Friday, May 31, 2013

Catholic Relief Services Turns 70

In 1943 Poles fled Soviet labor camps. To meet their needs Catholics began to collect money. With that concern and collection was born the Catholic Relief Services. Its current chair, Bishop Gerald Kicanis, conversed with Philippa Hitchen at Vatican Radio.

Logo of its birthday at the CRS facebook page.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

On Retreat. . .

. . .from 20 through 28 May 2013

Photo: P. Fennessy on Retreat house website

Monday, May 20, 2013

That's How Many?

It is written, “As numerous as the stars of heaven.” What kind of number might that be? Each dot in the picture is a galaxy numbering billions of stars. “All the indications are that these galaxies are busy crashing into one another, and forming large quantities of stars as a result of these violent encounters.” More from the ESA.
SPIRE-Herschel image of Lockman Hole Copyright 2000 – 2011 © European Space Agency. All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pentecost Sunday word, 19 May 2013

Calisthenics of Faith
Pentecost (19 May 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Getting up in the morning; strolling in the zoo; going on vacation; moving to a new home; assuming new responsibilities at school or work; and religious experience: what do they have in common? In all of them we cannot predict everything that will happen. Even when we may come close, surprises await us at every turn in life, including our life in the Spirit, that is, our religious experience.

Yet we readily want to believe that life is predictable, that we can prepare for everything. Even though we have been surprised enough to know that isn’t so, we act differently. When certain areas of our lives make no demands; when we enjoy routine—doing things on a given day, at set times; when weekends are only about us, we may feel supreme. Life in the Spirit, though, is real power. Life in the Spirit registers in ways and manners as various as rushing winds, a whispered breath, bright sunlight, cool water; and at times, even darkness. Ways like those point to our experiences of the Spirit’s power: as strength; gentle quiet; insight; renewal or refreshment, at times as emptiness longing to be filled. Often we exhaust ourselves trying to resist the Spirit’s power. We are surprised and satisfied when we surrender to it. Surrender to Jesus’ Spirit is no giving up and giving in. Surrender registers this way: we reorganize our lives around the power we name Holy Spirit.

The apostles’ fear never to see Jesus again or to be opposed like him may parallel our resistance. Or, our resistance may parallel St. Paul’s fury before he painfully realized he persecuted risen Jesus when he tried to exterminate his followers. In our ways we may prefer darkness rather than light, clouds rather than clarity, counterfeit identity rather than personal truth.

Many are the moves away from personal truth, just as we find many gifts shaping us and leading to God and to be the people God creates. That is the meaning of St. Paul we heard: Brothers and sisters: Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. For Paul flesh did not equal body, nor did spirit equal mind. Flesh included all ways—not only physical ways—all ways closed to or opposed to God and God’s claims on people and the rest of creation. The Spirit of God, who is the Spirit of Messiah Jesus, is no theory or idea; Holy Spirit is power freeing us to be open to God’s life and the ways God in Jesus by their Spirit draws us and invites us to greater freedom and familiarity.
Our Spirit-freedom encourages and empowers us to grow as those God creates each moment. Our familiarity with our Creator and Redeemer is another gift. The Giver of Life dwells in us. Jesus and Paul could not be more intimate! Holy Spirit is no idea but God’s life alive in us. The power of Spirit-life, St. Paul described, adopts us as children of God,…[and] heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him.

Suffering can be persecution afflicted by others. Many Christians suffer that way. Suffering can also be the effort to organize our lives around risen Jesus’ Spirit and to choose and to act more lovingly, more justly and more sincerely. Even Jesus constantly chose ways of living beyond himself for others. That second meaning applies to us here. Our repeated aiming to be whom God creates each moment I call calisthenics of faith. The more we choose to follow the Spirit’ and choose and act more lovingly, more justly and more sincerely, we are more limber Christians, who move through our days more gracefully as Jesus’ friends and witnesses.

