Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sunday word, 31 Dec 2006

Holy Family C (31 Dec 2006) Sir 3. 2-7,12-14; Ps 128; 1Jn 3. 1-2,21-24; Lk 2. 41-52
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Family Resemblance

The calendar suggests the Solemnity of the Holy Family helps us end 2006 and begin 2007. The end of a calendar year invites us to look both back and ahead into the future. Christians look back and review the past in order to chart their ways into the new year. The First Letter of John reminds us of the Christian conviction which the early Christians experienced: we have confidence in God. Christian confidence is not abstract--trust or faith in the Trinity. Christian confidence is a certainty: certain that the Trinity abides with us always.

That means we do not look back over a year annoyed or even tortured by shame or guilt. Rather, we take responsibility for our actions and inaction with God in Christ by their Spirit accompanying us with their loving kindness. Low points as well as high points in our past can serve us as cues for how to shape our living in the days, weeks and months ahead.

One cue to living as disciples of Messiah Jesus is both throughout the New Testament and easy to overlook. It is the simple word, now.

We share the conviction of our Christian forebears that the future in God will renew, revive and rejoin our Messiah with us completely. The first Christians also experienced the beginning of that renewal, revival and reunion in the present. Divine life was already accessible in, with and through Jesus, God with us. The First Letter of John expressed this conviction, this cue to living as disciples of Messiah Jesus: Beloved, we are God’s children now.

We are God’s children now is not something that goes without saying. Are you firmly convinced you are God’s child now and at each moment? I need to be reminded often that I am! I am probably more convinced about the power of exercise to produce salutary effects on my body than I am in how divine life effects my whole self. Yet, regardless of our fragile hold on this key conviction, God fully embraces us, holding each of us in God’s heart. God embracing us describes grace, our triune God’s total self-gift to us.

If Jesus made clear the complete extent to which our triune God reveres, protects and cares for us, then our reverence for one another, our protection and patient care for each other is how we most eloquently testify that Jesus accompanies us at each moment of our lives. This opportunity to testify in action to the selfless reverence, protection and care our triune God extends us begins in family. As God’s self-gift to Mary and Joseph, the infant and young boy, Jesus, needed their vigilant care, so do the infants and young children born to parents everywhere need their vigilant care. When we children grow mature, often our parents need our vigilance and loving care in ways that make demands and also free us to be ourselves in ways that we cannot know at the time.

Because no family is perfect, we entrust ourselves to the intercession of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Imperfect as each may be, a family is a “school” in which “we can learn to realize who Christ really is”...“and gradually we may even learn to imitate him.

Those words of Pope Paul VI*, especially “to realize” and “gradually,” mean learning who Christ really is and who each of us really is does not depend on perfection or good fortune, happy as those are. They rely on cooperating with the gracious self-gift of God in Christ by their Spirit.

In your 10 minutes you set aside each day this week to unite yourself more closely with Jesus, come into the presence of the Trinity and feel them embracing you in welcome and in love. Ask for the grace to feel with your entire self that you are God’s child, flesh and blood who clothes divine life. Speak to any of the Divine Persons in your own words, asking them to deepen your desire to be more like them, especially patient and loving, in the new year to come. Lovingly patient is our family resemblance to the very God who creates us each and every moment.

* When he visited Nazareth around Epiphany in 1964, Pope Paul recalled “three thoughts I take with me from Nazareth”: learning from “its silence”; “family life”; and “about work and the discipline it entails.” The pope’s address is part of the Office of Readings for this feast, Liturgy of the Hours, vol.1, pp. 426-428.

Photo in the public domain. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Now Some Audio Assistance To Begin Praying

"God on Your Pod" has proven to be a most successful venture by the Jesuit Media Initiative in Europe.
By 1st December the number of the daily prayer sessions downloaded had topped one million, representing clicks from people all over the world. Peter Scally, Director of Jesuit Media Initiatives, confesses to being stunned by the success of the project. “Pray-as-you-go seems to be tapping into a real need that people feel in their lives - the need to pray.” He is convinced that “the busier people get, the more they notice that lack in their lives, the more they yearn for at least a moment of peace and reflection, a moment of prayer”.

... Pray-as-you-go can be found at

I have added to the blog Spiritual Exercise for the Week (link to it from this page; see the a link to the Breathing Exercise found at Pray-As-You-Go. It is a great way to prepare one's prayer. It is an MP3 file, to which you may listen at your computer and even download to your iPod or other MP3 player.

Quotation from the News Bulletin, Jesuits in Europe, 29 December 2006.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Seeing Glory

In his gospel St. Luke one of the Evangelist's concerns was the division among the people regarding Jesus: some accepted the prophet, others rejected him.

Luke's infancy of Jesus is composed of several vignette-accounts, which act as table's of contents for his gospel and his Acts of the Apostles. They develop themes and threads which these vignettes introduce. One of the final ones is the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.

Simeon--not the only character in this vignette--Luke 2.22-40--receives the infant Jesus into his arms and glorifies God because his eyes at last behold the salvation of God. His eyes, indeed Simeon's entire being, are fulfilled. Even though Mary's child will be the cause of division among people, Jesus is the glory of God.

From the 4th Century, the church has used Simeon's canticle as its night prayer. Retiring for the night is a good moment to reflect on how one has seen God's glory during the day and to entrust oneself to God for a night of rest in order to detect and to accept Christ on the day to come.

Photo from the Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 63r - The Presentation in the Temple the Musée Condé, Chantilly, France. It is in the public domain.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Pope Benedict's Christmas Message

Pope Benedict concluded his Christmas Day message with:
Dear brothers and sisters, wherever you may be, may this message of joy and hope reach your ears: God became man in Jesus Christ, he was born of the Virgin Mary and today he is reborn in the Church. He brings to all the love of the Father in heaven. He is the Saviour of the world! Do not be afraid, open your hearts to him and receive him, so that his Kingdom of love and peace may become the common legacy of each man and woman. Happy Christmas!
Read his message with a brief introduction by AsiaNews.

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

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas word

1 Christmas C (25 Dec 2006) Is 9. 1-6; Ps 96; Tit 2. 11-14; Lk 2. 1-14
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
If You Are Willing

’Twas the night before Christmas and flocked to God’s house
Singles and infants; people widowed; and others with spouse.

