to wonder about ourselves. The questions any of us pose about the man after he was healed by Jesus are autobiographical ones. Lent and its disciplines welcome us to consider Jesus’ goodness to us and how we respond to his goodness with our ways of living day to day. Are we more agile in living faith, hope and love?

Giving ourselves to Lent and especially to the Lenten discipline each of us chose for ourselves makes us more alert to Jesus inviting us; more agile Christians; and more ready to extend Christ’s faith, hope and love to others.

Lenten practices are like the constantly growing stream of Ezekiel’s vision. That stream flowed to the sea with marvelous effect: the stream made the salt waters fresh. Lent observed has the effect of that stream. It refreshes us in our Messiah, and refreshed by Jesus we have a greater effect on our world--one person, one place and one event at a time.
Wikimedia photo by Antoni Sureda used under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Monday, March 19, 2007

On the Solemnity of St. Joseph. . .

. . .one might take inspiration from his concern for family and encourage Congress to be similarly concerned for low-income and poor families and children.

Catholic Charities announced that the Senate has marked up the budget bill and rejected cuts that would adversely affect families. Near the end of the announcement is a link to make contacting members of Congress easy.
Senate Committee Approves Budget Resolution

This week, the Budget Committee of the U.S. Senate approved a budget resolution for fiscal year (FY 2008) that provides for an approximate four percent increase in domestic discretionary spending, and $18 billion more than the President’s proposed budget.

Included in the budget resolution is up to an additional $50 billion for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). These funds can be used to cover children already enrolled in the program and children who are eligible but not enrolled; the funds can also be used to fix state shortfalls in the program. In order to meet these needs, advocates estimated that it will take approximately $60 billion over five years.

The Senate budget resolution also rejects certain cuts outlined in the President’s budget proposal. It rejects proposed cuts to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) as well as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

The budget resolution sets the overall spending parameters for Congress, while appropriations committees in both chambers decide spending levels for each discretionary program within those parameters. Ensuring sufficient room in Congress’ budget resolution is crucial to ensuring adequate funding for domestic programs that aid those in need. The House Budget Committee has yet to approve its version of a budget resolution.

To let Congress know that the budget must sufficiently fund programs that serve families and individuals with low-incomes, please click here to visit Catholic Charities USA’s Legislative Action Center today!.

To view Catholic Charities USA letter to the Senate and House Budget Committees regarding our concerns on the budget, please click here.

For more information, please contact Christin Driscoll, Senior Director of Policy Development and Advocacy,

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Attributed to St. Patrick

St. Patrick's Day has come and gone. However, this prayer--attributed to St. Patrick--is timeless. It is worth making one's own, and Loyola Productions has made possible a most inspiring way to do that.
Flickr photo
by K O used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

Sunday word, 18 Mar 2007

Lenten Sunday4 C (18 Mar 2007) 1Sm 16. 1b,6-7,10-13a; Ps 23; Eph 5. 8-14; Jn 9. 1-41
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Who We Truly Are

By this point in Lent we consider how we are applying ourselves to our annual program of renewing ourselves in our dead-and-risen Messiah Jesus. The built-in risk of considering how we’re applying ourselves to our Christian renewal can leave us thinking and feeling that renewal is all one’s own doing. Christian renewal depends on God’s gracious initiative not any human power. It is up to us to cooperate with God’s power, which graces us.

The first reading from Samuel dramatizes this distinction between human and divine power. God sent Samuel to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the next king of Israel. Samuel was confident that God would alert him some-how which of Jesse’s sons to anoint. The trouble was that not all of Jesse’s son’s stood before Samuel.

