Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Spiritual Freedom

God desires all to enjoy a relationship with God. Scripture expressed this desire as the will of God and the relationship as being saved (See 1Timothy 2.3-4). God respects each human’s freedom to accept or reject this saving relationship. People work out this relationship over lifetimes in their vocations.
Sean Gallagher highlighted freedom in a reminder that this is what each person is called to do in life:
In the end, people in all vocations are called to holiness. And the way that this ultimately happens—in every vocation—is through becoming detached from our own will and embracing wholeheartedly God’s will for us.
Read his post in The Criterion Online Edition. [The link to a blog post of Fr. Robert Barron, mentioned though not given, is likely this one.]
Wiki-image of St. Mary Catholic Church, Indianapolis, has been released into the public domain.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Why Do It?

Jesuit Joe Simmons, found himself busy, so busy that for praying he had no time. At least, he recalled, “I didn’t see how adding prayer to my already busy life could possibly improve it.” His
desire led him to persevere in prayer as well as the rest of living a busy life.

I still ask myself, What does it take to pray well? Or even more simply, that most brutally honest of questions: Given all the pressing business in life, why pray?

He both posed those questions and begins answering them at The Jesuit Post. He offers concrete suggestions. 
Wiki-image by Peter Taylor of clock, fountain and square is used according to CC BY-SA 2.0.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Highest Resolution

The Atlantic has posted an image of earth in the highest resolution to date.
Wiki-image by Jupiter75 of a telescope icon is used according to CC BY-SA 3.0.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Par and Prayer

Thanks to Franciscan Fr. Hilarion Kistner for appreciating his brother’s enjoyment of golf. It led the Franciscan to consider prayer in fresh way. 
Wiki-image by Ludraman of tees is used according to CC BY-SA 3.0.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Christian Unity Week Closes

Pope Benedict: 
While experiencing these days the painful situation of our divisions, we Christians can and must look to the future with hope, because Christs victory means to overcome everything that keeps us from sharing the fullness of life with Him and with others.
The pope spoke during Evening Prayer at the close of the Week of Christian Unity.

St. Paul sensed a personal share in that “fullness of life.” 
Dominican Father Jerome Murphy O’Connor is one of the world’s most renowned scholars on St. Paul...spoke to Susy Hodges about why St. Paul is such an important figure when it comes to the issue of Christian unity and also examines the apostle's character, his achievements and his legacy.


On the eve of the close of Week of Christian Unity, modern popes release the annual World Communications Day Message. January 24 celebrates St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers. The pope again lauds social media.
Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God. 
The text of the message and an audio commentary are available.
Wiki-image of mike is used according to CC0 1.0.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Beyond Ideologies

Thomas B. Edsall, professor of journalism at Columbia University, asked several conservative sources what they would do for the unemployed and those otherwise harmed by
the economy. He was disappointed:
All the answers evaded the question posed, and in my view, amounted to ideological pap.
I decided it might be better to ask liberals what they liked about conservatism.
The answers were “illuminating,” and he shared many in his op-ed piece in last week’s NYT. This week Mr. Edsall offered “What the Left Gets Right.”


Wiki-image of searchlight is released into the public domain.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Three convergences:

1. The Sunday evening Mass at the National Shrine had not yet begun and many seats had been taken. Many citizens—including non-Catholics—oppose abortion. They have gathered in Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life today.

2. With the recent HHS rule requiring abortifacients, sterilization and contraception in all health plans, the opposition is likely to intensify. Archbishop Timothy Dolan summarized it in a 2-minute video.

3. A woman, who favored abortion when she was younger and now opposes it, connected abortion with slavery in recent remarks revisiting the slipperiness of rejecting natal life. Then, the case of Amelia Rivera emerged lest talk become theoretical.
Wiki-image by Atoma of rose petals is used according to CC BY 2.5.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday word, 22 Jan 2012

Claiming God’s Life
3rd Sunday of the Year B (22 Jan 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Kingdom is God’s life, God’s measure of reality. As an artist shapes a masterpiece, the Creator gives everything value and purpose. As it is written,
God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being, and the creatures of the world are wholesome.1
To the most wholesome, us, God gave a unique share in God’s life. How do we claim our share in God’s life? We repent. To repent is to align self with God’s measure of reality. In practice to repent is to exchange our limited human measure for God’s more expansive desire for us to be in the world. With effort prophets embodied that more expansive attitude, Jesus most clearly.

