Saturday, August 31, 2013

Telling Choice

Pope has named his Secretary of State of the Vatican. Mr. John L. Allen Jr. introduces Archbishop Pietro Parolin and how chooing him “would seem to offer...three insights about the kind of pope Francis intends to be.”
Update: Mr. Allen posted the last interview with the Archbishop before his new post.

Making Space

The pope’s General Prayer Intention for September is: “Value of Silence. That people today, often overwhelmed by noise, may rediscover the value of silence and listen to the voice of God and their brothers and sisters.” Jesuit Joe Simmons recalled many today are “buzz-fed”: “But thankfully, even buzz-fed city minds like mine can fall quiet – if given the space.” He was given space at a cottage in his youth. The Prayer Intention of the pope reminds that later in life making space for silence is an adult decision.

Wiki-image by Bosc d'Anjou of quiet spot CC BY 2.0.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Earlier this week U.S. Catholic posted to its blog an interview with a theologian. To Roberto S. Goizueta the magazine posed the question, “How should First World Christians respond to [Pope Francis’] invitation and challenge [to be a church of the poor]?” An important part of the answer includes the fact that First World Christians are the minority. The Boston College theologian offers much more in his response.

Monday, August 26, 2013


A Forbes interview revealed that in mid-July 2010 a group stopped counting websites used for porn. Its estimate: four percent. The fraction is small, but the number of webistes sites accessed was not. What to do? How to choose for one-self and for others? Last week Jesuit Michael Rozier asked that question. Along the way he linked to an opinion column about “soft paternalism” to increase readers’ understanding.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday word, 25 Aug 2013

21st Sunday of the Year C (25 Aug 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The letters of St. Paul enjoy frequent readings in church. The Letter to the Hebrews does not. That is unfortunate because we share challenges with its first hearers Like us they faced temptations not to live their Christian, prophetic vocation. Their temptations ran from imprisonment, loss of life and property to daily pinpricks; they lured them not to proclaim [God’s] glory among the nations and fulfill Jesus’ desire: Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.1 Today’s selection invites us to face our temptations and adversities. It invites us to see that they educate us and God works in them for us. A story my mentor told me as a young priest helps illustrate that.

My mentor was superb. Denny shared his experiences, and the way he did placed me in them. One story was a lasting education. Education is what scripture meant by discipline.  Its relative, disciple, means a learner. Disciples learned more than facts; they practiced ways to strengthen their characters. The Letter to the Hebrews communicated that with popular athletic imagery: athletes practiced to strengthen their bodies. People responded to that image then and now. But I get ahead of Denny’s story.

Denny helped a couple prepare for marriage. The wedding day arrived. Denny waited as the last guests took their seats. At the appointed time the first bridesmaid did not take her place to begin the procession; no bridesmaid did. Denny waited patiently but not for them. The groom had not arrived! The groomsmen had but not the groom. Several more minutes of waiting: they seemed an eternity to the wedding party and longer to the bride. Denny walked from the altar to the bride’s room. He told her the groom had not arrived; then he asked the bride what to do. She calmly replied they ought to wait for him, so they did.

After several minutes Denny repeated his walk. He asked the bride what she wanted to do. She replied they ought to wait some more. Denny agreed; more waiting. After another interval Denny repeated his walk and his question. The bride paused. Denny asked her if she wanted him to do anything. The bride said they had waited long enough. She asked Denny if he would inform her waiting guests. Denny calmly did.

His experience illustrates two aspects of our Christian, prophetic vocation to which the Letter to the Hebrews witnessed. First, the bride endured her personal cross that day. Talk about feeling abandoned and what comes with it: embarrassment; shame; pain! They tempt us not to proclaim the Good News by our lives. Second, Denny stood with her. He did nothing without her consent and direction: he asked the bride if she wanted him to do anything.

The bride was not totally surprised when her groom failed to appear. Nor was she as angry as she might have been. She was invested in her wedding and her plans for her future. Sadly, it soured in a moment. She didn’t rage and blame him on the spot for ruining her life—her day, yes, but not her life. If she had focused on him she would have numbed her suffering. Her suffering offered her education for her life.