I imagine Samuel felt relief when he saw seven young men, Jesse’s sons, standing before him. Choosing a king is not an easy, casual everyday affair. It’s by no means casual when it is a mission from God.
“Fill your horn with oil [the Lord told Samuel], and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem [to anoint the] king I have chosen from among his sons.”
Samuel felt that the first son, a young man of lofty stature, was the one. But God moved him to be cautious about judging by appearances and by human standards. How difficult for Samuel to put out of his mind that the future of Israel was resting in him, according to his discernment! How tortured Samuel must have felt when the last young man in front of him was not the one. What was he to do? How was he to fulfill the mission the Lord entrusted him?

A long pause, pregnant with those questions and others, surely preceded Samuel’s graced insight and question to Jesse: “Are these all the sons you have?” God does not disappoint nor let down those God sends on mission. Samuel knew that in his bones and refused to allow contrary lights to frustrate him. Christian renewal calls us to deepen our confidence in God and God’s gracious initiative. That is Samuel’s lesson to us.

The prayer of the famous, The Lord is my shepherd psalm, expressed deep confidence in each moment. While the Psalmist acknowledged darkness and its uncertainty as well as its pain as real, they were not as substantial as the brightness of God’s goodness and kindness: Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life.

Jesus’ unique revelation is that he is divine goodness and kindness in flesh and blood. Far from being abstract notions or limited human feelings, the person of Jesus illumines the personal darkness we all experience in life. The encounter of Jesus and the man born blind is rich with imagery of light, water and testimony, all of which shape our celebration of baptism.

Baptism was very early named "enlightenment," and those baptized were called the "enlightened." The light of Christ, which we baptized inherit from Christ our light, is not a personal enhancement meant for private use. It is our way of living, indeed, it is our life:
Brothers and sisters: You were once darkness,but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.
We don’t have light, we are light! We are light in the Lord. Can we explain that? Not at all! We do know in our bones like Samuel; we have deep, felt knowledge that our Christian vocation, we are light in the Lord for the world, really is who we are. Accepting this truth aboutut us moves people to baptism in fullness or to be received in full communion with the church.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week come before the Trinity and allow yourself to feel humbled by the lavishness of gifts and graces the Divine Persons afford you. Ask the once-blind man to present you to Jesus so you may ask Jesus to enlighten your blindness, whatever is dark, unclear or not in harmony with Jesus’ light. Beg for the grace to accept more freely and live more clearly the light you are in the Lord. Close by saying, slowly, the Lord’s Prayer so that you will brighten every shadow which eclipses the goodness and kindness flowing from God.
WikiPhoto by Alexander Rahm used under terms of GNU Free Documentation License

Saturday, March 17, 2007

New Newsletter For Divorced Catholics

The first issue of "Earthen Vessels: Newsletter for the Divorced--Ministry of Compassion" is available at the Diocese of Cleveland website.

The site does not make it so easy, because the newsletter can only be downloaded as a .pdf file. Beneath the date (this issue date is Friday, March 16, 2007) on the left upper corner under the masthead, appears the section named Latest News. Scroll down to the section named More News. Under it look for the link, More>, beneath the headline, NEW! Diocese reaches out to persons dealing with pain of Separation and Divorce.

After clicking on the link, More>, download an attractive and informative "Earthen Vessels: Newsletter for the Divorced--Ministry of Compassion"

Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday word, 16 Mar 2007

3 Lenten Friday (16 Mar 2007) Hos 14. 2-10; Ps 81; Mt 12. 28-34
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

The religious professionals as a class opposed Jesus at almost every turn during his ministry. Suspicion about yet another Messiah generated their caution turned opposition turned looking for opportunities to kill Jesus. Among the religious professionals unity was not guaranteed. Perhaps the most famous religious professional who became a disciple of Jesus was Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night, as the Fourth Gospel recalled--for some reason he wanted anonymity.

Today’s gospel mentions an unnamed scribe who questioned Jesus about the commandments. All the ordinances of God made the professional landscape scribes surveyed carefully. This scribe seemed to have a genuine thirst for knowledge unlike the Pharisees, who at the beginning of this chapter wanted to lay hold of Jesus; unlike other Pharisees with sympathizers of King Herod sought to catch Jesus in his words, and similarly some Sadducees.