Jonah is a case study of repentance. Details about the Jonah account can distract our attention: fish swallowing a human; the large size of the city of Nineveh; its population. The details are not the point; God’s desire to send Jonah as agent of God’s hope for people to be in relationship with God is the point.
Jonah lived within the covenant God had made with Abraham. Covenant-living fostered relationship with God. The covenant established norms for living according to God’s measure so that people in relationship with God could draw others to God. Jonah, whom God called to do that, did not want to be God’s agent, which is why Jonah was aboard a ship. Wanting to measure his way—to deprive the Ninevites of God’s care—Jonah spurned God’s first invitation to preach to Nineveh:
Jonah made ready to flee to Tarshish away from the Lord. He went down to Joppa, found a ship going to Tarshish, paid the fare, and went aboard to journey with them to Tarshish, away from the Lord.2
Natural forces denied Jonah his wish and brought him to the great city. Although effective, Jonah was angry and admitted to himself and God that was why he left home.3 Remarkable reaction, isn’t it, that Jonah, who was part of the covenant, was angry that large numbers of people outside the covenant responded positively to God through him!
Jonah reluctantly brought good news of a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, rich in clemency, [and] loathe to punish,4 and many responded positively and welcomed his word. It leads me to ponder: Am I more like Jonah or more like the people of Nineveh? Am I a reluctant Catholic, or do I welcome my faith as a gift and the guarantee of my relationship with God, who offers me transforming life?
In a similar way details in the gospel might distract us, especially the immediate response of those Jesus called to follow him in his company. The point isn’t time, it’s relationship: not only does Jesus desire our friendship, Jesus shares his attitude with us: we have the mind of our Messiah, St. Paul encouraged with his gospel.5
Gospel meant good news: of a monarch; of a deity; of a prophet. Mark’s narrative of Jesus shaped another meaning for the word: a chronicle or report. That second meaning has become primary for us. Yet the original meaning, good news, is more dynamic and inviting. Consider it.

When someone tells you, “I have news for you”; or when someone is specific, “Good news!”: our first instinct is to listen. If someone says, “I received some bad news,” we may call forth courage to listen even if we’d rather not. Listening to another binds us. It may be temporary as on a plane, in a store, at the salon or at a class. It may be longer lasting as with schoolmates, neighbors, friends and family.
Listening is not only about others. When we listen to others freely and without filters, we learn about ourselves. Those Jesus called had been seeking for meaning in their lives, hoping for the messiah. Their seeking and hoping shaped their positive reaction to God. Their seeking and hoping freed them to respond to Jesus wholeheartedly, with undivided loyalty, which their immediate and total response to Jesus’ invitation showed. Their seeking and hoping paved their way to weigh things with Jesus’ measure, seeing with God’s vision and calling forth the best in everyone.
The point of today’s scriptures is wholehearted response to God’s compassion, even in the face of things which discount it. We find meaning not in things passing away. We find meaning in our relationships, especially relationship with God. We access God’s compassion the more we respond to it with open hearts and minds, allowing it to shape us as its witnesses.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the presence of the Trinity.
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Speak with Jesus about your determination and energy to respond to Jesus inviting you. Tell Jesus what stands in your way of responding to him.
  • Ask for grace to overcome what keeps you from responding wholeheartedly to Jesus.
  • Close your time saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Its reminder that God’s kingdom dawns on earth as...in heaven encourages us and frees our hearts to respond as we are and to follow Jesus in deed as well as word.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Wisdom 1.13-14a.
  2. Jonah 1.3.
  3. Jonah 4.1-2.
  4. Ibid.
  5. 1Corinthians 2.16.
Wiki-image of Jonah is in the public domain. Wiki-image of Jesus calling fisherman is used according to the free art license.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Birthday Lowdown

Friday was the birthday of Mr. John L. Allen Jr., veteran Vatican-watcher. Happy Birthday, John! In his weekly post, All Things Catholic, he said, “It’s my birthday today, so I guess that means I can cry if I want to. Although Im not exactly 
weeping, I do find myself grousing a bit about the way recent Vatican stories have played in most news coverage.”

