Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Jesuit and Rwanda Nearly 20 Years On

Jesuit Jean-Baptiste Mazarati helps direct a biomedical research center in Rwanda. He is an alum of Georgetown University. He and others are “working to ensure its remaining residents receive the best health care possible.”
Wiki-image of African Great Lakes region public domain.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday word, 27 Oct 2013

The Lord Will Rescue Me. . .
30tth Sunday of the Year C (27Oct 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Those words we heard from the Second Letter to Timothy offer us an entry to today’s scriptures and to the mystery we came to celebrate. Do we truly believe the Lord will rescue us? Answers revolve around the meaning of “believe.” For us it is no mere nod: I look out the window and see rain to believe it’s raining. For us people of faith believing is more than seeing. It is also more than minds agreeing the Lord desires to save us. “Do we truly believe” means: do we live from Jesus’ desire to save us? Does Jesus’ desire affect how we live, choose and respond to others?

To believe the Lord will rescue us doesn’t mean we have everything figured out. It points to our bearing: we are mindful we are in God’s presence. God, present to us in everything, invites us closer. It is a mindful attitude: I am in God’s presence, God ever creating me and blessing me. That mindfulness offers serenity. Serenity centers us even in chaotic circumstances. This serenity registers as feeling accompanied in doubt and dismay as well as in joy and calm. Because it is God-given this serenity is grace. Grace is powerful and effective. Jesus’ familiar parable showed God’s life has power to change us who welcome it.

The characters of the parable, the tax-agent and the Pharisee, personify one who believes the Lord will rescue him and another who does not believe it. Who believed and who did not? Consider what believing means for people of faith: to believe the Lord will rescue us does not mean we have everything figured out. It means that in the calm and stress of living we are in God’s loving presence everywhere. The parable’s temple setting sharpens the question, Who welcomed God?

The Pharisee was smugly satisfied he was unlike others. He named three ways: greedy, dishonest and adulterous. Our experience tells us the Pharisee was mistaken. Who of us hasn’t felt greedy, dishonest or adulterous? We may have restrained ourselves from acting out those and other trespasses, but all of us have fought temptations and do; and we’ve given in to some.

The Pharisee exaggerated, too. He announced he fasted twice weekly and tithed. While tithing was encouraged and practiced, fasting twice a week wasn’t the norm. Mondays and Thursdays became Jewish fast days, but no one was obliged to fast on both. The Pharisee boasted he surpassed others. The tax-agent, though, made no claim at all! Nor did he give God a speech; he prayed. ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’  He was honest.

To believe the Lord will rescue us means in the calm and stress of living we are in God’s loving presence. The Pharisee was in the temple, but he spoke [his] prayer to himself. And he had an eye on the tax-agentNot only am I not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—[I’m not] even like this tax collector. To give God a speech while looking over his shoulder at whomever was in the temple is talent! It’s no prayer.

The tax-agent did not presume to tell God anything. He only implored God’s mercy.The tax-agent, as his simple, profound prayer showed, believed the Lord would rescue him. The Pharisee’s speech showed something else: he trusted in his efforts. Its consequence was not to focus on God but on others at whom he sneered. That was Jesus’ intent: to point out those who were convinced of their own righteousness and [who] despised everyone else.

Trusting our efforts, as if they were not God’s gifts to us from the first, is far from living from Jesus’ desire to save us. To trust in our efforts is a universal human temptation. For some people their efforts are their idols. Do we trust idols, or do we trust our triune God? Do we go before God to ask God save us and clothe us in God’s mercy? The Lord will not delay to show mercy to those who ask for it honestly. If you ask Jesus nothing else, ask him to deepen in you that conviction.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause to bask in our triune God loving you.
  • Ask the tax-agent to clothe you with his attitude and present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for accompanying you even when you are not aware of his companionship; thank him for loving you patiently and faithfully and savor a few recent times you realize Jesus loved you patiently and faithfully.
  • Ask for grace to converse frequently and honestly with him.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His phrase, on earth as it is in heaven, reminds us our Christian belief is convinced that what we cannot see is more real than what we can see here and now.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday word, 20 Oct 13

Love Cedes Control
29th Sunday of the Year C (20 Oct 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Patience and perséverance
Have it if you can;
It’s seldom in a woman
And never in a man.”