This scribe did not have an attack-Jesus agenda. Plus, Jesus’ reasoning that loving God and loving humans are on a par with each other won over the scribe. Perhaps this scribe did not fight his heart as it turned to God. Jesus’ voice was [God’s] voice for him. This scribe was not fighting return[ing] to the Lord [his] God as Hosea had announced.

Are you fighting your Lent? Or are you allowing your Lenten observances to welcome your deepest self to return again to God to heal you and love [you] freely?

This scribe Mark’s gospel left unnamed. Without a name in scripture doesn’t merely mean anonymous. The significance of no name creates the possibility that this scribe stands for each of us who return to Jesus wholeheartedly. Indeed, whoever turns to Jesus is never far from the Kingdom of God.
Flickr photo by Ctd 2005 used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Superiors Call Religious to Pray for Peace

ROME, MARCH 14, 2007 ( Superiors-general of religious institutes are calling on congregations to observe March 30 as a day of prayer and fasting for peace.

The International Union of Superiors General made the appeal "to participate in a day of prayer and fasting for an end to violence and war in Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Northern Uganda, Nepal, Colombia, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and any place in the world where discord and division reign."
Laity and secular clergy praying and fasting that same day would add to this witness.
Flickr photo by antmoose used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.o license.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wednesday word, 14 Mar 2007

3 Lenten Wednesday (14 Mar 2007) Dt 4. 1,5-9; Ps 147; Mt 5. 17-19
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Lent’s personal renewal is not devotionally eccentric. It invites me to become more absorbed in Jesus, especially through the mysteries of his life, death and resurrection so that I can more freely act like him. The Lenten pillars of prayer, fasting and acts of charity form its program.

This annual program calls us to personal renewal together. The more I renew my life and the way I live my life; the more you renew your life and the way you live your life; and you; and you; and you; and you--indeed all Christians together, then the more visible, attractive as well as challenging our risen Messiah Jesus is in our world.

Making Jesus more visible, attractive and challenging to oppressive and unloving ways of the world goes by the name evangelization. To evangelize, that is, to spread the gospel, is each Christian’s vocation.

Personal renewal is not self-improvement; it is to become more like our Messiah, to be sharper images of him to the world. Personal renewal is not self-help; it asks for the power of God’s life to reshape me, and I cooperate with it. Living the commandments are one I cooperate.

The commandments were meant to shape a community of evangelizing people, they are not merely a personal, spiritual checklist. As Moses proclaimed not to one but to all the people the Lord led out of slavery,
Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’
When Jesus told his disciples to teach the commandments, Jesus did not tell them to become religious professionals. Jesus told them to give evidence by their ways of living. Lent invites us to become more faithful witnesses, who give evidence the same way to make Jesus more visible, attractive and challenging to our world.
Wikimedia photo is in the public domain.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pope Pens Exhortation on the Eucharist

Periodically the world's bishops gather to discuss a single topic. The pope chooses the topic. After the synod completes its work it gives it to the pope, who writes an exhortation.

The most recent synod was on the eucharist. Today saw the presentation of the pope's exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis (Sacrament of Charity).

Access the announcement of the presentation as well as the entire document to read at leisure.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Lent at the Vatican On Your Computer

ZENIT is an International News Agency. It declares its mission as follows:
Our mission is to provide objective coverage of events, documents and issues emanating from or concerning the Catholic Church.
Last week Zenit posted that the Vatican has its own Lenten website, which includes music and even live television broadcasts.

The first tab, Words of the Holy Father, opens a calendar of Lent. As events happen they are converted to links, which open individual texts and images of celebrations.