My education in Denny’s story connected me with an ancient Greek, wise saying well-known to early Christians: to learn is to suffer. The ancients intuited it in reverse: suffering is learning; it teaches valuable lessons about life. Not at all masochists, ancient Greeks were realists. They puzzled over suffering in the world and found lessons for endurance. Our saying, “no pain, no gain,” captures their sense. It is less outside us and more from within. Like other interior qualities, it strengthens character. The Letter to the Hebrews’ focused it with athletic imagery: running with endurance with eyes fixed on Jesus.2 Our “no pain, no gain” has roots in athletic imagery, too. The Letter to the Hebrews continues to speak to us.

The bride left alone at the church by her no-show groom probably did not know that pithy phrase, to learn is to suffer. Yet she tasted its truth. I’ve long hoped she profited from it and did not choke on it. The wisdom of the phrase the Letter to the Hebrews applied to Jesus: Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered. Jesus learned from what he endured. His cross was not only his glorious education. Jesus invites us to see in our crosses—even our more tame ones—opportunities to know ourselves better and to feel Jesus accompanying us as he promised.3 God works for us through Jesus by their Holy Spirit.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Desire to feel wrapped ‘round by the love of our triune God.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for enduring the cross to be raised in glory as Messiah and Lord. Thank him for sharing your trials.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to stand against temptations to numb sufferings instead of to learn from them.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words, lead us not into temptation, on our lips remind us no one is exempt from challenges or suffering. His words also encourage us to allow Jesus to do what we cannot: to gain his victory by imitating his faith. Along the way we can profit from adversity rather than choke on it.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Mark 16.15, Jesus’ farewell to his apostles.
  2. Hebrews 12.1-2.
  3. For where two or three are gathered in  my name, I am there in their midst (Matthew 18.20). I am with you always (Matthew 28.20).

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday word, 18 Aug 2013

Overlooked Prayer
20th Sunday of the Year (18 Aug 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Yesterday I read something I had misplaced: a memoir of a Jesuit who has ministered in Micronesia since the early 1960s. The area of small Pacific islands covers an area the size of the United States. From about mid-19th Century Micronesia has been mission land. It numbers fewer than 180,000 people. Though they and their culture taught him much, Fr. Hezel wondered if thousands of years of individual Jesuit and other missioners’ service was in proportion to their number.

As he wondered, Fr. Hezel recalled a statue of St. Ignatius in our headquarters in Rome. I have been privileged to see it: Ignatius, hand stretched heavenward, stands on a base bearing words to Jesuits of all times, places and ministries, “Go, set all things ablaze.” No matter if it be a million people, 180,000, even one, Father realized, Jesus rejects no one.1

St. Ignatius echoed Jesus and his desire: I came to cast fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already blazing! To join Jesus and make his desire ours are the vocation of every friend of Jesus, every Christian. Casting fire in scripture points to God’s healing of creation. Jesus de-sired his mission announcing the reign of God would be effective. Luke’s gospel also associated fire with Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit empowers and guarantees all Christian witness and action.

Being Christian witnesses and actors at home, school, work, in our parish and neighborhood is not always easy. At times some oppose our Christian witness. Jesus knew from experience it would cause division. Earlier prophets knew that. The brief selection about Jeremiah dramatically demonstrated it. Accusations that standing on God’s side is unpatriotic are older than Jeremiah! Standing with Jesus continues to divide people.

We tend to consider division outside us: they versus us. Before it’s outside division is interior and personal. An example: our grim human striving flows from a “civil war within”2 us. A vivid image of an early pastor to express how sin fractures us. Does sin mean we are not fit witnesses of Jesus and the kingdom he announced and lived? No. Jesus said he came to call sinners.3 Not only for their renewal but so they would continue his witness and action.

Jesus has called each of us to continue his witness and action. When that “civil war in” us distracts and demoralizes us the Psalmist’s words are ours to shout: Lord, come to my aid! The Lord heard the Psalmist and set his feet on solid ground. Lord, come to my aid! Its good to make that plea often in a day so we might courageously rely on Jesus, God’s son, who embodies the reign of God.

To cry, Lord, come to my aid! reminds us Jesus knew personally what standing for the gospel and God’s reign costs. It cost Jesus his life. His death was not the end of his story. His death eludes our logic; it may even repulse us. Yet, Jesus’ death opened on to absolutely new life.