Perséverance was my Irish grandmother’s pronunciation of our perseVEERance in her oft-quoted rhyme. Its humor was lost on me as a boy: that few women and no men can persevere. Though it overstates, the rhyme points to the precious nature of persisting in any life. Jesus spoke of it to help us pray: a nameless, powerless woman persevered. The first readings reminded that Moses and Timothy persevered; men can possess the virtue! I hope a few words about it help you rediscover it and live it anew.

St. Paul encouraged his coworker, Timothy, to persevere: remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you have known from whom you learned it, and that from infancy you have known the sacred scriptures. Timothy personified a persevering relationship with Messiah Jesus, our Creator and Lord. Growing up with faith isn’t to understand it completely or to know it whole and entire. Growing up with faith cultivates a relationship with Jesus who neither slumbers nor sleeps and...guards...our coming and going both now and forever. Faith is part of each one’s development like muscular, intellectual and ethical growth.

Each of us is responsible to put an individual imprint on our faith-relationship, and we do not do it alone. Faith is a communal enterprise. Consider Moses. It was no shame that Moses could not by his strength keep his hands raised up while Israel fought. Aaron and Hur supported his hands after they grew tired. Their help tells us faith is deeply personal; it’s never private. That feature of faith is easily missed: personal not private.

To persevere in relationships, in work, in school, in faith, in all of life is important. Jesus reminds us persevering in prayer is crucial. His culture highlighted how crucial. In his Mediterranean world women did not have the right to be heard. They relied on their husbands. Widows were especially vulnerable, as were fatherless children. That helps us appreciate the prophets’ constant cry on behalf of orphans and widows. Their phrase includes all powerless people. 

Power does not win a hearing before God, who desires first to respond to those with no power. Faithful persistence wins a hearing. Persistence does not necessarily change others. Recall the dishonest judge’s self-description:“I neither fear God nor respect any human being.” No change caused him to respond to the widow; fear she would blacken his eye did!

To persist in prayer is no immersion into a mysticism; nor is it to think of and do nothing else. To persist in prayer flows from being mindful of both our weakness and our dark prisons. That realism relies on God’s fidelity to enlighten our darkness and free us from what constrains us.

The widow personified a very focused awareness in her petition. Stock answers for not praying in a focused way include “I’m too busy”; “I got out of the habit”; or a subtly dangerous one, “My life is a prayer.” Not seeing results is another reason. We prefer everything fit our categories, including the mysteries of love, grace, darkness and light. Our need to control is another reason not to pray. Love cedes control, and love which is prayer does not struggle to control God’s presence or message. Prayer is love because it sustains our relation with our triune God. God’s presence causes our idols to surface before our inmost vision. Noticed that way we are aware how attached to them we are. Refuse to be honest about how we are in their grip and we flee from praying rather than pray with focus.1

The three messages today are: 1) persevering in praying is crucial to live our faith; 2) faith is a community enterprise: communal praying shapes our personal praying and living; and personal praying deepens communal prayer and life; and 3) faith is God’s self-gift to us to which praying is our authentic response. Persevering, persistent praying is our authentic response to God’s constant, creative gift of God to us. It is always so even and especially, when we experience that our only companion is darkness.2 God’s light and life await us in those times, and persevering prayer allows both to dawn with new radiance in our lives.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause to ask the Trinity for their light.
  • Ask the persevering woman to present you to Jesus with her courage.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for creating and redeeming you; thank him for giving you his prayer, especially when you lack words.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to deepen your confident courage to pray in his name.
  • Close saying slowly the prayer he taught us. Its opening words remind us we come to no judge or uncaring taskmaster but to the author, giver and sustainer of our lives, Jesus’ father and ours.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Robert J. Wicks, Seed of Sensitivity: Deepening Your Prayer Life (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1995, 2003) discusses these and seven more in a treasure-trove of much practical insight and encouragement.
  2. Psalm 88.19.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Why Two?

