Saturday, December 31, 2016

All the Best!

Wiki-image by VectorOpenStock of Colorful 2017 sign CC BY-SA 4.0

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Not Extras

Canadian novelist Robertson Davies turned a phrase that warrants repeated appreciation: “Any theologian understands martyrdom, but only the martyr experiences the fire.” [The Manticore (Viking Press, 1976), p. 101.] It reminds that understanding is not as prized as many insist. Martyrs defy being understood—vexing to any for whom understanding is supreme.
     “A somewhat dissenting voice” reviewing recently released “Silence” did not consider its numerous martyrs to be movie-extras but more central than its protagonist. The review returned Robertson Davies’ apothegm to the present to be appreciated again.
Wiki-image by Hisenv of ABUNZE KAIGAM CC BY-SA 4.0

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sunday word, 11 Dec 16

Third Advent Sunday A (11 Dec 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Outgrowing Jesus?
Isaiah, Malachi, John the Baptizer, Jesus: God entrusted to prophets God’s dream for creation. Isaiah announced that parched land would exult, blossom, even sing for joy. Those miracles would pale compared to wonders worked for vulnerable humans: the blind see; the deaf hear, the mute sing and the lame walk. They were creation’s crown. Even today God holds them in God’s heart with particular fondness.

The prophets formed a chain: each one announced God’s dream for all God had created in a prophet’s particular circumstance; each prophet prepared the way for successors, too. They kept God’s dream before God’s people. Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me, cried Prophet Malachi.

In his situation God sent God’s messenger to announce in the present what God desired to do for people who welcomed God’s intervention. The present was filled with expectation for the future: for fulfilment of God’s creative action and humans’ preparation for it.

Often for humans God’s desire often lay hidden in the present; prophets’ voices helped others recognize what lay hidden. Scripture kept prophets’ voices alive in succeeding generations; scripture also helped people understand what lay hidden. It still does. It did not work like a formula or a map as much as it kept people in conversation with God’s dream. Scripture also kept people in conversation with one another, moving toward God’s dream and preparing themselves for it.

At times the movements of God felt too slow for to bear. God’s perceived slowness dulled, even frustrated, human expectation of God’s promised intervention. When eager expectation is dulled or frustrated, powers other than God came into play. Jesus named one in today’s gospel: offence—blessed is the one who takes no offence at me.

Three things to note in Jesus’ words: one, offence opposed blessing—offence did not move with God’s desire; second, offence rose from impatience with the way God’s works; God’s power at work in Jesus to heal the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the mute to sing and the lame to walk—no longer set human hearts singing with joy and rejoicing at the splendour of our God; third, the offence lay in none of Jesus’ powerful acts; Jesus was the offence.

Jesus offended because he did not live up to human expectations of the messenger God would send. He was too meek and spoke too mildly to be God’s messenger; he befriended sinners—those other offenders; and his way offended Peter, his closest friend, because Jesus seemed to bow to Roman domination.1

Those very traits Jesus enjoyed from infancy—as did we. More compelling is this: we adore infant Jesus and our carols help us with their lyrics: Christ the babe is Lord of all; little Lord Jesus…fit us for heaven to live with you there; Come as a baby weak and poor…He opens wide the heav’nly door.2 To name a few.

We probably take offence that Jesus never grew out of his traits; that he did not force into line those who offen-ded upright behaviour. If Jesus outgrew his meekness, his universal welcome and lost touch with God who ransoms everyone and everything from the grip of powers opposed to God: we would have no messiah, no Lord, no opener of heaven when we would need them. Perhaps Advent and Christmas touch us deeply be-cause the season puts us in touch with our true selves, with our innate awe and wonder before God and God’s invitation to fearless joy. How might we claim again our true selves, our innate awe and wonder before Jesus, God’s messenger and invitation to fearless joy?  One key may be the patient expectation St. James counselled: wait for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it. Patience does not contradict or neutralize eager expectation; instead it paves its way. Patience offers us something greater: practicing it—recovering it if we have outgrown it—practicing it transforms us into more alert prophets who speak in the name of our Lord.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Bask in the life of the Trinity.
  • Ask John the Baptizer and St. James to present you to Jesus. 
  • Praise Jesus for being born human for us so we can become more patient, more prophetic.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace of patient endurance daily to seek signs of his presence and power of his Spirit and to name them when you see them.
  • Close saying slowly the Lords Prayer. Jesus’ words, thy kingdom come, on our lips are at once both a plea for Jesus to return in glory and a reminder that Jesus has given us his Spirit to help us recognize the many ways his kingdom blossoms anew each day.
  1. Matthew 11.29 and 12.19; Matthew 11.19; Matthew 16.21-23.
  2. “Away in a Manger”; “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly”; “Awake! Awake, and Greet the New Morn.