Visit the site and use it if it helps you immerse yourself into Lent.
Flickr photo
used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sunday word, 11 Mar 2007

Lenten Sunday3 C (11 Mar 2007) Ex 17. 3-7; Ps 93; Rm 5. 1-2,5-8; Jn 4. 5-42
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Stronger Allegiance

Our annual season of Lent is holy and joyful because its focus is baptism, which unites us with Messiah Jesus. Baptism begins our church-relationship with Jesus, our risen Lord. Lent is the opportunity the entire church takes to focus on our allegiance to Jesus: to deepen it among us who have been baptized and to help others prepare themselves for it and for full communion with the church. Today I want to reflect with you on Lent’s baptismal character through the lens of "allegiance." I owe this to our Elect preparing for full communion with us. Already initiated? Feel free to listen.

We are baptized into Jesus’ dying and rising. Our confirmation seals our baptism, that is, the sacrament confirms to all that we have died and risen with Jesus; and it graces us to conform more closely to our dead-and-risen Messiah. This relationship without peer, which baptism began, the eucharist nourishes day by day. Baptism, confirmation and eucharist aren’t disconnected. The sacramental trio initiates us into the church.

We get our word "initiate" from two Latin words meaning "to go in." An initiate is one who begins. Begins what? A first thought may be to begin membership in a group. The Sacraments of Initiation do admit us to membership in the church. I can’t imagine my life without the church and being part of it. I don’t say that because I’m a priest. My holy orders, after all, mean that the christian community has ordered me to serve that same community. To say that I can’t imagine my life without the church suggests the church is not one more association of like-minded people or an elite group.

The church is more than its hierarchy, who are in service of all the faithful and even the rest of the world! The church is a living network of relationships with the risen Messiah Jesus, and the church is a servant of the world to enlighten
it and to pave its way to Jesus. The church, “a kind of sacrament...a sign of intimate union with God,” calls itself to reflect the light of Christ to all nations.”/1/ By no means another human association, the church is a holy mystery.

Mystery to us Christians is not a who-done-it, nor is it a problem to be solved. Mystery for us is a Person, our dead-and-risen Messiah Jesus. At baptism you Candidates were not introduced to a new group, a new field, a new interest, skill or activity. You were introduced to Risen Jesus himself! Now you desire to live your union with Jesus in the Roman Catholic Church. Your initiation will begin a process of lifelong relationship with Jesus as he abides with you and with his church in every age, his Mystical Body.

In our relationship with our risen Jesus we do not favor him with our worship or even our fasting, praying and acts of charity. Our relationship with Jesus is a daily opportunity to deepen our allegiance to him. Allegiance means fidelity. It is characterized by steadfastness: abiding with Jesus in season and out, when Jesus challenges us as well as when he consoles us.

We may wonder how the people Israel could so quickly grumble against Moses and the Lord when the Lord had led them out of Egypt. Did their allegiance to their saving Lord evaporate? Thirsty they were, but they let their hearts harden, which always weakens relationship and woos one away from steady fidelity.

Jesus thirsted in his human nature which he received from us. The Samaritan woman came to the well for some water that day. Though she was astonished at first--a man, a Jewish man spoke to her; unheard of!--and even suspicious and reluctant, she resisted hardening her heart.

Perhaps you, chosen for the Easter sacraments, resisted completing your initiation. Many of us can tell you we resist giving ourselves to our initiation, to Jesus. We want to slake our thirsts on our own. We’ve tried and failed. Yet Jesus never loses his allegiance to us; he is water and nourishment on our pilgrim way through life.

In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week, speak to Jesus your thirsts, your hungers--your physical ones as well as those of your spirit. Notice how patiently Jesus loves you. Express your gratitude and your wonder to him. Resolve to live more in his orbit of loving care. Close by slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer to strengthen your resolve to show Jesus’ care to others.
/1/ The Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 1.