To cry, Lord, come to my aid! joins us with Jesus. He endured his suffering and death in order that [we] may not grow weary and lose heart in standing for his gospel with our lives. Probably none of us will resist[] to the point of shedding blood for the gospel. Yet each of our lives will bear some scar for being ambassadors of Christian witness and peace: a heartbreak; failing at something; being misunderstood; foregoing one good for a greater one. Physical scars are tissue formed during healing. Christian scars remind us Jesus has come to our aid. He heals us and invites us to join him to enlighten our world by our witness to him. None of us needs go far to accomplish that.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Bask in the loving light our triune God shines on you.
  • Ask the martyrs of every age to present you to Jesus so you may converse with him as his disciple, friend and companion.
  • Chat with Jesus about his gospel mission: tell him your desire to stand faithful to it and to Jesus. Resolve to accept Jesus and allow him to heal and empower you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to hold on to your resolve.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. To say it from the heart calls the Lord to come to our aid. It also teaches us how to live like Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Francis X. Hezel’s account, “Life at the Edge of the World,” filled the quarterly, STUDIES in Jesuit Spirituality, 41/4 Winter 2009.
  2. Gregory of Nyssa, Treatise on Christian Perfection, excerpt in Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours.
  3. Matthew 9.13.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


Many millennials fear it, concludes someone who assists them discern a calling to a life dedicated to the Church and its mission. This Atlantic post looks at millennials making those life-choices and why. Human testimony is supplemented by graphs and even a digital revelation: “It’s like, but for religious communities.”

Friday, August 16, 2013

Team and Agony

Mr. John L. Allen Jr. reports on one Vatican worker in a story about the emerging papal “team.” He also adds that this this has been a “truly agonizing week [for anyone] “concerned about the fate of Italian Jesuit Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio.” Both appear in today’s All Things Catholic.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Jesuit Jargon

Because posts here frequently link to Ignatian as well as Jesuit sites readers may find Jesuit terminology confusing. During lengthy Jesuit formation terminology multiplies. Jesuit James Martin names and explains them.
Wiki-image by MOIC of seal of Society of Jesus CC BY-SA 3.0.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday word, 12 Aug 2013

Personal Touch
19th Sunday of the Year (11 Aug 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Each Easter Vigil we prepare the paschal candle. It symbolizes Messiah Jesus, who has come and who will come again. Priests trace the inscription on the paschal candle, saying: Jesus Christ, yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega; all time belongs to him and all ages; to him be glory and power through every age and forever.1 That sentence voices faith in Jesus: the Word, who creates all things and to whom all time belongs, entered human history, God-with-us. By time we don’t mean some mystical measure or a calendar for convenience. All time means past, present and future with all created things. Jesus is Lord of history and all within it.

The visible paschal candle assures us Messiah Jesus, though unseen, accompanies us daily. Jesus’ presence also shapes us to expect his return. At mass we acknowledge we expect Jesus’ return in glory. One way is by our Amen closing the priest’s words after the Lord’s Prayer, which include: as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Heard often they fly by our ears. Those words link us to Jesus, whom we await.

The Second Vatican Council reminded us that the expectation of the blessed hope and of the coming of the Lord is part of the mystery of Messiah Jesus as is his incarnation and birth,[his life] until the ascension [and] the day of Pentecost.2 We celebrate them and other aspects of the Christian mystery here; we read them on the pages of sacred scripture. You and I write them on the sacred pages of life when we are alert and ready to act on every opportunity to do our Messiah’s work. To that the gospel pointed. It did not spell out what being alert and ready to act look like in detail.