He turned fuss into focus to lay bare what was news in the “pope’s top foreign policy speech of the year” as well as the striking feature about the recently named cardinals, which is the difference “between outward-looking figures focused on geopolitics and dialogue, and more inward-looking figures concerned with Catholic identity and doctrinal fidelity.” Read more.
Wiki-image of Attention is dedicated to the public domain.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sacred Intuitive

Aphilosopher of science has weighed in concerning science and religion and considers science to be  “unnatural.”
In a new book, “Why Religion is Natural and Science Is Not,” [Robert N.] McCauley argues that, if you consider how the human mind actually works, science faces challenges even where it seems ascendant. Religion is too intuitive, too natural a style of thinking, to be gotten rid of.
In contrast, modern scientific thinking is radically unnatural.
See the Boston Globe article to explore more.
Wiki-image by Julianva of Quantum Reality is used according to CC BY-SA 3.0.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Year of Sustainable Energy

The United Nations has designated this year the “International Year of Sustainable Energy for All.”
Dr. Peter Pavlovic, Study Secretary of Church & Society Commission and Secretary of ECEN - the European
Christian Environmental Network, …explained that ECEN is closely linked to the ecumenical Conference of European Churches and is its main working instrument for addressing the need for environmental engagement and responding to climate change.
Links to listen to his interview are at the Vatican Radio site containing the above quote in a brief report.
Wiki-image by Saperaud of roof-top wind turbine is used according to CC BY-SA 3.0.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fresh Power

Words become overly familiar, their affect diminished. Timeless words are at greater risk. Their faithful representation allows hearing and reading them to be freshly powerful.

WorshipHouse Media posted “Free Fall,” a poetic rendition of Genesis 3. Sound and vision work together to give timeless words fresh power. The video “serves to creatively set up the topic of sin and brokenness, or our desperate need for redemption.”

Monday, January 16, 2012

Prayers for Passengers

Prayers for the still-missing passengers of the Costa Concordia, their rescuers and their families and friends. Reuters offered this update.


Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr., can be an historical act: today the United States recalls him and his nonviolent efforts to make it more just. Remembering Dr. King can also be a personal action. The King Center describes it as cultivating a “nonviolent frame of mind.” This frame of mind is part of the King philosophy, kept alive by the Center and worth re-exploring. 
Established in 1968 by Mrs. Coretta Scott King, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (“The King Center”) has been a global destination, resource center and community institution for over a quarter century. Nearly a million people each year make pilgrimage to the National Historic Site to learn, be inspired and pay their respects to Dr. King’s legacy.
Both a traditional memorial and programmatic nonprofit, the King Center was envisioned by its founder to be “no dead monument, but a living memorial filled with all the vitality that was his, a center of human endeavor, committed to the causes for which he lived and died.” [Source: About King Center]
Wiki-image of March on Washington was donated to the U.S. Library of Congress and has no known restrictions.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday word, 15 Jan 2012

Personally Recreated
2nd Sunday of the Year B (15 Jan 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

To live faithfully can be described as growing more familiar with Jesus and his way of being in the world. Familiar means getting to know Jesus by establishing an intimacy with him in personal praying, public worship and willingly serving others.

At times—moments or even periods—anyone may move through life without graced intimacy with Jesus. Sometimes we are not familiar with Jesus by choice, at other times by human stumbling or by simple inattention. Jesus invites us beyond whatever causes us to be unfamiliar with Jesus. The more alert to Jesus moving with us, the more we discover who Jesus creates us to be: his disciples, ministers of his paschal mystery. Today’s scriptures invite us to grow more familiar with Jesus, who addresses us and invites us to join his mission.
The lectionary invites us to remember Samuel as a way to consider growing familiar with God. While a boy, the prophet Samuel was not familiar with the Lord, because the Lord had not revealed anything to him as yet. That was a statement of fact for God desires to communicate to all people of all ages. Yet the world offers static: certain values of the world hinder or prevent us from receiving the self-disclosure God desires us to receive from God.
Samuel and his mentor, Eli, lived during a time when a revelation of the Lord was uncommon and vision infrequent.1 That was the state of affairs when God invited Samuel. Even Eli was not immediately able to guide Samuel. The focus isn’t human slow-wittedness but God’s graciously, patient desire to welcome us into God’s heart and orbit.
Eli’s guidance remains good advice for us: Speak, Lord, your servant is listening. It is rare to hear a voice like we hear each other. Rather, we feel prompted or moved or drawn. At times describing the feeling we may liken it to a voice. That suggests to us and to others that our interior feeling has a personal quality, a longing for meaning.
The Baptizer’s proclamation of Jesus ceased to prepare his way and announced a person, whom John pointed as the Lamb of God. The Baptizer’s disciples—seekers longing for the Messiah—heard John and followed Jesus. Their movement toward Jesus and away from John dramatized how John later described his mission: [Jesus] must increase; I must decrease.2 But the increase was not only Jesus’ gain of disciples. The disciples gained, too: they grew familiar with Jesus. An afternoon and evening spent with Jesus became lifelong companionship, changing their lives!