Some came all stressed; others were just plain tired out.
Most dazzled in their finest. More wondered, “What’s Christmas about?”

Each year to Bethlehem’s babe we give our memories play
With kind nods his way. But do we grow with him each day?

God become flesh: that’s an astonishing wonder!
How often we consider it as God’s dizzy blunder.

“Who says that about one’s own child,” I ask?
The least babe’s a wonder to hold, not one more task

Even when bad dreams, cholic, measles--or worse--
Plague one’s baby, she’s a gift not a curse.

We wonder, “What could our infants say if they spoke?”
We decide their coos and cries are an appeal or a joke.

So return to the manger and what do you hear?
The silent wonder of Mary and Joseph, bright in a tear?

The cough of an ox, the bleat of a lamb or the moo of a cow
Might ruffle your ear. Or, your eyes glimpse a shepherd’s slight bow.

Hearing and sight might fog over when your nose does rebel
At the pointed, warm odors of that animal-shelter smell.

Whether we say them aloud or hold thoughts within
We, the sensors, act as the doers as we take it all in.

Even if we were nearby where those shepherds lay
To hear that wondrous message that the angels did say,

It is all about Jesus, God in the flesh, heaven on earth.
The meaning of Christmas for us is to grow with his birth.

As Jesus grew he learned what we learn, he suffered alike.
Reflecting on his experience, beginning as a tike,

Jesus had something to say. It’s our turn to listen to him
Not to put our meaning into his mouth or to limit him.

To let Jesus be Jesus, youth, adult, God’s Dear One,
Is how Joseph and Mary grew daily with their son.

Yes, his parents did much to help Jesus come to his own
And they did much more by their hearts’ pondering tone:

Mary treasured all these words, pondering them in her heart.
The shepherds took in the angels’ words well enough for their part:

They made known what had been told to them about this child.
Do we think we know more than they, yet only make mild

Mention of Immanuel with what we say and by how we act?
God in Christ grew up with us: that’s Christmas fact.

Our life-task, our gift to God, is to grow in the Prince of Peace,
Who teaches us to live justly and to enjoy it without cease.

Take with you what Christmas means, if willing you are:
“let [God] happen to you, meet you,” love you as you are;

Let God shape your way of looking at everything;
Let God sweep and gather your entire being /1/

Into God’s mystery of the Incarnation, Immanuel,
Who grows in us welcoming him daily, not just one birthday revel.

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, Palestine

1 Joseph P. Whelan, S.J. “Jesuit Apostolic Prayer,” The Way Supplement 19 (Summer 1973), 18-19 (original emphasis).

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

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Final "O" Antiphon

Here is a brief explanation of all these Antiphons.

On Christmas Eve verse before Evening Prayer combine King of kings and radiant bridegroom as images of the Messiah, who comes as the sun rises.

Abbas and Bethlehem

The Franciscans are the custodians of the Holy Land. The "Franciscan minister provincial in the Middle East...traveled to the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday to invite the Palestinian representative to dine with the Franciscan community on Christmas Eve in the Bethlehem convent, and then to attend Midnight Mass." Read the reason.

Photo by voidwasp. Right to use under Creative Commons Deed 2.5

Sunday word, 24 Dec 2006

4th Advent Sunday (24Dec2006) Mi 5. 1-4; Ps 80; Hb 10. 5-10; Lk 1. 39-45
Homily of Rev. Paul Panaretos, S. J.
Our First Moment (The Baptizer Speaks Within His Mother's Womb)

I remember well that leap I took
Within my mother’s womb
When Mary’s surprised greeting shook
The air at mom’s ears inside her room.

I knew no fear.

I leapt to fly right to my Lord and cousin--
I did so without success--
My mother’s womb, my mantle then,
She raised her hand and did caress.

I shed a tear.

My tear’s been lost in inspired words--
“Masked,” perhaps the better choice,
Like His many comings from the first,
To give both God and us voice.

I wonder here:

Ancient Bethlehem (means house of bread?)
so poor and small all else had more,
Today is wracked--many weep, many dead:
God’s Lamb’s birthplace now home to war.
You see God’s tear?

God cries sadly, yes, and in delight.
Shivering with each vicious blow
More expertly struck to make light
of justice. Delighting to say, “Go.

--Please, lend your ear--

“Go! As God we must hie to earth.
Men and women heavy tred;
We’ll take them on--our human birth--
Going gently to save the dead,

--“We beg you, hear--

“Who live by war, by faction and untruth
As well as those whose lives have ended.”
This: divine delight. Less would be uncouth,
And we creation would have upended.
We mourn a year?

Hard as any try, and think they succeed,
From anonymous birth, which we name,
To a shameful, public death once decreed,
Mary’s Son, my Lamb’s power, none can tame.

Take heart this cheer!

His, his is a majesty subtle strong
Clothed in flesh for the sake of all.
I come to right each sorry wrong
and choose to do so from the Fall--

“From that day drear

“To now--if you'll only give your grace.”
Hastening to my mother, mother
Hastened to hold Mary in embrace.
That eternal time was like no other.

So cast out fear:

If any be related or locked in hate,
They prepared the world with their visit
For our Lord to visit, lasting late,
And allow God in us exhibit--

Slow to appear--

Divine delight. To my Lord I didn’t fly away
As I hoped. Nonetheless, in grace we met
In their tender visitation-kiss that day
Sav’ring before birth what God did beget.

Now pray here:

Let these hours before Christmas Day
Be the months before I saw Jesus.
Imitate my longing, infant way
So your lives, too, will rest in Jesus.

* "(means house of bread?)" in stanza four:
As my colleague, Fr. Mark George, S.J., informed me, the name
in Arabic is house of flesh.
The Hebrew is translated as house of bread.
One name, two semitic connotations: both deepen the meaning of Bethlehem, and
enlarge our response to it.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Advancing Ecological Justice

Christianity Getting Greener (appearing here on 20 Dec 2006) described the efforts toward ecological justice by the highest leaders of the Roman Catholic and the Greek Orthodox churches.