Though we have no recipe for action, we have gifts to guide us. We have Jesus, the greatest gift. To be in relationship with him is God’s gift. To continue his work of care and reconciliation is God’s gift. To live our experience of God caring for and reconciling us is possible because of Jesus’ self-gift, the eucharist we share here. Our Christian mystery deepens more: as we respond to Jesus and his self-gift, our response to him turns us to others. Pope Francis named that gift: “When you meet with the one in greater need, your heart will begin to enlarge, to enlarge, to enlarge!”3

Extending ourselves and our resources to others draws us closer to Jesus. He is, in the words of his parable, our master whose return we await. We are stewards of his mystery. Jesus peopled his parable with key players in ancient Mediterranean households. The steward was the one “to whom the head of the house...entrusted the management of his affairs, the care of receipts and expenditures, and the duty of dealing out the proper portion to every servant and even to the children not yet of age.”4

Stewards not only kept track of accounts and supplies. Stewards knew the members of the households they served. Mediterranean households outnumbered our largest extended families. That meant a steward’s knowledge was personal and not just a knack for figures. Relationship figured large in a faithful and prudent steward. It’s no wonder early in the church’s history the Greek word for steward was used for a preacher of the gospel.5

Jesus’ parable describes our Christian life: you and I preach the gospel with a personal touch, to use a familiar phrase. Because we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, we deepen our relationships with Jesus; as our relationships with Jesus deepen, we are freer to share our gifts with others, especially those vulnerable and in need; our sharing helps others meet Jesus. Money, power and influence aid preaching the gospel with a personal touch; none is an end in itself. Stewardship of our homes, parish, diocese and community confirm that.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Begin by noticing ways the Trinity blesses you.
  • Ask St. Peter to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise Jesus for being your companion, who creates and redeems you; thank him for choosing you to be a steward of his mystery.
  • Ask him to confirm your faith in his presence as well as in his return to complete what Jesus has begun in you.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, your kingdom come, on our lips point to a future which is becoming present. Jesus announced the reign of God is at hand6 and among us.7 Jesus chooses us to join him and spread his gospel with a personal touch.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Roman Missal. Preparing the Candle begins each Easter Vigil.
  2. That Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 102.
  3. His video message to his fellow Argentines on the  07 August Memorial of St. Cajetan. text of  message
  4. Entry for economos [Greek, οικονομος] in Thayer’s Lexicon, online version.
  5. Strong’s Lexicon at 3623, online version.
  6. Matthew 4.17; 10.7 (instruction to his disciples and us); Mark 1.15.
  7. Luke 17.21.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Encouraging Fascination

The Roman Catholic Lectionary begins reading Chapters 11 and 12 of the Letter to the Hebrews for a month of Sundays. It is a fascinating homily. Yet its distance from the contemporary scene includes modern human experience, culture and ways of knowing. Compared to other New Testament documents, it is read sparingly. Jesuit Peter Edmonds not only “helps us to make something of the readings from the Letter to the Hebrews that we will hear over the next four weekends”; he also comments on its other portions read at different times of the liturgical year.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Of Kidnapping and Litigation

Mr. John L. Allen Jr.’s reports on the kidnapping of Jesuit Paolo DallOglio, the apostle of “Muslim-Christian friendship” in Syria. In whose hands he is detained recently came to light.
A few lawsuits against priest-abusers have charged that each acted “as an ‘agent’ or an ‘employee’ of the Holy See while he served as a priest, and the Vatican is responsible for damages from his behavior.” Mr. Allen comments on both stories in his All Things Catholic.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Not an Endorsement, But a Vivid Video

How do caregivers do their jobs well? According to this Cleveland Clinic video caregivers, “Hear what [others] hear. See what they see. Feel what they feel.” Everyone has a story. This video captures that and invites anyone to look at others differently.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Revolution—Part 1

Pope Francis has begun a revolution. It is more substan-tive than his popularity (the pope’s “approval ratings,” Mr. John L. Allen Jr. noted, “would be the envy of any politician or celebrity.”) The substance registers as change, accountability, augmenting the role of laity, and “repositioning the church.” Mr. Allen amplified these in part one of his appraisal.


Monday, August 05, 2013

Pilgrimage Then and Now

Jesuit Michael Holman preached on 31 July. Not so long ago he had visited the site of a chapel St. Ignatius had once visited. Then it was on the outskirts of Rome; now it is within its borders. The chapel on the site now is of 20th-Century vintage. The site, then and now, Fr. Holman reminded is about “everything.”
Wiki-image by Croberto68 of chapel at La Storta CC BY-SA 3.0.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Sunday word, 04 Aug 2013

Two Implications
18th Sunday of the Year (04 Aug 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
St. Paul wrote faith communities—churches he had established. The communities shaped his messages. They told the good news of the risen messiah Jesus; how the baptized participated in the new life of the Risen One; and how living that life reshaped relationships with the God of Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Miriam and all the prophets before the prophet Jesus and with all humans. Baptized living still means seeking to deepen the absolutely new life of risen Jesus in us and all we do.