The effort to identify Jesus by John and his disciplesLamb of God, Son of God, Rabbi, Messiah—gave no advantage over Jesus to John and his disciples. Jesus was and is more than each of those titles. In the bible, to give a name exercised power over another. Today’s gospel selection ended with Jesus naming Simon. The disciples entered the orbit of Jesus’ power. That Andrew brought his brother to Jesus is no throwaway line: each of us needs help to recognize Jesus and abide in his power
Jesus’ power remains disarming. Jesus’ power upends worldly power because it liberates not dominates. Jesus’ power is inviting—Come and see—promising authentic life not passing pleasure. Our liturgy praises Jesus’ power with the word mystery. Scripture and liturgy do not point to a puzzle or a problem; they praise the secret core of our triune God, revealed and shared with us each moment in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection—his paschal mystery.
Jesus’ self-gift in his sacrifice and supper is our privileged way to grow familiar with Jesus and allow Jesus to recreate our authentic selves.3 Graced knowledge and familiarity with Jesus lead to more accurate self-knowledge: by his Spirit Jesus shares his power with us, both for us and through us for others.
How we discern and live our Christian discipleship with one another depends on growing familiar with Jesus by cultivating an intimacy with him in personal praying, public worship and willingly serving others. Abiding in Jesus includes being alert to the ways Jesus invites us to live, serve, even suffer so to rise with him.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Compose yourself in the presence of the Trinity. 
  • Ask Samuel or Andrew or the Baptist or your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Thank Jesus for your life and for the vocation-mission Jesus has given you.                                                                          Or, if you are discerning a vocation, thank Jesus for your life and ask Jesus to enlighten you.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to seal your friendship with him by personal praying, public worship and willingly serving others. 
  • Close by saying the Lord’s Prayer: it guides us all to grow more familiar with Jesus and his way and put our faithful friendship with Jesus into action.

Link to this Sunday’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. 1 Samuel 3.1. The designers of the Lectionary chose to silence the first verse of this chapter in the Sunday proclamation about Samuel’s first revelation from God.
  2. John 3.30.
  3. Today’s Prayer Over the Offerings professes this: Grant us, O Lord, we pray, that we may participate worthily in these mysteries, for whenever the memorial of this sacrifice is celebrated the work of our redemption is accomplished.


Detail of Wiki-image of call of Samuel is in the public domain in the U. S. Wiki-image of the Baptizer pointing is in the public domain.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Blind Spot

Addressing Vatican diplomats is a New-Year custom of popes. This year Pope Benedict mentioned violence against Christians, observing that violence registers in different ways: being “deprived of fundamental rights and sidelined from public life,” and in other places having to “endure violent attacks against their churches and their homes.”
In his weekly post, All Things Catholic, Mr. John L. Allen Jr. considered five myths about anti-Christian persecution. Data show a “wide variety of circumstances in which Christians are in harm’s way”—sometimes even by other Christians, as happened last fall. Mr. Allen sheds light on an issue not well understood.
Wiki-image by David Lally of barbed wire is used according to CC BY-SA 2.0.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Brevity Speaks

The Gospel of Mark is the shortest of the four. When it is read in a semicontinuous manner on Sundays in the Roman Catholic Church—2012 is its turn—it cannot cover all the Sundays. It gets help from the Gospel of John. The Third Sunday of 
the [Liturgical] Year (22 January) presents the first encounter with Jesus in John’s gospel: disciples desire to meet him. On five summer Sundays its sixth chapter is read.
The rest of the Sundays outside of Lent and Easter enjoy the Gospel of Mark. Though short it is a gospel of great artistry. Franciscan John R. Barker offers a tour of the gospel to help people be alert to the gospel and to how it invites them.
Wiki-image of a portrait of Mark is in the public domain.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Perennial Pursuit

The phrase, “new evangelization,” does not imply something about the gospel that has not yet been proclaimed. It is about using means that address today’s circumstances.

In a Salt & Light post Sebastian Gomes recalled that proclaiming the gospel has always challenged and continues to challenge the “whole Church to find new and effective ways of articulating the gospel message, particularly in those societies once firmly Christian in structure and practice (e.g. Canada, Europe).”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Neighborhood “Womblike Space”

Movie-watching involves the whole person. In a look at last year’s “best religious movies,” critic John Anderson noted in America Magazine:
Under ideal moviegoing conditions, the viewer surrounded by others still inhabits his or her own womblike space and occupies as receptive a state regarding matters spiritual as he or she is likely to do in the course of an otherwise secular day.
Some movies considered “were endowed with a sense of aspiration that was inspirational.”
Wiki-image by Fernando de Sousa of Cinema4 is used according to CC BY-SA 2.0.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Encouragement Left

Speaking to Vatican diplomats Pope Benedict noted two encouraging developments. They had their support from the political left, which Mr. John L. Allen Jr. reported as a "fascinating point."