On 22 Dec the Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus sent notice that the Society of Jesus has been at work on the same mult-faceted issue. The brief news release follows.
Jesuits Release Document Advocating Ecological Justice

In November, the Jesuits released a plan defining sustainable development to advance what many church leaders are calling "ecological justice." It calls for the use of renewable resources, re-use, recycling, and restoration of nature. It also urges economic policies that take into account human and environmental costs of production. According to the plan, buildings at Jesuit institutions ought to meet high standards of sustainability.

The idea of creating a plan for regional development came from the Colombian Jesuits, who are involved in several collaborative projects with the Oregon province, including a coffee company that uses organic farming practices and pays a living wage to its farmers. Jesuits in Rome and the US, among other places, have also called for environmental stewardship.

"We believe the mandate for Catholics is clear: to become fully informed of the magnitude and seriousness of the problem, to acknowledge our interdependence and our responsibility for the well-being of others, and to work for lasting change that will benefit all within the community of life," the task force wrote. [Source: The Catholic Sentinel, 16 November 2006]

by willgame; permission to use according to Creative Commons License Deed Attribution 2.5

Seventh "O" Antiphon. . .

. . .O Emmanuel

Isaiah foretold that Emmanuel, Hebrew for God is with us, would be the name given to the child who would be a sign to Judah of her deliverance.

In his Gospel Matthew saw that prophecy fulfilled in Jesus (1.23).

Photo by jordon; permission to use under the Creative Commons Attribution License Deed 2.5

Friday, December 22, 2006

Sixth "O" Antiphon. . .

. . .O Rex gentium

Who would not fear thee, O King of the nations?
For this is thy due;
for among all the wise ones of the nations
and in all their kingdoms
there is none like thee
(Jeremiah 10.7)

The Lord was hailed as King of the nations by Jeremiah. Isaiah's prophecy included all peoples. We celebrate the birthday as one like us in all things save sin each Christmas. His birth, death and resurrection is our hope to welcome him when he comes again.

Advent: One Aspect of the Paschal Mystery

Christ Staab, one of the Detroit Province, second-year novices, has been volunteering for four months at the Warming Center at Sts. Peter and Paul Jesuit Church in Detroit.

Read his reflection about his experience. He helps us appreciate Advent is one aspect of the entire paschal mystery of our Messiah Jesus.

Photo of Detroit's skyline seen from Windsor, Ontario by Shiven Singh Cheema, who released it into the public domain on 08 Dec 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Fifth "O" Antiphon. . .

. . .O Oriens

The rising dawn (or dayspring) fulfills prophecies which used light as the divine image. Jesus proclaimed himself the light of the world. We, too, are to radiate his light as Jesus said: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5.16).

When he returns in glory, the Book of Revelation encourages us that we will always enjoy God, our Light: And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever (22.5).

Photo by Tomruen, who released it into the public domain. Source: English Wikipedia, uploaded by Tomruen.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Fourth "O" Antiphon. . .

. . .O clavis David

Isaiah prophesied, "I [the Lord] will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open" (22:22).

Messiah Jesus was accorded this title, along with Scepter of the House of Israel, too, because all authority is his to unlock what imprisons us.

Photo by Jastrow, who entered into the public domain. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Christianity Getting Greener

A group visiting Istanbul in early November paid a call on the Church of St. George, the see of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople. Turkey remembers Bartholomew I, the current patriarch, as the 'Green' Patriarch, because of his passionate concern for the environment.

No ideologue on the issue, Bartholomew speaks directly to the responsibility of Christians to exercise better stewardship of creation, which the Creator has entrusted to all humans. Four years ago, Bartholomew was direct about our role and the future of our world if we don't "act as priests of creation in order to reverse the descending spiral of ecological degradation."

Pope Benedict is in agreement. He is fine tuning and broadening his predecessor's ecological concerns. Last Friday John A. Allen offered a look at the meeting of Benedict XVI and Bartholomew I and their united roles in "The 'greening' of institutional Christianity."
Stewardship of the environment is a Christian, moral obligation, and the highest leaders of the Roman Catholic and the Greek Orthodox Churches urge us to join them.

Photo copyright held by the Ecumenical Patriarchate

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Third "O" Antiphon. . .

. . .O Radix Jesse

Isaiah prophesied that a new branch would restore the house, lineage and throne of David. Jesus fulfilled the prophecy, which the angel Gabriel summarized in announcing to Mary that she would be the mother of God.

a Wikimedia Commons image in the public domain.

Tuesday word, 19 Dec 06

Third Advent Tuesday (19 Dec 2006) Jdg 13. 2-7,24-25a; Ps 71; Lk 1. 5-25
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Delivery Free

When I was a boy I found it odd to hear the annunciation of Samson’s birth to his mother, the wife of Zorah. In my imagination Samson was so far from Jesus, especially as an infant.

It was not until 1980 that I began to appreciate Luke’s skill in proclaiming the good news of Jesus birth. That year I was led through the New Testament by a fine teacher--who, it happens is also named Luke. As my teacher, Luke, opened the world of the New Testament to me I began to appreciate deeply the Old Testament.

The final week of Advent, welcomes us into a particular nuance or aspect of the one paschal mystery celebrate over an entire year: the Incarnation, God became one with us so that we could become one with God.

Recalling God’s intention to make a barren woman the wife of Samson--to deliver Israel from the Philistines--is one more prophetic pointer to John. Being set apart for the Lord for this task made Samson great. To be set apart to prepare the way of Messiah Jesus, who delivers us from our sins, made John the Baptizer great, as Gabriel told his father, Zechariah.

Zechariah could not accept the greatness of his son to be or the greatness of God for whom no thing is impossible, including the Incarnation, God taking flesh to deliver us. Now is a good time to ask the converted Zechariah, who will always speak, to intercede for us so that we can more deeply accept that Jesus is one with us, already delivering us into his new life. Even Samson was never stronger. Now I would sorely miss Samson in the run up to Christmas.

Photo by Andreas Praefcke, 2006, who released it into the public domain.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Second "O" Antiphon. . .

. . .O Adonai

O Adonai begins in Latin today's antiphon to the Magnificat--the gospel canticle at the church's Evening Prayer.

The title of this page is a link which leads to the entire antiphon in English, with a brief commentary.