Today’s scriptures suggest two implications about deepening this new life or setting our affections1 on the life of risen Jesus we share by our baptisms. Implication one is to live for others. To the Colossians St. Paul suggested no private rigorism to seek divine life. He recommended the community, the common union of our shared humanity. Christian life is not measured by nationality, gender, status or insider-outsider divisions. St. Paul listed pairs of divisions contemporary to him and the Colossians: Jew/Greek; male/female; slave/free and circumcised/uncircumcised. We have ours: established/migrating; developed/developing; addicted/free; traditional/new age; healthy/ill; employed/jobless—supply yours.

Private heroics or rigorism tempt us to shape our lives and seek fulfillment. The faith community—not private heroics or rigorism—is both shaper and goal of seeking what is of God, who is most real: being honest in word and deed; making every effort to build up others; and being open handed as well as open hearted. Seeking what is most real, being honest with one another and not living solely for self benefit both the faith community and the global, human community.

Living without reference to others dooms us to a lonely, meaningless existence. This second implication the Book of Ecclesiastes laid bare. Vanity of vanities was no curse but the Old Testament Preacher’s way to say how wretched life lived with no reference to others is. The Old Testament Preacher lived amid advances to humans as well as age-old inclinations to make self the center of things. Those inclinations registered and still register as pride, honor and riches, to use Ignatian shorthand. The Old Testament Preacher was a courageous witness. He courageously witnessed to making God the horizon to which we lean and the mystery embracing daily routines as well as astonishing wonders and searing traumas.

Jesus preached that, too, in his time of even more advances in travel, communication, urban planning—to name only three the Roman Empire markedly improved. That’s the point of his parable of the rich fool. His folly was not his wealth measured in bales of barley and other grain and other goods; his folly was he thought he completely controlled his life. Not only were his harvest and its wealth to him in the market gifts of the Creator. So was his very self. Had he come to think he controlled the rains, which allowed him to store so much in his barns and silos?

When we live with no reference to God; when we refuse to allow God to be the mystery embracing daily routines as well as astonishing wonders and traumas that sear us, we feel trapped in the futility of it all and sucked into ourselves. When we allow God to be our horizon and the mystery embracing us, we live for others with energetic freedom. Not any freedom but the freedom of faith. Faith is nothing less than Jesus’ human response to God, God who is also with us, ever inviting and blessing our response.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the loving light of the Trinity, who creates you each moment. 
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • In your words praise Jesus for sharing his risen life and his faith in the mystery who invites us beyond ourselves.
  • Ask Jesus to renew your sense of his presence with you and deepen your awe and wonder at all God’s gifts.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Give us this day is more than a petition. Jesus’ phrase reminds us we live moment by moment by divine kindness and for the sake of others as Jesus lived, died and rose for each of us and all people.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. The Greek word in Colossians 3.2 we translate as think had richer connotations from what we heard when it was proclaimed. Other versions offer: Think of what is above, not of what is on earth to Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth [Revised Standard Version]. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth [King James Version]. St. Paul conveyed a much more humane activity than mentally connecting ideas.
Wiki-image of 17th-C depiction of Vanitas public domain in the U.S. Wiki-image of illustration of parable of rich man Free Art License.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

“Beating Heart of Francis’ Papacy”

In his All Things Catholic post Friday Mr. John L. Allen Jr. recalled that the descriptor of Pope John Paul II was “‘do not be afraid’”; of Benedict XVI “‘reason and faith.’” Pope Francis is the “Pope of Mercy.”
Wiki-image by SajoR of papal coat of arms CC BY-SA 2.5.

Friday, August 02, 2013

In First Jesuit Triumvirate: the One Least Known

Pierre Favre roomed with Francis Xavier and Ignatius Loyola during their years at the University of Paris. The latter two were canonized. Pierre remains beatified. Jesuit Edel McLean helps everyone know him better.
Wiki-image of Pierre Favre public domain.