Wiki-images: Amboy Crater in bloom by Steve Berardi CC BY-SA 2.0Voice in the Desert PD-US

Monday, December 05, 2016

Humanly Impossible

“Astonishing”; “daunting”; “so important”; “impossible…from outside.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church employed those words in its brief treatment of the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer. That petition may be called mercy-in-action. Humans enact God’s mercy when they operate from “vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God.” 
     “Vital participation” in God’s mercy is slippery for humans. That slippery struggle appears in the reception of Amoris laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family. Recalling their visit to refugee families in the spring, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I commented, “Religious leaders are called to remind themselves and then others that God is life and love and light.” That remains “daunting.”
Wiki-image by Massimo Finizio of Bartholomew I CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Sunday word, 04 Dec 16

Second Advent Sunday A (04 Dec 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Living Christian Joy
Advent alerts us and helps us focus on the new thing God is doing1: God’s desire, God’s dream for each and all humans, for human societies, for all created things and the entire universe—to create them anew each moment. Advent points our way to live more in sync with the desire of God’s heart. A few pointers are: Jesus’ urging to stay awake…be prepared2; to live peaceably3; and to live God’s joy given us.4

Living God’s joy is our Christian vocation. Pope Francis called it “the sign of a Christian.” It measures our health he has repeated: “A healthy Christian is a joyful Christian. …Joy is like the seal of a Christian. Even in pain, tribulations, even in persecutions.”5 How much living has us cope with pain and tribulations; and so many elsewhere in the world face persecutions!  Christian joy in the face of these and anyone’s weaknesses signals that Christian joy is a gift received, nothing you and I manufacture for ourselves. Christian joy is given us by our risen Lord.

St. Paul recognized that and urged, May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another. Translation into our languages misses that St. Paul spoke friendship language. Harmony was the ancient world’s index of friendship: a friend is another self; friends share all things in common; friends are of one soul. Even the word we translate as encouragement sounded cheering, supporting influence—what friends do for one another.

Advent reminds us God is in this intimate harmony with humans: we name the mystery of God’s undying friendship, Incarnation. Jesus is God-with-us in our flesh and blood, our weaknesses and our strengths. Advent welcomes all Christians to renew and deepen our friendship with God. Friendship with God frees and empowers us to live in harmony with others; to welcome one another…as Christ welcomed [us], for the glory of God.

Friendship with God is God’s gift. We may not think John the Baptizer spoke friendship language when he called Pharisees and Sadducees a brood of vipers. He did not refuse them a chance to befriend God. He demanded they produce good fruit as evidence of [their] repentance…and…not presume they did not need to repent because they had an inside track with Abraham, whom they loved to call their father. An exclusive friendship with Abraham blinded some to God’s desire to enlarge Abraham’s people: God can raise up children to Abraham from…stones.

God did: lepers, sinners, tax-collectors, self-centred people, Gentiles—all had hardened hearts for various reasons. In the Baptizer’s preaching they felt God inviting and softening their hearts, and they responded. To repent is to disarm totally—beat…swords into plowshares, to use Prophet Isaiah’s image. To disarm and let God in returns us to friendship with God.