Photo: copyright expired; public domain

Monday word, 18 Dec 2006

Third Advent Monday (18 Dec 2006) Jer 23. 5-8; Ps 72; Mt 1. 18-25
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., at the McGregor Home (Assisted Living; Full Care facility)
Two Sisters

Where was Joseph when he had that dream of his? in his home? He need not have been there. He could have been at his workshop where he repaired, designed and constructed out of wood and stone necessities for daily living.

What were his thoughts before he dreamed? He may have been pondering the house of David from which he traced his descent. Would not that have been likely: Joseph considering his roots as he gazed forward into his future with his betrothed, Mary?

Times of wholesome, absorbed self-reflection as that open us, and God recognizes a time to reveal us to ourselves. Our bible often calls such divine revelation a dream. Our experience tells us we all have both sleeping dreams and waking dreams. How attentive are we to how God desires to communicate to us? Consider Joseph.

Joseph was in a bind when he learned that Mary was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Perplexed as he was, he refused to be anything but humane toward her. He courageously responded to God inviting him to stand by Mary, his betrothed.

Joseph reminds me of these words of Pope Pius XII: "True religion and profound humaneness are not rivals. They are sisters." True religion and profound humaneness do not demand explanations. They seek the most real, Jesus, whom we await; Messiah Jesus, who Joseph, son of David, long awaited.

Joseph became one more partner in the Incarnation. In the fullness of time a faithful man, with a faithful woman, would restore blessings on all children of Adam and Eve. Let your prayer be a waking dream. Consider how Jesus presented himself to you: in helpers, social directors; one another; all who make McGregor your home. Jesus is born daily in humble, simple ways.

Photo by PDAgrl

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The First "O" Antiphon. . .

. . .begins this evening.

These antiphons are composites of biblical allusions and images. We are familiar with all of them because each opens a verse of the hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Beginning this evening, O Sapientia, introduces the Magnificat, the gospel canticle of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Jesus personified Divine Wisdom (Sapientia).

Together with six other titles, Sapientia, is the first of seven messianic titles of Messiah Jesus. We await his return in glory, his Second Advent. This week we also prepare to celebrate his birthday as God-with-us, his First Advent, which was marked by most humble beginnings.

The first letter of these antiphons, which date from the medieval, monastic evening prayer, when spelled in the reverse order in which they appear, spell Ero cras, "I will be there on the morrow." Hence, the church's long practiced verse/response of Advent:
"Come Lord Jesus!"
"Come quickly!"

Photo by Andreas Praefcke Source: Wikimedia Commons; permission granted under GNU Free Documentation License

Sunday word, 17 Dec 2006

3d Advent SundayC (17 Dec 2006) Zeph 3.14-18a; Resp. Is 12.2-3,4,5-6; Phil 4.4-7;
Lk 3.10-18
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
When John Spoke, People Acted

What ought we to do? In rights and responsibi-lities language ought is an important word. Rights and responsibilities go hand in hand; rights engender responsiblities. For example: right to free speech entails my responsibility to speak honestly, even to defend one about whom others speak unfairly; or, my right to medical care obliges me not to put my health at risk.

In this language of rights and responsibilities, underneath the word ought rests relationship. We owe one another. Senator Christopher Dodd’s statement is a fine example:
We owe it to each other--and to our children and grandchildren--to leave our planet in a better state than when we found it./1/
Mother Theresa said something which more keenly emphasized relationships in Christ:
Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them./2/
Rights without responsibilities is not liberty. Rights without responsibilities guarantees a journey...marked by the lure of false forms of freedom and hollow promises of hope.”/3/

This is what the people questioning John the Baptizer sought: not the milestones of false forms of freedom but true freedom. They located the promise and hope of true freedom in the prophet’s call to repent, literally, to change their minds; to reorient their vision, beginning with their inner eye, which sees the most real.

Their conversation contained in today’s gospel names stunningly simple and sincere ways to live truly free: one ought to live in charity; be fair with all people; and not to denounce others but to treat all respectfully.

John, the forerunner of Jesus, invites us to consider thoughtfully and prayerfully how John might answer us. How can we best be charitable?

As we consider our own circumstances, John could answer our question about what ought we do with so much, saying,“Survey your closets and whatever you haven’t worn in a year clean, fold and put in the St. Vincent dePaul collection-box at the Conover-edge of Gesu’s parking lot”

How are we to be fair with all people? After thoughtfully and prayerfully considering our standing in life and our blessings, John may reply to us,
“Remember your privileges in life--you have influence to change the world. Bless the world with your blessings and never over-look an opportunity to better it for the good of all.”
Being fair is not tit-for-tat. For us Catholics being fair anticipates others needs and quickly shares their joys and their sorrows.

How do we treat others with respect? Perhaps the answer John would offer us 21st-century citizens of the United States, might be,
“Begin by treating yourself with the respect which will make you more humane, which will make you more receptive to Jesus’ spirit, whose kindness should be known to all through you, as my future colleague of the good news, St. Paul, beautifully put it.”
Respect means honoring ouselves so much that we choose carefully what influences us. If we choose well so that we are well-formed, we will be good influences for others and sources for their joy and renewed purpose.

In the 10 minutes you set aside each day this week, entrust yourself to the Trinity. Calm yourself in their embrace. Ask John the Baptizer to accompany you. See yourself going out to witness and to hear him. Feel your expectation, your desire for Christian liberty and long for it. Consider your own circumstances and hear John speak to you: how you can move a step closer to living the liberty of the brothers and sisters of Messiah Jesus. Resolve how you can practice that to sharpen your expectation of Messiah Jesus and more joyfully anticipate people you encounter after your prayer that day, on his birthday at Christmas and on each day after.

/3/ VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2003 (Source:

Photo by PDAgrl

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Whole and Unique Christ

How does English use those two words? Whole can mean all in the sense that everything or every person is included, no exceptions. It may imply that nothing has been omitted. It can also suggest perfection, a state of completeness to which one can add nothing else.

Unique may mean unusual, that is, marked by a distinctive quality. That is how many people use the word today. The root of unique is one. Thus, Webster gives as the first meanings for unique the connotations of sole and unequaled (note the useful commentary at the conclusion of the entry).