Pentecost celebrates the creation of the Church, Jesus’ body in the world. Because we are the Church, Pentecost celebrates our recreation by and in Jesus’ Spirit each moment. Jesus’ Spirit frees us to choose for and with Jesus each moment and witness to the mighty acts God does in us through Jesus by their Spirit.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause to feel recreated by our triune God.
  • Ask Mary and the disciples to present you to Jesus.
  • Hear Jesus address you lovingly, saying, “Allow my Spirit to guide you and refashion your heart and your life.”
  • Chat with Jesus: about how you feel his Spirit; tell him your desires, your fears and your hopes.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Each time we pray it we give voice to the heart of Jesus, who desires us to rely on him more and to allow his Spirit in us to guide our choices, words and actions.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Wiki-image by Der wahre Jakob of first lines of Come! Holy Spirit CC BY-SA 3.0. Wiki-image of symbol of Holy Spirit and gifts public domain.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Two Questions, Three Cautions

Mr. John L. Allen Jr. has been following the geographical growing edges of the Catholic Church for some time. Its annual statistical report, released earlier in the week, confirmed trends he and others have noticed. Africa and Asia are where the church is growing. Mr. Allen noted that people in the Western Hemisphere ask him “two intriguing questions” about the growth-shift. He answers them then closes with “three caveats. 
Wiki-image of Big Blue Marble {PD-USGov}

Friday, May 17, 2013

Satellite Navigation, An Analogy

Pentecost will be celebrated by numerous Christians throughout the world this Sunday. Holy Spirit has been likened to many things so people might better appreciate the “mutual enjoyment” of divine life and love. Sr. Teresa White shared an analogy of Holy Spirit she once heard.
Wiki-image public domain.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Today Celebrates. . .

. . .International Day of Families

Now Known Planet-wide

Chris Hadfield commanded the International Space Station (ISS) until its return yesterday. He also commanded the attention of young people the world over. To them and others, who followed him from below, he made life in space better known. Al Jazeera’s Tarek Bazley gave this video report.
Wiki-image of the ISS reflected in helmet PD-USGov.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Monday’s Verdict

A court in Guatemala found that nation’s former dictator, Rios Mott, guilty of massacring indigenous Mayans. Native and other peoples in the Central and South Americas have known violence against them for generations. Some sympathizers of their plight have decided armed struggle alone will lead to liberation from unjust treatment.

In recent history some clergy subscribed to a certain sort of “liberation theology,” which espoused violence. Others sought other ways to support and uplift the poor and marginalized. [Pope John Paul II briefly described liberation theology accepted by the church and needed to serve everyone.]

Pope Francis hails from a South American country once run by a dictator. He is a member of a religious order which made “faith doing justice” part of its identity. What was and is Pope Francis’ attitude? Dominican Alejandro Crosthwaite offered his thoughts.

Monday, May 13, 2013

For Any Interested in Statistics

The Catholic Church compiles information about its parishes and institutions throughout the world. The most recent yearbooks were presented to Pope Francis recently. The “data recorded revels new statistics relating to the life of the Catholic Church in the world, in the course of 2012 and until the election of Pope Francis.” Summary.
Wiki-image of Vatican Flag CC0 1.0.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday word, 12 May 2013

Waiting With Us
Having celebrated Ascension last Thursday, the Diocese of Erie celebrates a Sunday solemnity today
7Easter (12 May 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
I received these words in my mail:

“Perhaps it is just a kink peculiar to elderly bachelors,
but I find myself musing often about the erotic.”1

You may find those words interesting, odd, or even symptomatic of something troublesome. Let’s worry about them together.

“Perhaps it is just a kink peculiar to elderly bachelors,
but I find myself musing often about the erotic.”

Wait before you decide. It may help to know a few facts: those words came from a friend; who happens to have been one of my teachers; who was a monk until his death!

An erotic monk? Would you care to know more? I thought so. That’s the point with the erotic, it makes us thirst for more. Unfortunately, the world of the erotic gets bad press overall, and self-giving Christians, in particular, are suspicious of it. That is too bad, overall; and very unfortunate, in particular for us.

It is very unfortunate because Eros is not just sex; nor is it only about sex. Eros is about the beautiful. The doorway to the beautiful is the imagination. Eros is about imagination. The voice of the erotic imagination muses delicately in its play about one’s lover. The 17th–century poet, Robert Herrick, delicately and erotically mused about his lover this way:

Whenas in silks my Julia goes
Then, then methinks how sweetly flows
the liquefaction of her clothes.2 —Delicious, isn’t it?