Deepening our friendship with God is ongoing conversion: growing more sensitive to God’s heart; welcoming God supporting, cheering us. Christ Jesus embodied divine friendship. He helps us embody it and produce good fruit of peace and joyful endurance. Those good fruits especially keep us faithful to God-with-us and extend God’s friendship to others.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Be aware of our triune God longing for you with love.
  • Ask John the Baptizer to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for being born human for you to save us for his gospel and friendship with God.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to welcome his joy and to live his faithful endurance as yours.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It reminds us that all we enjoy is gift and that Jesus modeled for us a way of living that is at once human and divine.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Isaiah 43.19; 2Corinthians 5.17, Revelation 21.5.
  2. Matthew 24:42, 44; also Romans 13.11.
  3. Isaiah 2.4 and Romans 13.13.
  4. Psalm 122 and its refrain: this and the scriptures above were announced on the 1st Sunday of Advent.
  5. One of his daily homilies. Joy pervades his witness.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Pastoral Letter

Francis continues to pastor individuals as pope. One was a girl of nine years. She had sent pictures to the pope. She also had cancer. Francis wrote to her. In it he echoed one from whom he takes inspiration. This week a Vatican correspondent filed the story.
Wiki-image by SajoR of Coat of Arms of Francis CC BY-SA 2.5

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Storytelling Made Easier

The name Patton ordinarily brings to mind the thick of battles not to mention the larger-than-life figure history remembers. Today the name is involved with battles after war that haunt too many—those of post-traumatic stress syndrome [PTSD]. The clinical diagnosis is not limited to veterans, yet the number of those who suffer it is high. Enter Benjamin Patton, a grandson of General George Patton. Benjamin launched film-making workshops that allow members of the military to tell their stories. CSM contributor Bobbi Dumas reported, “Participants report a significant drop in PTSD symptoms after completing the workshop,” I Was There.
Wiki-image by KMJ at the German language Wikipedia of Apple iSight Camera CC BY-SA 3.0

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

“Her Very Existence”

Pope Francis closed the Year of Mercy on Sunday. Living mercy is Christians’ daily goal. Mercy is the “very existence” of the church and its members. Media reports have shone a brighter light on one aspect of extending mercy—to people who have procured abortions. The pope’s Apostolic Letter considered more than that. The AP correspondent, Frances D’Emilio, reported on more than that one news-making topic. Yet few articles link to the source, Francis’ Apostolic Letter.
Wiki-image by Dnalor 01 of Holy Door CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday word, 13 Nov 16

33rd Sunday of the Year C (13 Nov 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Prophets of Faithful Love
Edging to its close the liturgical year reminds us: more awaits us beyond our lives on earth. In our tradition this more follows judgment. Prophet Malachi imaged it as a blazing oven for the ungodly, and a sun of justice for god-fearers and the people of the covenant alike.

You and I are not well disposed to judgment. The reasons are many. Among them we young and old alike readily accommodate ourselves to our feel-good culture more than to the prophetic tradition. We prefer comfort over challenge. Prophets responded to concrete situations of drifting from covenant with God. Prophet Jesus announced God’s desire is available to people to live in deed and word. Prophetic voices and prophetic actions strongly challenge us to make God’s desire come alive.

Jesus aligned himself with the tradition of the prophets. He revealed it in his person. He spoke its judgment. Neither stopped people from seeking him or coming to him to beg his mercy and kindness. They intuited that his were the divine mercy and loving kindness creating the world. Divine love creates every moment; one can easily forget that. When we forget creation becomes a past event, and our motivation to live grows self-centered—often without our knowing it.

Jesus attitude was not self-centered. He was loving toward all. He continually invites us to share his attitude. St. Paul responded to the invitation of risen Jesus and encouraged: Have the same attitude as Christ Jesus.1 A saying of St. John of the Cross encourages us to have it; it also makes judgment a bright goal inviting conversion: “At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.”2 

Many messages bombard us and blind us to our goal: love less; love ourselves more; love is weak and timid; even, be afraid to love. Fortunately Pope Francis champions merciful love. He is a prophet of love-in-action. We may let ourselves be distracted from his strong message. Like those who stood with Jesus in the temple, we may be distracted by the noble beauty of our surroundings than attentive to the suffering beyond walls of church and borders of city, province and nation. Distracted from what really goes on makes us dupes of deception. True to his prophetic vocation Jesus warns us as he warned those with him in the temple, See that you not be deceived.