The 12th-Century monk, Blessed Isaac of Stella, preaching about Mary and the Church referred to the "whole Christ and the unique Christ." By the first--whole--he meant the entire church, each and every member of it. By the second--unique--he stated that Christ Jesus is the only individual whose perfection is complete and who has no equal.

Because Messiah Jesus lived, gave his life for us and rose from the dead, we give birth to him by the manner of our lives. "In a way, every Christian is also believed to be a bride of God's Word, a mother of Christ, his daughter and sister, at once virginal and fruitful." The images, heeped one on another, enlarge our possibilities and give us new purpose. (The last phrase frequently appears in prayers after communion, imploring the grace to conform our lives to the Sacrament of the Eucharist in which we shared.)

Read Abbot Isaac's brief Sermon 51
to prepare for the final week before Christmas Day.
Photo: Famous painting of Madonna Della Strada in the Church of the Gesu in Rome, Italy. (Source: Wikipedia; Rights: Public domain)

Friday, December 15, 2006

New Eve

Michelangelo's Creation of Eve
Mary has been long called the New Eve because the story of creation, which did not end well for humans because of our First Parents, was reversed and redeemed by the story of Jesus, who became one of us through his mother, Mary of Nazareth.

St. Irenaeus, the 2d-century Bishop of Lyon, offered a litany of parallels between Mary and Eve. It is found in one of his extensive and very well known writing, Against Heresies. The Office of Readings in today's Liturgy of the Hours offers that selection for our meditation.

Irenaeus' words may be found near the end of the Office of Readings at this link. The reading from Irenaeus follows the psalm and the first reading, which is taken from scripture.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Archbishop of All Greece Visits the Pope

His Beatitude Christodoulos [in English his name means slave of Christ] paid a first visit to the Pope by an Orthodox archbishop of Athens and All Greece. (Christodoulos had visited the Vatican before; the occasion was the funeral of John Paul II.)

That first visit to a Pope was historic enough. The ending of their meeting was historic, too. The two religious leaders signed a joint declaration in which they reaffirm the collaboration of Orthodox and Catholics, particularly in the defense of life and the recovery of Europe's Christian roots.

The delegation accompanying Archbishop Christodoulos joined him in the papal an address by each, the Orthodox archbishop of Athens and All Greece and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Rome.
Benedict XVI spoke first, attesting that "today, our relations resumed slowly but profoundly and with a concern of authenticity."

"It offers us the opportunity to discover a whole new range of spiritual expressions full of meaning and a mutual commitment. We thank God," the Pope said. [Source:]

We thank God, indeed, and pray that efforts toward unity progress.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wednesday word

Sacrament of Reconciliation: Grs 7 & 8 (13 Dec 2006) Lk 15. 3-7
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Jesus told story-parables, like the one we just heard, to help us get our minds around the unbelievable gift of his kingdom of peace, God’s peace. God’s peace leaves God’s finger-prints on our deep, true selves. One of those fingerprints of God is forgiving. A second fingerprint of God is being forgiven.

Because we’re human we don’t always act as Jesus’ friends. We hurt others. Others hurt us. We need to receive forgiveness, and we need to forgive each other.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation allows us to be forgiven. Receiving Jesus’ forgiveness helps us show to others Jesus’ forgiveness we receive. As the prayer Jesus taught us, the Lord’s Prayer, reminds us being forgiven and giving forgiveness belong together.

This Sacrament of Reconciliation is good to do monthly. It is here whenever we need it. This sacrament is a great preparation to celebrate the birthday of Jesus, who is our forgiveness and our model for living each day.

Queen of Lights

The current Catholic liturgical calendar observes today as the memorial of St. Lucy, martyred on this date at Syracuse probably at the beginning of the Fourth Century.

Lucy came to be associated with light, the Latin root of her name. Perhaps the most perduring and colorful celebrations developed in the Scandinavian countries, where nature curfews light in winter. Read a description of the way Lucy's feast had been and continues to be observed in Sweden and Norway, in particular.

Photo by darkpatator

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tuesday word, 12 Dec 2006

Our Lady of Guadalupe (12 Dec 2006) Zec 2. 14-17; Resp. Judith 13. 18bcde,19; Lk 1. 39-47
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Make Accessible the Way of Compassion

Mary is the Mother of God, my savior--hers and ours. The way God saves is by exalting the lowly, feeding the hungry and taking the hand of all who are vulnerable. In Old Testament language God took the hand of Israel because Israel was vulnerable. Today it is powerful. God still takes the hand of the vulnerable.

Our Lady of Guadalupe was Mary’s vision to Blessed Juan Diego on 09 December 1531. Mary told him,

“Know for certain, my son, my smallest [Aztec], that I am the perfect and ever Virgin Mary, Mother of the one true God through whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near and far, the owner of heaven and earth.

...“I am truly your merciful Mother, the Mother of all who live united in this land and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who search for me, of those who have confidence in me. There I will listen to their cry, to their sadness, so as to cure all their different pains, their miseries and sorrows, to remedy and alleviate their sufferings.”/1/

The Aztec people were vulnerable to the Spanish conquistadores. The Aztecs could not easily accept Christianity. The image of herself Mary impressed on Juan’s cloak first made a believer of the archbishop. Her image was full of Aztec symbols, such as the sun, the moon, the stars and the earth, which they worshipped.

For the Aztecs the color jade was the color of the path to God; Mary’s cloak is jade in her image on Blessed Juan’s cloak. Also, the sun was born over again in Aztec belief. In 1531 the Aztecs awaited the rebirth of the Sixth and final Sun of life./2/ Joined to such images as these Mary, won the hearts of the natives and is invoked as “‘Patroness of all America and Star of the first and new evangelization.’”/3/ Our Lady of Guadalupe invites us to reinvigorate in ourselves her Son’s heart reaching out to any and all who are vulnerable and to color their path with compassion and afford them hope in him, compassion and hope which originate in the gospel itself.

/1/ Copyright: Franciscan Province of our Lady of Guadalupe, 1998-200. All Rights Reserved.

/2/ Christine Foisy-Erickson,

/3/ John Paul II, Ecclesia in America, 11.