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Sunday word, 08 Jan 2012

In Motion
Epiphany B (08 Jan 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

I served two parishes with the custom of moving statues remembering the Wise Men closer to the manger throughout Christmastime, closer and closer as Epiphany drew near. I jested then that sometimes more care was taken to move the statues closer to Jesus than to move ourselves closer to Jesus in our daily lives. I learned I was not the first to think that.

A Danish philosopher considered it long before. He contrasted the scribes and the Wise Men. The scribes had access to God’s self-communication with Israel, while the Wise Men had the light of a star and its rumor of an infant monarch. Yet, the scribes stayed put; the Wise Men moved. Before the Wise Men traveled, their hearts were in motion. Their spirits were restless for truth deeper and more real than all their wisdom, and they followed their restless urgings.

The scribes, though, “did not accompany the Wise Men to seek” that Truth born in so humble, easy-to-overlook way. That always puzzled me. The philosopher noted that this puzzle diagnoses our spiritual health.
...we may be able to explain every article of our faith, yet remain spiritually motionless. The power that moved heaven and earth leaves us completely unmoved.   What a contrast! The three kings had only a rumor to go by. But it spurred them to set out on a long, hard journey. The scribes, meanwhile, were much better informed, much better versed. They had sat and studied the scriptures for years, like so many dons. But it didn’t make any difference. Who had the more truth? Those who followed a rumor, or those who remained sitting, satisfied with all their knowledge?1 
Do we treat our faith as a rumor or whimsy? Do we treat our faith as an abstract thing or a theory? Faith is much more. Faith is relationship: our relationship with Jesus, God in the flesh with us dead and risen, and through him with others: alive now and to come. Jesus’ Spirit guarantees our relationship. If we are fickle, Jesus will always be faithful: desiring us; longing to love us and give us himself.
Faith links us with our God made flesh. Sometimes our link is freeing so we can be apostolic in our actions and example. At other times our faith-link places us in Jesus’ heart when we need protection, compassion and felt knowledge of Jesus loving us. Whether our faith-relationship frees and moves us to be apostolic agents of Jesus’ gospel; or whether our faith-relationship reassures us of Jesus’ love, protection and care; or whatever way our faith-relationship unites us to Jesus as his evangelizers today, most important for our spiritual health and vitality is to keep spiritually agile and to resist being “spiritually motionless.”
Beginning 2012 is a good time to resolve to grow more spiritually agile and more alert to the motions within us, motions not in harmony with Jesus’ gospel and motions in harmony with Jesus’ gospel. Our interior motions produce actions, and our actions become habits.

Being alert to interior movements—to spiritual motions and to the ways they draw and pull us closer to Jesus or away from him—keeps our faith-relationship alive and our inmost selves in motion. We grow more awed each moment at each person and all creation. The rumors of creation—stars and seasons; things singular and commonplace; exotic and familiar—not only become pointers to the light and life of our Savior. You and I become brighter lights, who embody our Savior’s dispositions and desires.
Shining brightly as his disciple-friends is the fruit of lives of prayer always in motion. Praying not only reaches toward God. Pope Benedict reminded us in preaching on this feast that “[p]raying without ceasing means: never losing contact with God, letting ourselves be constantly touched by him in the depths of our hearts and, in this way, being penetrated by his light”2 to be light for others.
To have felt-knowledge of being enlightened by Jesus to reflect his light by your lives: give Jesus 15 minutes each day this week.
  • Pause and bask in the love with which the Trinity creates you. 
  • Ask the Wise Men to present you to Jesus so you may ask Jesus to free you from what holds you back from moving closer to Jesus in word and deed.
  • Thank Jesus for the ways Jesus chooses you to embody him in the world and for the countless ways Jesus protected you last year. 
  • Resolve to grow more agile in spirit this year. Look forward to your relationship with Jesus to grow in 2012 and 
  • Say the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer as our compass to find him in and with others.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Søren Kierkegaard, Provocations.
  2. His 2012 Epiphany homily.
Wiki-image by Reinhardhauke of adoration of Magi is used according to CC BY-SA 3.0. Wiki-image of Lagoon nebula is in the public domain.