Monday, August 31, 2009

Dignity and Ecology

During his summer vacation Pope Benedict had occasion to connect the gift of nature with each Christian's vocation. At his general audience at Castel Gondolfo last week, the pope said, "From this awareness [as stewards of creation], the Church considers questions linked to the environment and its safeguarding as profoundly linked with the topic of integral human development."

In other words, an individual appreciation of the natural realm together with a desire to ensure others can marvel at and enjoy the natural realm--"to protect it, to obtain benefits and cultivate it"--seek to fulfill each Christian's vocation. The Church, the pope reaffirmed, seeks to help all people profit from the gift of nature.

The pope offered a straightforward way to recognize when ecology and human dignity disconnect: ""inconsiderate use of creation begins where God is marginalized."
Wiki-image by Mac of a view of Lake Albano is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday word, 30 Aug 2009

22nd Sunday of the Year (30 Aug 2009)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Doing the Word

From the beginning God’s invitation of the people Israel, God’s invitation from the mouth of Jesus to form a people—the community, the church—and God’s ongoing invitation to us and to all people in every time and place, has never demanded wooden obedience. God desired from the beginning, now and in the future that people would engage God and one another from their hearts and respond with heartfelt concern.

We may frame God’s desire and humans’ response with the word, “motives.” Its an apt word because a quality of a motive is a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious. In law, for example, efforts to get at motives seek to make plausible why people acted in certain ways.

Our notion of law may blind us to the difference of God’s law. The practical aspects of God’s law sought to draw and keep people close to God and to have that effect on others. Torah, God’s law, affected human hearts: For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? That being so close is heart language, relational language, and relationship with God comes before, establishes, underpins, validates—use your word—all practical aspects of living God’s covenant.

Relationship with God—entering it or not; deepening it or neglecting it; making room for it or closing ourselves to it; living it or paying lip-service to God—relationship with God is the unfolding story of the bible as well as the unfolding life-story of each person. Relationship with God is also the unfolding story of a community of people striving to live their relationship with God.

Jesus took to task the Pharisees and some of the experts in torah, not because they failed to observe many practical aspects of torah— the Pharisees observed scrupulously! Jesus took to task the Pharisees and some of the experts in torah because their hearts were elsewhere. Their motives put themselves first, not God nor other people. Their self-centered motives also closed them to God’s ongoing invitation.

In Jesus’ words their self-centered motives moved their hearts...far from God, and using the words of James, the Pharisees were unable to humbly welcome God’s saving invitation. While others saw the Pharisees observe God’s commandment the motives of the Pharisees, in fact, disregard[ed] God’s commandment.

Fortunately, today’s gospel doesn’t describe us. However, it serves to alert us to how a motive may disfigure our intentions; how a motive may distance our hearts...from God; how a motive may make us less open and receptive to God’s invitation and God’s desire that we share God’s life for ever. Plus, if to ascertain motives in a courtroom demands diligent thought and effort, then to ascertain our own motives can be more demanding. When we stop discerning our motives we delude ourselves: we think we observe God’s commandment, when actually we disregard it and, what may be worse, we close our hearts and minds to God’s invitation to share God’s life for ever, beginning now.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, bask in the light of the Trinity creating you and inviting you to share divine life forever. Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus. Speak with Jesus: as one friend to another thank Jesus for inviting you to join him and to make him better known by how you live. Ask Jesus for the grace to know yourself better and to recognize any motives, which keep you distant from him. Close by saying the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer so that the more we pray it his prayer will shape us to do his word, rather than to hear it and quickly disregard it.
Wiki-image from the beginning of the Letter of James is in the public domain.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday word, 29 Aug 2009

Martyrdom of John the Baptizer (29 Aug 2009)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Light from Light

Joan was fascinated with light as it revealed the mystery of God. When she died her Jesuit brother recalled that in his homily, mentioning Joan’s fascination with the image in our creed, “Light from light.”

Jesus referred to his cousin, John the Baptizer, the forerunner of Jesus, saying, He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.

Light points the way; it allows us to see and to read. Light affects us positively, which is why some of us are sad to see the hours of daylight gradually diminish as summer slips away.

Light also can blind, it can hurt our eyes, not to mention age our skin if we get overexposed to some of its wavelengths. Think of rousing and beginning to wake in a darkened room. Someone flips a switch and floods the room with light. What is our reaction? We cover our eyes, we squint open our eyes a little at a time as our eyes adjust to the light of day.