How are we to remain faithful? Keeping ourselves in the orbit of Jesus—asking to share his attitude, his heart—helps us keep faith. Noticing if a message, an activity, a possession, a choice offers a short-lived high and no enduring contentment, peace of mind and stability of soul also helps us keep faith. Exposing double messages to ourselves shapes us more like Jesus.

Perhaps the most vicious deceit of all is this: expose deceits to others and I will undermine culture and its progress. To expose them does not trash culture’s noble contributions; to expose deceits does not slight any created thing given us to help us love God and others more freely. To expose culture’s double messages to ourselves and others is in sync with the prophetic tradition, from Moses to Malachi to Jesus, the apostles and the saints. It reminds us Jesus is our Creator and Redeemer; the source of all we are, all we have, all we have done and will do to glorify Jesus and his gospel with our lives.

Singleness of truth rests in keeping close to Jesus and embracing him, our Creator and Redeemer. His truth frees us lovingly to promote him and his gospel by our choices and actions.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God’s creating love
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: thank him for creating you each moment; praise him for all the ways he offers himself to you—in the sacraments, in his word, in love received and given, even under the guise of suffering stranger and friend.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to share his attitude and energetically to practice it by your choices and actions.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words, on earth as it is in heaven, on our lips are not just about his Father’s limitless power and presence. On earth as it is in heaven is our plea for hearts more like Jesus’ heart so we may live our baptized priesthood for all, especially the least among us.
  1. Philippians 2.5.
  2. Quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], 1022.

Wiki-images Disciples Admire the Temple Building PD-US Morning Beams PDP

Saturday, November 12, 2016

General Congregation 36 Closes

The delegates voted to close the General Congregation 36 of the Society of Jesus today. An announcement on its website includes links to remarks of Jesuit Fr. Sosa, the General Superior, and more.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Daily word, 11 Nov 16

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. during 40-day Institute, Guelph, Ontario
Both Meanings
The Letters of John were addressed to a church called the elect lady.1 The Second and Third Letters of John are so brief that alone they easily could have been lost. They survived because they were sent together with the lengthier, more substantial First Letter. One was a cover letter for it; the other recommended the bearer of the packet to the leader of the church of the elect lady. Conflict lacerated the community. The letters let us appreciate what it believed. Some had gone out2 of it because of the belief that acknowledge[d] Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. The letters give us no information about what those who went out believed.
Not knowing what those who went out believed: rather than being a loss not knowing is a gain, a liberty. My conviction may be a heresy to my North American culture—it idolizes knowledge. It may be so for yours. I see it as a liberty in the light of our prayerful reflection today: discernment of spirits under the guidance of St. Ignatius of Loyola and a phrase at the close of the selection from Second John: teaching of Christ.

My eyes were opened to notice the phrase includes more than a first-take suggested. It includes teaching about Christ and from Christ. The first is the true understanding of Christ that allows one to have both the Father and the Son. From Christ suggests the principal commandment from him in which they were walking: to love one another.3 The Spiritual Exercises involve both meanings.

An experience of the Exercises deepens understanding: felt-knowledge, in the phrase of Ignatius. The experience allows one to receive the coming of Jesus in the flesh: that is, one embodies by grace the Incarnate risen Jesus and walks in his love. The same experience is a graced receiving of divine fullness—both the Father and the Son in the Spirit—in each one’s limited way.

Ignatian discernment allows us to recognize and accept our limitations—one reason we are susceptible to desolation; and to look forward in hope to be truly enlightened and recreated by the divine fullness. Ignatius named the divine fullness fondly and reverently: Creator and Redeemer.

The enemy of human nature desires we walk life lonely, seeking our interests first as if that search could satisfy. The enemy uses our vulnerabilities and strengths against us, even deceiving us under the guise of good. Walking in love; behaving lovingly; feeling with love: turn us from the enemy and toward our Creator and Redeemer, risen Jesus.