Photo of window by jukerr

Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday word, 11 Dec 2006

2d Advent Monday (11 Dec 2006) Is 35. 1-10; Ps 85; Lk 5. 17-26
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Don’t Miss Today

The Advent Sundays set the rhythm for the liturgical celebrations during it. Sundays One and Two focus us on the Lord’s glorious return at time’s end. Sunday Three encourages deeper joy in the One who is to come. Sunday Four rehearses the ancestors of Messiah Jesus. Between each Sunday the weekday scriptures at mass amplify these and invite our hearts to soak in God’s saving love and to respond to it.

Yesterday highlighted the expectation that the Lord will save: God the light of his glory with his mercy and justice for company, we heard Prophet Baruch proclaim in yesterday’s first reading; and we heard John the Baptizer invite us to renew our relationships with the Lord, who will ensure that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Isaiah continues to proclaim God’s intention. People who believe in God’s intention enact their belief when they offer encouragement to others. To encourage is to restore hope and dignity to people. Often we are unaware that we’ve encouraged another. What seems a small thing to us may have saved another’s life.

Often we are unaware that the Lord saves us because the Lord routine works in us indirectly-- through another person, through an event or a created thing. Any time we feel restored to our true selves, our God-given selves, we taste a bit more of salvation. We come home to our true selves, our God-given selves. That metaphor--coming home--helps us appreciate something we might easily overlook in today’s gospel. While we may accept it as the norm to live at home or at an assisted-living place with a disorder or chronic illness, it was not so in the ancient world. Lepers, paralytics and others who could not fend for themselves often begged and existed as refugees. Jesus restored the paralytic to his home. Jesus did much more than send him there, Jesus began saving him physically and emotionally. Be alert today how Jesus desires to restore you and give you a new beginning of your salvation.

Photo by tbee

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sunday word, 10 Dec 2006

2d Advent SundayC (10 Dec 2006) Bar 5. 1-9; Ps 126; Phil 1. 4-6,8-11; Lk 3. 1-6
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Surrender to Our Light

Various stressors at this time of the year leave us feeling scattered, even lost. We cannot change the circumstances in which we find ourselves--from crowded markets, plodding traffic not to mention interior sluggishness, confusion and discouragement. We can clutch those enemies of our human nature, or we can surrender them and other desolate quagmires. Take it from one who is good at refusing to surrender those things.

When hampered by interior dark forces, I first react by denying their dark, depressive effects on me. They can’t best me! Then the cycle begins: I marshall forces to obliterate them, but I’m usually no match for them, and then my denial goes into overdrive. Sound familiar?

With rest and emotional support, I come around--usually later than sooner--and realize that my tactics hold out little promise. The only thing left to do is to surrender myself to the embrace of Jesus, his mother and the saints--even one of the heavenly court will do.

To surrender my interior self to God liberates me even though my situation does not change: crowds press around me; in traffic I don’t move half a car-length; my desires don’t fully mesh with the divine desires for me.

While the effects of inconvenience as well as the more piercing effects of our unredeemed humanity will remain with us until Jesus returns to usher his Father’s reign unhindered, Jesus abides with us even now. Yes, Jesus is present “already” as well “not yet.” His presence “already” is our hope. His presence yet to come is cause to reinvigorate our lives so we can “judge wisely the things of earth”* and act with compassion as we long for Jesus’ glorious return.

Hope and wise judgment are vital when interior sluggishness, confusion and discouragement threaten to overwhelm us and make us exiles in our own worlds. Exiles are unable to lead themselves. “In exile” is an image which meshes well with our scattered, lost and desolate feelings.

The prophet Baruch encouraged exiles. Today’s selection from Baruch isn’t one we hear often. The lectionary provides it for this Sunday every third year and never for a weekday. Its convic-tion is current: even though Israel was led away into exile long ago, God will bring them back...for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company. Indeed, God will lead us until the day of Christ Jesus and his glorious return.

This is our confidence. It was John the Baptizer’s message. It’s why we repent, that is, conform our lives to the life and reconciling work of Christ Jesus. While interior dark forces seek to cloud our vision and frustrate our efforts to cooperate with the grace of Messiah Jesus, Advent reminds us that the Sun of Justice, our Light, leads us and invites us to reach out to others to allow him to lead us by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.

In your 10 minutes of praying this week, cast all your cares and all that darkens and frustrates and fragments your true self onto our Messiah Jesus. Marvel at his desire to liberate you from darkness and lead you into his light and life. In his light name those dark forces one by one as you hand them over to Jesus. Speak to him in your own words about your t desires. Beg Jesus to renew you and strengthen your confidence to make you pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God Resolve how you can dispose yourself better to prepare the way of the Lord in your life and to help others to see God more clearly by your choices and actions. Close your prayer by slowly and gently saying the Lord’s Prayer. Your 10 minutes will loosen the hold of the forces of darkness on you and will make you a better partner of Jesus and his gospel of light.

* From today’s Prayer after Communion.

Photo by tbee

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Pope Benedict: In His Own Words

Reporting and editorials have had much to say about Pope Benedict's historic trip to Turkey. Read the pope's own evaluation,--which he gave at his general audience on 06 December, the Memorial of St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra in what is now part of Turkey.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday word, 08 Dec 2006

Immaculate Conception (08 Dec 2006) Gn 3. 9-15,20; Ps 98; Eph 1. 3-6,11-12; Lk 1. 26-38
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Divine Choice, Our Choice

The Trinity’s intention and desire is to reconcile all people and all things to be holy and without blemish before God. Because the Trinity is without beginning and end, the Trinity’s intention and desire is timeless. We humans, however, exist in space and time. These contours of our existence, space and time, restrict us.

Human nature had decided to shrink from reconciling and to exalt itself. We intuit that from personal experience. Religions offer people ways of expressing this truth. Our Christian faith accepts as its own the Jewish narrative of Genesis: God created humans out this divine desire; humans put their intentions above the divine intention; and the result is our fractured world and fractured selves. To use the language of that familiar narrative of Genesis, which begins the Bible, enmity has marred creation from the time the Lord God said to the tempter, who seduced humans to choose exalt themselves over God, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.”

Our choice in no way diminished the reconciling desire of the Trinity. The Trinity decided in their eternity that the Second Person should also become a human being in order to reconcile humans with one another and with the Trinity. To accomplish this eternal plan the Second Person of the Trinity became incarnate as Jesus, the son of Mary of Nazareth,
a daughter of Abraham.