Flickr Photo by daedalicious used under Creative Commons Attribution license; Wikimedia image of Christ and the woman at the well is in the public domain.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Christian-Muslim Harmony in Nigeria

The news out of Nigeria, and other African countries, is not pleasant these days. It surely does not inspire hope for dialog among Christians and Muslims. However, John L. Allen Jr. tells a story of an imam and a pastor, who for three years "worked tirelessly to launch a pioneering new effort in Christian/Muslim harmony in [their] blood-soaked region of northern Nigeria."
And for almost every day of those three years, he harbored a secret, burning urge: to smother his Muslim partner, Imam Muhammad Ashafa, with a pillow.
In his weekly column, In Nigeria, Christians and Muslims in uneasy calm, Mr. Allen very interestingly weaves into his retelling of their story numerous facts and sheds light on yet another "mega-trend in Catholicism."

The story of this imam and pastor is the subject of a film made in England. Mr. Allen includes a clip in this same column. This "good news [of Christian-Muslim dialog] comes with a sobering footnote," supplied by Mr. Allen at the close of this same column. It is well worth reading.
Linguistic map of Nigeria is in the public domain.

Progress on Comprehensive Hurricane Legislation

The Thursday post on this blog mentioned the comprehensive legislation Congress is crafting to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Catholic Charities has been monitoring this initiative. It reported in its 09 March edition of its email update, Washington Weekly, this progress.
Update on Gulf Coast Legislation: House Committee Passes Comprehensive Katrina Legislation

By a vote of 50-16, the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee approved The Gulf Coast Hurricane Recovery Act of 2007 (H.R. 1227) introduced by Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), which addresses federal housing needs for those affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The bill that passed out of committee would block demolition of damaged public housing in New Orleans until the government has a plan to replace it and grant displaced public housing tenants an absolute right of return. The bill also would require the Housing Authority of New Orleans to reopen enough housing — at least 3,000 units — to accommodate the tenants by Aug. 1, 2007.

At the request of Governor Babineaux Blanco, $1.175 billion in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding for the Road Home program would be converted into Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, freeing the money from federal red tape that prevented its use in addressing the state's vital housing needs. Several amendments were rejected. Most notably, the panel rejected an amendment by Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), to require those receiving housing vouchers under the bill to work at least 20 hours per week in order to receive assistance. The amendment sparked intense debate during the markup for a number of reasons, including its assumption of the availability of work in disaster-ravaged areas.

The bill will now go to the full House for consideration. Catholic Charities USA will keep you updated on this progress.

For more information and a complete list of provisions in the bill, please contact Ruth White, Director of Housing and Community Development, at

Flickr Photo by drp used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Friday word, 09 Mar 2007

2 Lenten Friday (09 Mar 2007) Gn 37. 3-4,12-13a,17b-28a; Ps 105; Mt 21. 33-43,45-46
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Faith: Foundation? Or Frosting?

Joseph prefigured Jesus for early Christians. Details of being handed over to others, and for several pieces of silver, are obvious details. I want us to consider ourselves in the light of the accusation Joseph’s brothers long leveled against him: Here comes that master dreamer!

God communicated with people in dreams and other altered states of awareness. Dreams and visions riddle the bible from beginning to end. Singular and plural of dream is 95; of vision is 103. The numbers call us to pay attention.

Dreaming in the bible is connected with God. People were constantly called to connect with God. Faith is our connection, our relationship with God. Jesus gives new access to faith.

Do we treat our faith as a nicety, as an inconsequential pipe dream? Or does our faith shape our vision of ourselves, of others, of the whole world? Do we cultivate our faith to sharpen our vision?

Faith is one of those things that money can’t buy. Yet God in Messiah Jesus by their Spirit offer it to us each moment. Do we set aside time and effort to make faith the cornerstone of our lives? Do we marvel at it, even when it upsets how we consider the world and others around us?

Lent is progressing day by day. Is our faith, our relationship with the Jesus, progressing the same way?