“Then, then” such charming delights are not limited to poets. Throughout my life and before it my parents had voiced their delicate musings about one another to one another. I heard: “my sweet”; “my dearest”; “love of my life”; and this one I love: “my heart.” Each melted my heart when I heard it. They kept a–melting theirs, melding them into one. Because two my parents were not for 60 years.

This erotic voice is not limited to parents or poets. It registers in ways our ears cannot hear but the church has heard with its heart and eyes. It is delicate and strong. It speaks of the beautiful, of loves lost and found. In that register we, too, see the heavens opened and catch glimpses of God’s radiance. God’s radiance refreshes us, washes us and renews us in the Lover of us all we eagerly await: Come, Lord Jesus!

As we tarry in this erotic, eucharistic, expectant mood, let’s indulge in a particularly loving thought: God waits, too. In our Risen Jesus God waits with us. How else could Stephen cry,  Jesus, receive my spirit? Or the Psalmist sing all people beheld [God’s] glory? Jesus desired God whom we await: Father, I desire that [my disciples]...whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which you have given me in your love for me before the foundation of the world. That is Eros speaking. Jesus’ desire promises God waits. Jesus embodied divine waiting by attending the harassed and helpless, curing every disease, announcing heaven has come near, succumbing to death then rising to tell us: I am coming soon.

In this erotic mood we may say Risen Jesus and church are lovers holding close each other in life and death and resurrection. That is nothing new. Instead I put it in a new light: the light of Eros which is the beautiful; the light of the beautiful which inspires; the inspiring light of the Easter mystery. In its light we behold God waiting for us, not only thirsty for the gift of life-giving water but sharing every measure of it with others. Jesus let us see this by thirsting as well as being Life-Giving Spring; by calling disciples as well as being Companion; by cherishing God as well as being Lover of all.

Jesus shares his Spirit with us so we may embody Jesus our Lover by holding up his body: youthful and old; frightened and calm; graceful and cold; rich and poor; healthy and ill; at work, at prayer, at play—forgiven or not. Christian compassion is erotic in this real sense. Its tenderness, vision and imagination are never idle. They are the contours of our mission, they are who we are, and delightfully, they are who God is in Christ Jesus through their Spirit. He is come yet again to dine with us.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause and rest in our triune God.
  • Ask the Apostles and St. Stephen to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for giving you a share in his Spirit.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to surrender to his Spirit, who empowers you to imagine and reason with the mind of Jesus daily. 
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words guide us to live his Spirit with others and for our world.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Aidan Kavanagh, OSB, “Opinion: Beware the ‘Bottom Line,’” Reflections, Summer-Fall 1993 (The Divinity School, Yale University) 28.
  2. “Upon Julia’s Clothes,” Hesperides, p. 41. Aidan Kavanagh reminded me of these verses when his essay arrived in my mail ten years ago. I first heard them as a child from my poetic Grandmother.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

“Inevitable March Toward Disaster”

The NYT reported what has long been feared and denied. Humans continue to increase levels of CO2 in the world. “The moment is approach-ing when no measurement of the ambient air anywhere on earth, in any season, will produce a reading below 400 [parts per million].” 

Friday, May 10, 2013

1 in 100,000

What the media likely will not splash in ink, soy or digital, Mr. John L. Allen Jr. posts today.
By all accounts a funny, spitfire pastor, [Father Giuseppe] Puglisi dedicated his life to convincing youth in his crime-infested neighborhood that there are ways forward other than the mob and to shaping a civil society in Sicily that challenged the Mafia's political influence.
For that he was ultimately assassinated and will be canonized.