Our constant turning toward love, hastening to it and embracing it is our constant conversion—Jesus’ appeal in the gospel. Living love protects us so neither pleasures nor relationships nor possessions limit us from being those whom our triune God creates every moment. Living love frees us to follow Jesus each of us has met these days.

  1. 2John 1.1.
  2. In addition to verse 7, also see 1John 2.19; 4.1.
  3. In addition to verse 5, also see 1John 3.11, 23; 4.7, 11.


Today is Veterans Day in the United States and Remembrance Day in Canada and Commonwealth of Nations member states. Both evolved from Armistice Day, the date when hostilities of the First World War ended.

Remembrance Day recalls all women and men who have lost their lives in service to their countries. Veterans Day recalls living and deceased veterans. The U.S. also remembers its veterans in the spring with Memorial Day. More on the history of today.

On this date the Catholic church recalls St. Martin of Tours. Martin  was an early saint who was not a martyr. He was the son of a veteran and served as a soldier himself. He withdrew from the army to serve Christ Jesus. He became a monk and then a bishop. The poor were always dear to his heart. He is patron of soldiers.
Horned-poppy by Alberto Salguero CC BY-SA 3.0

Friday, November 04, 2016

Daily word, 04 Nov 16

St. Charles Borromeo (04 Nov 2016) Phil 3. 17-4. 1; Ps 122; Lk 16. 1-8
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. during 40-day Institute, Guelph, Ontario
“If we wish to make any progress in the service of God we must begin every day of our life with new eagerness. We must keep ourselves in the presence of God as much as possible and have no other view or end in all our actions but the divine honor.”1 Those words of St. Charles Borromeo grace books and blogs. We likely note they echo the urging we have been receiving from Ignatius of Loyola.

In another time and place that echo had caused an Ignatian pray-er to feel let down. Learning to prepare prayer so it “may be directed purely to the service and praise of God” was a revelation for one. Learning the preparation was not the sole property of St. Ignatius disappointed. To anyone here feeling that way: Take heart; St. Charles had a Jesuit confessor.

The point is neither copyright nor receiving privileged communication. The point is this: to live faith—to keep oneself in the presence of our triune God and act in ways that magnify and honor God—to live faith is deeply personal but is never private. Jesus recommended that more than once: leave your gift there before the altar and first go and be reconciled to [another] and then come and offer your gift; and Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the desire of my Father in heaven.2 Not only did Jesus urge that faith is never private; Jesus taught a Christian’s final judgment hinges on the social not the devotional: what you do to the least ones you do to me.3

St. Paul taught likewise: Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers and sisters…let Jesus’ power conform [us] with his glorified Body to be his presence in the world.

St. Charles, with St. Ignatius and others, urge us,“keep ourselves in the presence of God as much as possible”; how to do that they let us determine. Charles determined this. He was born into privilege, wealth and power. Temptations surrounded him. To keep present to God, Charles presented his wealth to those in need; worked on their behalf; and engaged himself in music and art in free moments. Charles’ knowledge of himself freed him to choose ways to be in God’s presence in that Christian social way.

He knew as did Jesus that the use of material possessions symbolizes one’s response to God. To use possessions in ways that keep oneself in God’s friendship call for knowledge of self and surroundings. That is the lesson of Jesus’ parable. The squandering steward’s culture offered him hope as he was being removed from his position. His culture rested on balanced giving and receiving. Reducing amounts owed meant debtors would tip their hands in his favor in future. For that his master commended that dishonest steward—for his far-sightedness not his dishonesty. Jesus recommends we be far-sighted with possessions—not for gain nor dishonest wealth but to draw closer to him. 

Keeping ourselves in the presence of God is far-sighted: shaping our dispositions is not automatic; it takes preparation. Nor is honoring God ever private; our eager response to God includes our generous concern for others and our world. Solitude with God and sincere prayer ground and guide how we discern to choose and to act to magnify God’s name.

  1. At For his “approach to the spiritual life.”
  2. Matthew 5.24; Matthew 7.21.
  3. Matthew 25.31-46.
Wiki-images: Charles Borromeo stained glass PD-US; by Andrey Mironov of Unjust steward CC BY-SA 4.0