The U.S. Catholic Church celebrates the Memorial of the North American Martyrs, also called by two of their names, Sts. Isaac Jogues, Jean de Brébeuf and Companions. Jesuits celebrate it as a Feast. They ministered among the Hurons in an area that comprised portions of present day Canada and the U.S. Each country has a shrine, one in Midland, Ontario; the other in Auriesville, NY. Isaac and two others were martyred in New York, and Jean and four others in Ontario.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Feast of St. Luke

Why read his gospel? How to read it? Jesuit Peter Edmonds offered suggestions. ThinkingFaith reposted them on the evangelist’s day.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Typhoon and Quake

A typhoon slammed Japan. The most intense earthquake in 23 years ravaged the Philippines.  Leonardo Medroso, bishop of the diocese in the area hardest hit, reported via Vatican Radio what he saw. A newspaper report with videos from Philippines news source was released at midnight local time today.
Wiki-image of Wipha track public domain.

World Food Day

“Hunger is rarely about there not being enough food. It’s almost always about being too poor to afford food.” The sentence is part of a brief reflection by Todd Post at the website of the Bread for the World Institute. The “food system” in the U.S. did not receive glowing reviews. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Jesuits & the Holocaust

Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See joined the president of Rockhurst University to remember Jesuits who died in the Holocaust. They laid a wreath at a unique “plaque on campus [which] has a complete list of all the Jesuits who perished as a result of Nazi persecution from 1939 to 1945.”


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday word, 13 Oct 2013

Following Jesus’ Lead
28th Sunday of the Year C (13 Oct 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Preachers often reflect on the gratitude of the foreigner, the Samaritan, in today’s gospel. The Samaritan leper returned and thanked Jesus for healing him. It’s an important focus: gratitude is essential to our Catholic identity and faith. Today I will reflect on Jesus’ response to the Samaritan: “Your faith has saved you.”

Today’s gospel directly follows last Sunday’s gospel selection. It began, you recall, with a request by the apostles, who asked Jesus, “Increase our faith.Their request implied they had little faith or needed help to rely on it. Jesus encouraged: “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” The mustard seed is tiny. The wonder is not faith’s size: Jesus assured that its size does not make it effective. The wonder is a daily challenge: to give ourselves to faith, to follow its lead. We slowly place ourselves in the service of anything: people we can see as well as faith which we cannot.

What does it take for people to entrust themselves? When it comes to faith it depends on a habit. We entrust ourselves to faith this way: by pausing a few minutes each day to be mindful of the various ways God graces, blesses and draws near us; to savor each way; and express our gratitude to God for each. Savoring our blessings is this habit’s key. To cultivate this habit fosters and deepens our relationship with God.

A few minutes sound insignificant. Two jargon phrases art apt: Don’t knock it! and Just do it! Faith is God’s gift to us. Ours is to cultivate God’s gift: to live it; to desire union with God and others; and overcome separation. Much separates us.

Illness separates us from others in more ways than physical contagion or inability to be with people. Illness affects our self-image and our attitude. A few examples are: self-conscious; lonesome; anxious; hypercritical of self and others; isolated; and confused. Things other than illness can affect us in those ways: failing a test at school; a poor evaluation at work; being misunderstood; and being the target of prejudice.

In Jesus’ culture people grew alarmed when fluids normally inside the body refused to stay inside and when the skin was no longer its usual color. Lepers shared both of those imbalances. Those imbalances frightened people; their fear led them to exclude anyone troubled that way.

In different ways we contend with exclusion all the time. We can be excluded, and we can exclude others. We may even feel God excludes us. Our burdens blind us to God’s mercy and constant presence. Imagine living with a personal burden, visible to others or invisible to all but oneself. Feel how your burden distorts your sense of self and your view of others and the world. Feel, too, how your burden alienates you from yourself as well as from other people and God. A moment, a person, a word we read, a sight we notice, a prayer we utter, a sacrament we receive: each can bear grace. Visits of grace free us to entrust ourselves to God. In those moments our faith saves us, as faith saved the lepers.

Grace is no thing. Grace is the life of our triune God. God dwells in us1 and creates us to share fully in God’s life.2 Pope Francis reminded that

God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. ...seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow.3
His words vividly describe God’s mercy. Mercy is an outstanding feature of God drawing near.