The story includes Syrian and Sri Lankan connections. One moral is: In all times, places and circumstances faith is about doing something.
Wiki-image dalbera of mandarin orange trees in Brancaccio park CC BY 2.0.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Thursday word, 09 May 2013

The Diocese of Erie observes the solemnity today
Living our Freedom
Ascension Thursday (09 May 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
We know death is final. We may escape death; we may postpone it. Yet, death is final when it claims a living body. All of us know that to be true. True as that is one more thing is equally true: we are more than our bodies. Our God-given selves do not end with death. Jesus’ resurrection shouts that we do not end with death. At human death “life is changed, not ended.”1 What is the change?

The Ascension of Jesus, both the solemnity we celebrate today and a doctrine of our faith, frames our change as an entering. The Ascension is the “irreversible entry of [Jesus’] humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated [forever] at God’s right hand.”2 His Ascension guarantees our “irreversible entry” into the divine presence because Jesus promises us he will keep us with him.3

That change happened with Jesus’ resurrection. Risen Jesus is no ghost. He ate in the presence of his disciples, saying, Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”4 His body never lost its wounds; they were glorified with the rest of him, but the nail marks never vanished. That is how his disciples recognized him.

And more, when Jesus showed them his hands and his side, the disciples rejoiced.5 No more were his wounds hideous and painful. They assured humans to whom he appeared that they saw risen Jesus. The Ascension was the entry into God’s presence of risen Jesus with his real, glorified body. His Ascension, Pope St. Leo preached long ago, “terminated His presence with us in the body, to abide on the Father’s right hand until...He comes to judge the living and the dead in the same flesh in which He ascended.”6

Until then Jesus abides with us by his Holy Spirit. His Spirit makes Jesus more real and more powerfully present than he was when he walked the earth. Thanks to his Holy Spirit, our Redeemer’s “visible [presence] was changed into a sacramental presence”7 we celebrate in word, in song, with bread and wine until his return.

In our celebration and the rest of our Christian living, Jesus includes us. That makes the Ascension also a feast of ourselves. We joyfully “commemorate and [honor] that day on which [our human] Christ was raised above all the host of heaven, over all the ranks of angels, beyond the height of all powers, to sit with God the Father.”8 By ascending to his Father’s right hand, Jesus completed our redemption and restored our human nature’s original dignity. That’s why we Catholics tirelessly defend human dignity each moment; why Catholic families are schools for godly living; why we scrutinize budgets to ensure they leave out no one; and why we promote just social structures so they weave the seamless fabric we call “God’s justice.”

Those and other faces of Christian life embody living faith. Living faith actively meets Jesus by meeting others and responding with humility and love. Sacramental presences of Jesus empower us to make Jesus present by how we live, how we choose, how we serve and how we evangelize by our actions. Jesus’ sacramental presence with us ever invites us to action. The question the angelic messengers posed to the disciples when they lost sight of Jesus propelled them and propels us into action: “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” The bread of angels9 more than nourishes us. It stirs us to act. Every communion urges each of us: “Don’t just stand there. Do what Jesus taught you by his example.”

  1. First Preface of Christian Death.
  2. Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], 659.
  3. John 14.3.
  4. Luke 24.39.
  5. John 20.20.
  6. Pope St. Leo, Homily 74.2, “On the Ascension.”
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Psalm 78.25. “Food of angels” is synonymous. Phrases appear in Augustine, Catherine of Siena, Bonaventure, and others through the ages. St. Thomas wrote a Lauda Sion Salvatórem (texts, brief history), which ensured a lasting place of “bread of angels” among the faithful.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

“Not Just To Keep Up”

About a month before resigning, Pope Emeritus Benedict penned the 2013 World Communications Day Message. He reflected on the “development of digital social networks.”
The challenge facing social networks is how to be truly inclusive. . . Believers are increasingly aware that, unless the Good News is made known also in the digital world, it may be absent in the experience of many people for whom this existential space is important.
Many seldom think about the print world because they were born into it. Yet when the print world was new, many had to be encouraged to use it. (St. Ignatius encouraged Jesuits to use it.) The Internet Generation, though, grows up in the digital world. “Effective communication, as in the parables of Jesus, must involve the imagination and the affectivity of those we wish to invite to an encounter with the mystery of God’s love.” Social networks are also evangelizing tools.
Wiki-image of a free Twitter badge public domain.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Holy Glowing! Ratman

Alcatraz Island has rats. Some entomology students from UC Davis were checking the population, when one student spied this “greenish glow.”
Wiki-image of aircraft and bioluminescence public domain. 