This was shocking, so shocking that many believers in the God of Abraham refused to accept it. God worked through our human existence and resistance, through our contours of time and space and became one with us and our limited human nature. Our human nature in no way limited the divine nature.

To accomplish this eternal plan God created Mary. God created all things, and Mary gave birth to God. Pondering that shocking truth has led us, the church of Mary’s Son, to profess joyfully that Mary was created without sin fracturing or staining her--immaculately conceived, we profess.

Mary’s beginning, like the end of her human life, when she was translated into divine life without her body suffering decay, enjoyed what we shall one day achieve. We shall not escape the limits space and time place on us nor the effects of sin which have been with us from the beginnings of humanity. None of them nor all of them together can frustrate the divine desire to reconcile all creation. Mary housed the Creator in her womb and gave him human nature. We, too, are temples of Jesus’ Spirit. We render Jesus present by lives which perform deeds of compassion.

Mary, the channel of the divine desire, bids us join her in magnifying our Lord God with our compassion. Mary intercedes for us so that even in our limited and wounded human nature we can make Jesus present and [s]ing to the Lord a new song, who has done marvelous deeds in us. Mary’s immaculate conception is no limiting or dry doctrine. Mary’s immaculate conception is the melody to which our lives sing and make Jesus’ reconciling compassion real in our time and space.

Photo Theotokos by John Donaghy

Thursday, December 07, 2006

St. Ambrose, His Hymn

Today is the Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan and Doctor of the Church. On this date in 374 he became bishop by popular acclaim.

A hymn of his is a favorite of mine, "Savior of the Nations, Come." We know a version of it via translation into English from the German by Martin Luther, who translated it (or received its translation) from the Latin. It contains the core elements of the twin-mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption, which is the focus of Advent/Christmas season.

The Project Wittenberg has made it available in the public domain. Enjoy!

By St. Ambrose
Translated into German by Dr. Martin Luther, 1483-1546
Text From:
(St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1942), p. 78

1. Savior of the nations, come,
Virgin's Son, make here Thy home!
Marvel now, O heaven and earth,
That the Lord chose such a birth.

2. Not by human flesh and blood,
By the Spirit of our God,
Was the Word of God made flesh--
Woman's Offspring, pure and fresh.

3. Wondrous birth! O wondrous Child
Of the Virgin undefiled!
Though by all the world disowned,
Still to be in heaven enthroned.

4. From the Father forth He came
And returneth to the same,
Captive leading death and hell--
High the song of triumph swell!

5. Thou, the Father's only Son,
Hast o'er sin the victory won.
Boundless shall Thy kingdom be;
When shall we its glories see?

6. Brightly doth Thy manger shine,
Glorious is its light divine.
Let not sin o'ercloud this light;
Ever be our faith thus bright.

7. Praise to God the Father sing,
Praise to God the Son, our King,
Praise to God the Spirit be
Ever and eteranally.

TLH #95
Text: John 1: 14
Author: St. Ambrose, +397 (German version, Martin Luther)
Translated by: William M. Reynolds, 1860, alt.
Titled: Veni, Redemptor gentium
Tune: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland
1st Published in: Geistliches
Gesangbuchlein Town: Wittenberg, 1524, ad.


This text was converted to ascii format for Project Wittenberg
by Cindy A. Beesley and is in the public domain. You may
freely distribute, copy or print this text. Please direct any
comments or suggestions to: Rev. Robert E. Smith of the Walther
Library at Concordia Theological Seminary.

Surface Mail: 6600 N. Clinton St.,Ft. Wayne, IN 46825 USA
Phone: (260) 481-2123 Fax: (260) 481-2126

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wednesday word, 06 Dec 2006

1st Advent Wednesday (06 Dec 2006) Is 25. 6-10a; Ps 23; Mt 15. 29-37
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

On Christ the King Sunday you picked up the new Sunday missal, which Gesu offers families each year to prepare itself for the liturgies of the Sundays and holydays throughout the year. It’s marked 2007, but its first celebration was the First Sunday of Advent, Dec. 3d, 2006

We casually say the liturgical year begins with Advent. That’s so casual that it misses what’s essential about the liturgical year and of liturgy itself. While we can trace an Advent to the 4th century, it was not until much later, when designers of liturgical books put Advent read-ings and prayers at the beginning of them, did people begin to say what we still say, “Advent opens the liturgical year.” Advent only opens liturgical books. Liturgical time always looks forward as it does back. Liturgical time has no limits. In fact it is better to say that liturgy is free of time--and space, too. When members of our sisters, the Eastern churches, walk into a church, they walk off the street and into heaven and join its worship before God.

The readings and prayers we hear during the Advent/Christmas season heap image on image in order to train our vision forward to God’s promise: the mountain of the Lord, where death is destroyed, rich food and pure, choice wines satisfy all; where God, who is compassion itself, personally feeds everyone, who enjoy God’s life and love fully and unhindered.

Many images express what words limp trying to communicate--God’s total gift. It isn’t automatic; it’s not forced on anyone. God forces nothing. This truth of one day sharing God’s life fully is for those who look for God, who invite God to shepherd them through life. The gospel reminds us that those who already enjoy glimpses of God are the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. We are the many others, whose personal limitations are our personal opportunities to discover God at work in us, to hunger for God’s bread. If we don’t eat it, St. Bernard said, our “heart will wither away.”*

* from his sermon, “On the Advent of the Lord,” in the Office of Readings for the first Wednesday of Advent, Liturgy of the Hours, vol. 1, p. 169.

Happy St. Nicholas Day to all! Nicholas personified compassion, esp. to the poor. This entire Advent/Christmas season, you might say, is the voice of Nicholas speakiing to our hearts and the hearts of all people of good will.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tuesday word, 05 Dec 2006

1st Advent Tuesday (05 Dec 2006) Isaiah 11.1-10; Ps 72; Lk 10. 21-24
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Under the Influence

That phrase doubtlessly evokes human activity in the sway of liquid spirits. That phrase also helps us appreciate Jesus’ joy from which he spoke those familiar words. Jesus spoke under the “influence of the Holy Spirit,” that is, he was not making up something.