God is in the lives of all, including those who need no physical healing. All of us need healing which leads us closer to being whole. A retreat team expressed becoming whole as “healing the purpose of [our lives].”4 Healing our lives and the purposes for which God creates us happens as we join with our Messiah Jesus and the purpose of his life. The faith of Jesus is the pattern for our faith. The pattern is marked by compassion and including others. Our fidelity to the pattern of Jesus’ faith and life saves us.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week take a risk.
  • Allow yourself to grow aware of the Trinity lovingly creating you with a purpose.
  • Ask the Samaritan leper to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him about your life. Hold back nothing. Ask Jesus for grace to recognize him visiting you in person in all manners of ways.
  • Name a way Jesus has helped heal the purpose of your life—drawn you closer to his purpose; savor it and resolve to act on it.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to help us live his faith. It helps us see more clearly that forgiveness is more than polite. It works Jesus’ healing transformation in us modern-day apostles. We continue his healing transformation each moment we risk taking his prayer’s lead both to ask for his compassionate mercy and to imitate it.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Catechism of the Catholic Church #260.
  2. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 2.
  3. Interview given to Jesuit publications.
  4. Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn and Matthew Linn, Healing the Purpose of Your Life. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1999. The slim book demonstrates that healing is more than physical. It also is God’s desire for us.
Wiki-image of Jesus healing 10 lepers public domain in the U.S. Wiki-image by A. Gundelach of summer flowers CC BY-SA 3.0.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

More Multicultural

The number of multicultural Roman Catholics parishes in the U.S. is approaching 40%. Future “implications are that the traditional 20th century notion of parish life that was constructed on the expectations and needs of people of European ancestry may see some changes in the coming decades.” AmericaMagazine posted this and a brief conversation with the lead author of the report.

Wiki-image of multicultural week public domain.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Day in Advance

During his visit to the United Kingdom in September 2010 Pope Benedict Beatified John Cardinal Newman. His place on the liturgical calendar is 09 October. Earlier in 2010 Monsignor Roderick Strange talked about the “man whose thought and writings were inseparable from his person.” An adaptation of his talk appeared as this article at ThinkingFaith.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Sunday word, 06 Oct 2013

Giving Jesus Permission
27th Sunday of the Year C (06 Oct 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
As you know I am a Jesuit. Significant for my Jesuit identity is this: St. Ignatius of Loyola is my spiritual father. He is not only the founder of the Society of Jesus. Put another way you may say Jesuits grow up with and in St. Ignatius. We recognize ourselves in him. We recognize how we absorb his convictions for our lives.

To say I am a Jesuit is a self-interpretation. So is saying I am the son of Elizabeth and Paul Panaretos Sr. Both interpret me to me and to others. To say I am a Jesuit is a self-interpretation the way saying I am a Roman Catholic is. Like my family heritage and my religious heritage being a son of St. Ignatius interprets me both to myself and the world.

All of us do personal identification and interpretation like that. I suggest two ways personal identification makes scripture more familiar. First, God’s word interprets us. Second, we hear and read scripture to discover who we are, who the Trinity creates each moment. Scripture is privileged access to our Creator and Redeemer. At worship a homily seeks to help us feel God engaging us and help us see ourselves as God sees us and invites us.

To say, “God’s word interprets us,” says God’s word creates and shapes us, loves us into being each moment. We’re expressions of God’s word. When we consider scripture as God expressing us we are not problem-solving. Nor are we studying God’s word. Study helps us appreciate the original expression of God’s word. Appreciating God’s original expression helps us discover God creating us and including us in God’s heart.

To interpret scripture is no casual exercise in antique or quaint writings. To interpret scripture is a personal and present activity. It discovers self and self in community, in Jesus’ body. It also has risks: we risk seeing ourselves in new ways; we risk discovering a need to put ourselves in God’s care; and we risk growing aware of living differently: changing some ways; deepening others.

This personal, present activity lets us see ourselves in the dramas of scripture. Prophet Habakkuk’s line, the righteous one will live by...faith, is an example. In those seven words people saw themselves in their experiences of suffering, longing, waiting, of unanswered questions. His words had no hollow sound or needed ingenuity to analyze them.