Comprehensive Legislation for Katrina Aid

The Digest Pages of the Congressional Record for 07 March 2007 lists:
Landrieu Modified Amendment No. 295 (to Amendment No. 275), to provide adequate funding for local governments harmed by Hurricane Katrina of 2005 or Hurricane Rita of 2005.
Congress is crafting Comprehensive Katrina Legislation, and Catholic Charities is paying attention.
Congress Crafting Comprehensive Katrina Legislation

Last week, Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chair of the U.S. House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, presided over two hearings on housing in the Gulf Region. Jim Kelly, Executive Director of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans, testified to provide an overview of the redevelopment of public housing neighborhoods in New Orleans. Members of Congress in attendance also toured public housing complexes to better understand the extent of the hurricanes' damage to HUD-assisted housing.

Following the hearings, Congress used information presented to craft “The Gulf Coast Hurricane Housing Recovery Act of 2007” (H.R. 1227). The bill would include a number of important policy improvements, including freeing up funds to help homeowners rebuild; requiring HUD to reopen public housing and to provide voucher assistance for more affordable housing; and providing tough oversight over state housing assistance plans.

Because of the complex nature of the bill, several House Committees with jurisdiction over housing, tax issues and disaster relief are working together to create this comprehensive legislation. Mark-up of the bill is scheduled for March 6th.

For a complete list of provisio in the bill, please contact Ruth White, Director of Housing and Community Development, at
Catholic Charities reported that in its 02 March 2007 (Volume 2, Number 8) Washington Weekly email, a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA and is published regularly when Congress is in session.

It is located at
Catholic Charities USA,
1731 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
Flickr Photo by cloudsoup used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Iraq: Catholic Resources for Discernment

The U.S. Jesuit Conference has assembled resources for weighing the situations in Iraq, especially the moral and ethical aspects of them. The cover letter of "first set in an ongoing series of materials" suggests:
Perhaps you would want to ask yourselves these questions:

* Does this material and particularly its assumptions coincide with my own experience?
* What are the moral and ethical norms that underlie the argument? Are they applied appropriately?
* How is this helpful for my own understanding and my own discussion and action, however informal, regarding our national decisions regarding Iraq?
The "Jesuit Statement on Iraq" offers three actions to take.

The links to the resources open .pdf files so that you may read them on your computer. The Jesuit conference statement in this same set of materials was posted in February on Contemplatives In Action, the Social and International Ministries blog of the Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus.

"The Shape of Faith"

In addition to the "shape of faith" many trace on themselves daily, Ash Wednesday saw many people signed with the cross in ashes on their foreheads. The significance of the cross matches Christian faith itself. The history of the sign of the cross is significant, illuminating and very rich.

In the 27 Februrary 2007 issue of Christianity Today, Nathan Bierma reviewed two recent books whose authors (one Roman Catholic, the other Eastern Orthodox) examine the sign of the cross. Bierma's article, "The Shape of Faith: The sign of the cross is a reminder of whose we are," is a breezy read and full of informative nuggets. The colorful history of the sign of the cross had a felicitous influence on Bierma:
After reading these two books, this previously ignorant Protestant, for one, has decided to introduce the sign of the cross into his daily prayer, as a link with the early church, a sign of God's claim on me, and a reminder of the mystery of the Trinity.
This ancient gesture is not only sacred; even reading its history has sacred effects!
Image of Jerusalem Cross is in the public domain.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"Boom Cycle" For Church's Ecology Efforts

The Catholic Church influences culture. Often those efforts are born because culture's influence on the church. Vatican commentator John L. Allen Jr. is writing a book about mega trends in the church emerging in this millennium. In December 2006 he offered two lists of mega-trends: those shaping the Catholic Church; and "missing mega-trends" shaping it. One of the missing trends was ecology--initially.