Monday, May 06, 2013

Attention to Strengths and Flaws

Jesuit superior of his community at Seattle University, Fr. Patrick Howell noted that in media coverage of Pope Francis “relatively few articles explore what it means to be a Jesuit.” Fr. Howell reminds that one feature of Jesuit formation helps each one to have a “deep understanding of one’s own personal flaws or sins but also a grasp of one’s own precious self, created in God’s very image, and called to an incredible intimacy with God.”
Wiki-image of seal of Society of Jesus is in the public domain

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Sunday word, 05 May 2013

Surrender to a Presence
6Easter (05 May 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Did you hear the distinction Jesus made in his promise? Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. Jesus promised his peace. His promise is worth a savoring look. We can easily overlook Jesus promised his peace to his disciples and to us. Not as the world gives...peace he said. I want to  consider with you how Jesus’ peace is different.

Peace as we may think it—worldly peace—is not what Jesus gives. Peace we may first think is absence of anxiety, of violence, of trouble. When we are distressed we move, physically or mentally, to places of calm, quiet or rest. That sort of peace is good, yet Jesus offers us his, better peace. Looking to Jesus show how.

At the Last Supper Jesus was troubled that one of his disciples would betray him.1 Jesus did not escape his betrayal or death; Jesus surrendered to his Father: I am coming to you2...Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began. Jesus surren-dered not to an absence of trouble and violence  and its anxiety; he surrendered to the presence of his Father, source of life and tranquility.

Jesus’ peace could be likened to a hurricane’s eye. The violent winds of a hurricane rotate round its center called the eye. Winds at the eye are calm and the sky is visible.3 The presence of Jesus’ Father, his protecting power, enabled Jesus to be calm and strong not overwhelmed by the storm of his betrayal, cross and death.

One more thing about a hurricane’s eye is more valuable: the “formation [of an eye] is still not fully understood.”3 The value of that fact keeps scientists humble. That scientific fact reminds us to hear Jesus’ distinction, Not as the world gives do I give [my peace] to you. From our human point of view we cannot fully understand or make easy sense of our Jesus’ gift of his peace. Rather than a recipe—something we can control—Jesus invites us into a closer relationship with him as he had a close, constant relationship with his Father.

When things beyond our control challenge or distress us, being with another person we trust often is often our only strength and comfort. The strength and comfort we receive does not make our challenges disappear, but we do stand a bit taller. We cast our burden on our friends, and we keep ourselves close. We also value more deeply our relationship with our trusted friends.

In that way St. Peter suggested that we keep close to Jesus when we are challenged and burdened, saying, Cast your anxieties on Jesus.4 When we cast our anxieties we let go of them. Anxieties seduce us to try to control them, and the more we they limit our vision or even blind us. When we let go of them, we begin to see freshly and notice what is of greater value.

When we let go our anxieties with someone we trust, we surrender to them. Peter suggested we include Jesus among our trusted friends and surrender to him, to his presence with us, to his Spirit. Jesus’ peace is Jesus’ Spirit. To surrender to Jesus and his Spirit is not of the world because the world often suggests we build walls instead. Insulating ourselves limits us from learning, loving and being loved.

Jesus did not insulate himself. He was vulnerable to being sought, to being followed, to being misunderstood, to being opposed. His being vulnerable was no weakness; it was his gift. If he had insulated himself he would have been forgotten like so many others. Instead, Jesus is remembered and more: he lives with absolutely new and indestructible life. Jesus invites us to allow him to be the source of his risen life at every turn of our lives.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause and rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for abiding with you even when you are unaware he walks with you; thank him for giving you his peace.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to surrender to his peace and live from it daily. 
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words guide us to live his peace with others and for our world.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. John 13.21.
  2. John 17.11, 13.
  3. National Weather Service, “Tropical Cyclone Structure.”
  4. 1 Peter 5.7.
Wiki-images of the Christ taking leave of his disciples {PD-old-100} and of star forming galaxies public domain.