If we review our lives, we can recognize moments when words that fell from our lips, even responses to questions or to situations, we best classify as inspired: they came from our mouths, formed by our voices, yet someone else was at work with us, too.

Our gospel recalls Jesus' joyful blessing: In the Spirit Jesus twice mentioned his Father so that all who overhear can appreciate better his relationship as Son to his Father.

Jesus also did something easy to miss: he turn[ed] to his disciples in private. The midsection of Luke’s gospel revolves around Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and the formation of a people--the New Israel, the church--along the way. Jesus’ turnings allow us to see different audiences and their attitudes to Jesus.

These turnings allow Jesus to bless others as well as reveal his intimate relationship with his Father. Blessed are the eyes that see what you see...[and your ears] to hear what you hear. Part of actively anticipating Jesus’ return in glory we live, as our forbears did, by what we see, hear and receive as gracious gifts of the Trinity in all sorts of ways.

Our parish service day last Saturday is a good example. While people gave of themselves and expended effort they did not merely work. Under the influence of the Spirit, what they did blessed those who benefited from their service. The Spirit also bound us more closely to Jesus and to his Father in ways that words cannot hope to capture. It was a way Jesus turned to us, a way for us to seek him, in Isaiah’s word. That is not for Advent only but for every day.

Photo by Radio Tonreg

Monday, December 04, 2006

Monday word, 04 Dec 2006

1st Advent Monday (04 Dec 2006) Isaiah 2.1-5; Ps 122; Mt 8. 5-11
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Between But Not Stuck

Our lives are located between two Advents: between Jesus’ birth as a human being, the good news of the divine promise in flesh and blood; and between his glorious return as Son of man, Lord of all.

Jesus abides with us at each moment between his two Advents. In fact, Jesus is with us more powerfully now than he was when he walked the earth, preached, healed, suffered and died. How? Because our risen Lord is present in and through his Spirit, whom he has given us.

Living in Jesus’ Spirit registers in us in a variety of ways, that is, ways humans experience Jesus in his Spirit. St. Paul named one of them--joy.*

Christian joy is a confident assurance in Jesus’ abiding, powerful, saving presence. Christian joy pervades even in questioning, aching and distressing moments of life. This is the lesson the centurion teaches.

Was he a Jew? No. Was he a believer in the God of Abraham? No. Was he one of the least of the suffering, persecuted people of Palestine? No. The centurion was a God-fearer, to use the language Jesus and his Jewish contemporaries would have used. Those who respected God in some small way were not faithfless, and they demanded the respect and the thoughtful, considerate attention of Jews. Jesus made clear that they owed the centurion far more. He amazed Jesus, whose remark began as did all his no-nonsense, don’t-miss-it comments: Amen, I say to you, in no one in [God’s chosen people] have I found such faith. The centurion’s confident assurance models Advent living. And because we live between two Advents, that means we do well to make the centurion’s faithful joy our own each day.

* In Galatians Paul offered a catalog of works of the flesh in 5.19-21. Immediately he followed it with another catalog, the fruit of the Spirit, in 5.22-23. It is not our doing but gifts of the Jesus’ Spirit, which shape our ways of living and being in the world. We give ourselves either to one or the other. The vocation of each Christian life is to surrender to the fruit of the Spirit. To read both catalogs together helps us; to read one and not the other hinders us.

Photo by Radio Tonreg

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sunday word. . .

. . .was delivered by Deacon James O'Donnell at the masses at which I presided this weekend.

I have posted a Spiritual Exercise for the First Week of Advent at this blog's sister. Use the link to the left and beneath Previous Posts to access it.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Parish Service Day

Gesu Parish is soaked in the charism of St. Ignatius of Loyola. St. Ignatius was very high on serving those in great need. In fact, serving those in need is how Christians live the faith of Jesus and make Jesus' faith their own.

Over 600 parishioners of all ages participated in this day of serving others throughout the city of Cleveland, Ohio. They spread out over 48 diverse sites, giving of themselves in a wide variety of ways.

Each group prayed Ignatius' prayer of generosity.

"Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will."

Photo by karmafiend

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday word

E. Campion, S.J., R. Southwell, S.J. & companions (01 Dec 2006) Rv 20.1-4.11-21.2; Ps 84; Lk 21. 29-33
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
God’s Politics of Now

In 1970 Pope Paul canonized 10 Jesuits and beatified 16 other Jesuits as martyrs during the persecution of Catholics in England and Wales between 1575 and 1679. Many more died in the persecution. Edmund Campion, who was hanged on this date, had returned secretly to minister to the Catholics. He wrote a challenge to the privy council of Queen Elizabeth, who demanded all to make an oath of loyalty to the queen both as monarch of the land and leader of the church. He recognized her as sovereign of the land but not of the Church of England.

His challenge prayed that the queen and her allies and he and the Catholics they persecuted could one day be “at last friends in heaven.”

Three sentences of Campion’s challenge bear quoting: “And touching our Society, be it known to you that we have made a league--all the Jesuits in the world--cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery, while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn [London’s place of hanging], or to be racked with your torments or consumed with your prisons. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God, it cannot be withstood. So the faith was planted; so it must be restored.”/1/

Campion made clear an ancient conviction: prayer is both prophetic--announcing the desire of God--and the “most powerful political posture.”/2/ To be convinced that God in Christ by their Spirit will reconcile earth and heaven impels each one of God’s royal, priestly people to live already that reconciliation because each one experiences it in some way. Like budding trees, we are to witness to the reconciliation that renews us as God’s friends to help others befriend God, too. That happens now, for whenever heaven meets earth no time exists: only now. Faith was planted now; faith will be restored now, when we give ourselves to the One who entrusts it to us each moment. Prayer reveals God’s politics, and they are more real than our own.

1. Office of Readings for the Memorial, The Supplement to the Divine Office for the Society of Jesus, p.133.

2. The phrase, which I am trying to make my own more and more, originated with one of my teachers. In the context of the experience of the risen Lord, Luke Timothy Johnson never equated “political” with a party or an issue but as the way a Christian person exists with others in the world. He made that clear throughout his The Writings of the New Testament: an Interpretation, esp. in his chapter on the Book of Revelation, pp. 573-592.

Photo by Ami Shah