In his March 2d "All Things Catholic" column on things Mr. Allen has noted forces converging to influence him to put ecology on his list of mega-trends."What this implies, it seems to me, is that today's ecological sensitivity within Catholicism, however nascent it remains, will soon encounter a political climate which encourages its rapid development."As Mr. Allen noted, this is not different from the way the church began to caution about unlimited nuclear development.
Photo by MWords
used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0

Monday, March 05, 2007

Monday word, 05 Mar 2007

2 Lenten Monday (05 Mar 2007) Dn 9. 4b-10; Ps 79; Lk 6. 36-38
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Under Control

The lectionary sadly omits why Daniel prayed. I, Daniel, tried to understand in the Scriptures the counting of the years of which the Lord spoke to the prophet Jeremiah: that for the ruins of Jerusalem seventy years must be fulfilled. I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. His words, tried to understand in the Scriptures, cue us to a turning point for the people Israel: life in exile is not what God’s word contained. Is not God in control of history?

That led Daniel, and later others in not so different circumstances, to make sense of God’s word as faithful in the face of seemingly contrary circumstances. Their answer lay in periods of history. When history completed periods of time, even periods when people rebelled and departed from God’s commandments [and ignored God’s] servants the prophets, people could see that, appearances to the contrary, God controlled history.

If men and women lived in a time when they were persecuted for holding God’s word, they knew that God would vindicate them. Even if they did live to see it, a period of time in harmony with God’s heart would dawn.

That dawning reached noon with Jesus, and it continues by virtue of his risen presence among us. God’s justice, which Daniel earlier recognized--Justice, O Lord, is on your side--Jesus revealed is God’s forgiving mercy.

To stop judging, to stop condemning and to forgive: each is how we participate in God’s loving mercy Acting in those ways flows from confidence that God controls history despite any appearance to the contrary. The most notable example of God’s control was raising Jesus from death. The resurrection is our reason to show mercy. Our Lenten disciplines help deepen our confidence that God controls history in his Son.
Photo of Christian Charity is in the public domain.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Vatican TV Laments Violence in Iraq

"If proof was needed that war--as the Pope repeats--does not solve problems, but that in general aggravates them, we are faced with one more proof," said Father Lombardi. Jesuit Father Lombardi directs the Vatican press office.

Sunday word, 04 Mar 2007

Lenten Sunday2 C (04 Mar 2007) Gn 15. 5-12,17-18; Ps 27; Phil 3. 17-4.1; Lk 9. 28b-36
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Becoming Absorbed In Jesus

I read a book in my teens, which shaped how I relate to the world. Arthur Koestler’s The Act of Creation marvelously explored how the human mind appreciates and interacts with the world.

Koestler saw humor, art and science as the three interrelated ways humans use their creativity to integrate themselves with the world. The comic “has a touch of aggressiveness,” while the poet/artist is “admiring” and “sympathetic.” The scientist strikes a neutral position, standing “emotionally detached.”/1/

In all activities of creatively working with the world before us, humans apply themselves to it by reshuffling the data as they experience them. Perhaps very young children--certainly infants on their way to learning to crawl and to walk--make this reshuffling plainly visible as we watch their faces glow and eyes glimmer with recognition and discovery at doing something for the first time. The same sort of connections, leading to smiles of satisfaction as well as anguished responses, happen in us throughout our lives.

The tiny child does not tell us she had an insight, and even the loquacious little one shows us his discovery more than describes it. They confirm the conviction that break-throughs happen in images not in words. Insights happen in dreams and in other enhanced moments of awareness.

If we approach scripture in a neutral posture, we gain no insight from it, nor do we allow God to make healing incursions in our lives. Nor can we aggressively make scripture and God measure up to us and succeed: doing that we only frustrate ourselves. When it comes to scripture and to God, the emotional textures to cultivate are admiring awe and an empathy with others, putting ourselves in their skin.

Scriptural encounters with the divine are creative, too, never casual, boring or spiritless. They differ from the everyday in all sorts of ways. We heard Genesis recall the shape of Abram’s experience of God making a covenant with him.
As the sun was about to set, a trance fell upon Abram, and a deep...darkness enveloped him.
Abram’s awareness was heightened, not dulled, as God enveloped him. Someone described to me God’s presence in prayer as a fog enfolding him. Words limp, yet images speak for and to us.