When we let ourselves enter the dramas of scripture more than our power works. God gives us power, holy Spirit who dwells in us. Holy Spirit does not make us puppets or robots or take us out of the world. Holy Spirit gives us new hope to be in the world as people of faith; as people whose love works God’s justice more each day.

To see and interpret ourselves through our suffering, waiting, longing and unanswered questions calls us to patient endurance as we suffer, wait and live inside unanswered questions. To see ourselves that way invites us to a different vision of the world, of self and others. Habakkuk again: this vision has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and it will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it.

We live its partial fulfillment already. Partially fulfilled makes it more than a vision. It is a person: risen Jesus! Risen Jesus recreates relationships in a remarkable way: risen Jesus waits with us and waits for us. Most remarkable is that our Creator and Redeemer Jesus waits on us. Come here immediately [in your suffering, waiting, longing,  unanswered questions and all your labors] and take your place at table.

Masters in his day would never change roles like that, but Jesus did. How often do we feel Jesus serving us? We believe Jesus changed roles by dying for us, but does each of us feel he died for me? We feel what we believe the more we allow Jesus to say to us, Come...take your place at table so I may wait on you.

Allowing Jesus to wait on us may be one of those risks of being his friend. It frees, heals, makes us wholly new. More free and new allows us to know ourselves more the way our Creator and Redeemer knows us. More free and new allows us to serve others more willingly and generously. Personal praying allows us to hear Jesus that way. Hearing him that way allows us to enjoy felt knowledge that in his sacraments Jesus waits on us. Jesus waits on us to make us more like him, our hearts more like his.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus
  • Bask in the creating love of our triune God.
  • Ask Prophet Habakkuk to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for welcoming you into his risen life.
  • Ask him for the grace to allow Jesus to serve you so you may be his reenergized, devoted disciple.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words, thy kingdom come, on our lips help us enter Jesus’ promise and enjoy it now as we long for its fullness when Jesus returns for us.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Wiki-images of Jesus en route to Jerusalem and of Habakkuk public domain in the U.S.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Let Not Corrections Blind

The recent Q & A with the pope was not a transcript of a recorded conversation. That clarification and other questions the fact raises ought not upstage other important things that happened in the Vatican in the week ending today.

Corrections to Interview

Journalist E. Scalfari conversed with Pope Francis. The journalist published his text as an interview. The journalist’s writing has been described as reconstructed after the conversation. Mr. John L.Allen Jr. reported on a significant correction.
Wiki-image by Felipe Micaroni Lalli of Microsoft keyboard CC BY-SA 2.5.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Comfort in Assisi

Pope Francis is like St. Francis. The saint had great concern for the weak and the sick, those forced to the margins of life in any way. So does the Pope. He arrived in Assisi this morning and visited the
Serafico Institute of Assisi, [home to] children and young people with disabilities and their caregivers. The Pope approached each of the residents and held their hands, caressed their faces, signed the Cross on their foreheads and often kissed them on the cheek. One of the residents also kissed the Pope’s pectoral cross [at 37:30 on video].
View the video [click back to 7:25 a.m. for it] to see how comfortable the Pope is. Being comfor-table with others, especially those who are different and cannot communicate the same way, appears Christian and Franciscan. Francis has made it papal as well.
Wiki-image of view of Assisi public domain.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Prescient Post?

St. Ignatius of Loyola admired St. Francis of Assisi. On Ignatius’ feast in 2009 ThinkingFaith posted an adaptation of an earlier essay by Brian Purfield. He explored “the spiritual experiences of the founder of the Society of Jesus with those of Francis of Assisi.”

With a Jesuit Francis as pastor of the Catholic Church his essay seems more than farsighted. On the eve of the Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi ThinkingFaith reposted it.


Wiki-image by Pere López of statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola CC BY-SA 3.0.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Jesuit Consultation

Ignatius of Loyola desired superiors of Jesuits and their works decide with the best information available. Consultation is key in the Society of Jesus. As a Jesuit and former superior Pope Francis learned the value of consulting the hard way. Jesuit “James Corkery asks how far Pope Francis’ emphasis on consultation can be traced back to his Jesuit formation and what it tells us about his approach to the papacy.”