Seeing God’s face is one bible image that reaches from its beginning to the bible’s end. The Psalmist’s plea, Hide not your face from me, is ours. We implore what the others before us have and others after us will. God responds to our pleas, visiting us in enhanced moments of awareness. These enhanced moments of awareness capture, even overwhelm us. Think again of a little child’s burst of insight and how the child is overwhelmed by it, and attentive to it.

The three apostles on the mountain with Jesus joined him to pray. Yet they were not attentive to the dazzling glory of the moment. Their awareness was dulled, only awakening fully to the glory as it withdrew from them.

Peter desired to capture the glory--let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah--instead of giving himself to it. To try to capture and contain glory is folly. St. Paul urged our wise plan of action: allow divine power to change our lowly bod[ies] to conform with [Christ’s] glorified body. That is Lent’s purpose, after all, to help us do that more freely.

We allow glory to transform us to be more like Christ’s glorified body, both personally and as his church, by cultivating grateful wonder at what Jesus accomplishes in us each moment. We do this when we approach life with an “admiring” and “sympathetic” attitude toward creation, instead of a grasping, controlling one.

Enter your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week by being aware of the Divine Persons of the Trinity lovingly smiling on you. Ask Mary to present you to Jesus so that you may be in his presence. Ask for the grace of deep feeling to permeate your prayer. Allow yourself to become absorbed in the person of Jesus, who invites you to him as his dear companion. Respond to Jesus with “an exclamation of wonder with surging emotion”/2/. Resolve to allow the grace of deep feeling and surging emotion to shape the way you respond to everyone and everything. Close by slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer to make you more susceptible to Christ’s glorified body and to allow his glory to shine through you.

/1/ Arthur Koestler. Act of Creation. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1964; Penguin, 1990, p. 27 The frontispiece alerted me to the author’s project and guided me through it often. Images are powerful!

/2/ St. Ignatius of Loyola. Spiritual Exercises, 60, translated by George E. Ganss, S.J., 1992.

Photo by oldbones used with Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0. Photo of Transfiguration is in the public domain.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

17:54 Saturday: Lunar Eclipse

A total lunar eclipse will be visible over much of the world. In eastern North America and South America, the moon will be eclipsed as it rises in the east. It will be reddish in hue.

If the eastern skies remain clear, many can enjoy the eclipse until 18:57. The celestial show will continue as the moon returns to bright white.

Photo by Josh Mishell is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0

Friday, March 02, 2007

Facts About "The Tomb of Jesus"

A cable-channel claims a discovery--the tomb of Jesus--to be new. The discovery was made 30 years old. While not antique, that discovery is certainly not new.

A brief, easy to read page, "About the Lost Tomb of Jesus," created by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [USCCB] helps people navigate through the assertions to the facts.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Days of Fast and Abstinence

Here are answers to questions about Lenten fasting and abstaining.

Two are the days of abstinence from meat and also days of fast, that is limited to a single full meal: Ash Wednesday, 21 February 2007; and Good Friday, 6 April 2007.

With regard to Good Friday, the Second Vatican Council urged:
“Let the paschal fast be kept sacred. Let it be celebrated everywhere on Good Friday and, where possible, prolonged throughout Holy Saturday, so that the joys of the Sunday of the Resurrection may be attained with uplifted and clear mind” (Constitution on the Liturgy, No. 110).
The law of abstinence binds all Catholics 14 years and older.
The law of fasting binds all Catholics from their 18th birthday until their 59th birthday.

The other Fridays of the season of Lent are days of abstinence from meat.

While fasting and penitence are the serious stuff of Lent, no one ought to be scrupulous regarding them. As the Pope has taught, failure to observe an individual day of penance is not considered serious.

Some ask, "What makes a good fast?" The principle is: seek to do more rather than less. Fast and abstinence on the days prescribed should be considered a minimum response to the Lord’s call to penance and conversion.