That image helps me appreciate the weak-willed Herod: When he heard [John] speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. Herod’s spirit squinted, yet he liked the light of this burning, shining lamp. I wonder how many times after he put John in his prison that Herod went to hear him. Yes, he was afraid to kill John because the people admired him, but more than fear moved Herod’s heart. Such a movement, hard to name, might well be being taught by God.

I once wrote off Herod as a worthless villain. Yet even Herod was sensitive to John and his message and to Jesus and John’s message which Jesus continued: transform your lives!

Our Orthodox brothers and sisters fast today to recall the strict life John led. We might choose to fast from what keeps us from drawing nearer to the Light from light and living as the shining lamps Jesus said our vocations are--light for the sake of our world.


Wiki-image .

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Importance of Background & Context

Why a new translation of the Roman Missal (the book used at mass, containing a great variety of texts for celebration)?

On the U.S. Bishops' recently-released website--which they "hope...will be a central resource for those responsible for implementing the text"--one page is devoted to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). It begins with
Why is there a need for a new translation?
The Missale Romanum (Roman Missal), the ritual text for the celebration of the Mass, was promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as the definitive text of the reformed liturgy of the Second Vatican Council. That Latin text, the editio typica (typical edition), was translated into various languages for use around the world; the English edition was published in the United States in 1973. The Holy See issued a revised text, the editio typica altera, in 1975. Pope John Paul II promulgated the third edition (editio typica tertia) of the Missale Romanum during the Jubilee Year in 2000. Among other things, the third edition contains prayers for the celebration of recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayers, additional Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Intentions, and some updated and revised rubrics (instructions) for the celebration of the Mass. ... (emphasis added)
The evolution and development of liturgical books has a long history. The key dates above are a slender sliver of that history within the Latin rite of the Roman Catholic Church. The unique quality of expression called "Roman" is economical use of language. Its economy is concise, noble and not given to abstract expression.

Every translation is an interpretation. In the case of the Roman Missal, the translations into the vernacular languages are from Latin. In the recent editions of the Roman Missal from 1970 to the present, the challenge has been to make more faithful translations, extraordinarily difficult from one language to another, here from Latin to English, two languages which diverge in ways of expression. That heightens the challenge to be faithful to the doctrine liturgical language both expresses and conveys.

The site offers examples of changes in the parts spoken by the assembly. The layout allows readers to note that more words in those spoken parts remain the same than have changed in the most recent edition of the Roman Missal.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Health Care: U.S. Bishops Create Website

The United States Bishops have again used the internet to promote their desires and positions concerning health-care reform. The bishops' website has the advantage of consolidating videos and information at a single site; plus, arranging information in ways to aid readers' appreciation of facts and statistics. For example, this from the homepage today:
Fast Facts About
Catholic Health Care

624 Catholic Hospitals
499 Catholic Long-Term Care Nursing Facilities
164 Home Health Agencies
41 Hospice Organizations
More facts
Source: Catholic Health Association

In addition to lists, the site also arranges facts in graphic formats as further aids to appreciating information.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Button Added: Sunday Connection

The Loyola Press offers electronic newsletters both to form and to inform Catholics. Sunday Connection is one of them. A button on this blog, at the top of the left side-bar, was added this week. In addition or instead of subscribing to it, clicking the button will open the current issue in a new window.

This is the description of Sunday Connection offered by Loyola Press:
God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Sunday Scripture readings. The Sunday Connection provides useful background and activities to better understand the upcoming Sunday's Scripture readings, helping you to connect the Scripture to daily life in a meaningful way.
Try it from here:

Sunday Connection

Monday, August 24, 2009

Light and Darkness: 3-Minute Reflection and Prayer for Grace

Loyola Press offers 3-Minute Retreats online. They are always good. Yesterday's focus was on the light our Messiah Jesus offers and the darkness of the human condition in which people get stuck.

This retreat is worth doing as often as needed.

Visit the Retreat Page of Loyola Press to learn more about the 3-Minute Retreats.

Visit this page to learn about the retreat-app for the iPhone and iPod Touch (second generation).

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday word, 23 Aug 2009

21st Sunday of the Year (23 Aug 2009)
Josh 24. 1-2a,15-17,18b; Ps 34; Eph 5. 21-32; Jn 6. 60-69
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Sacrament of What If ?

What if we stood at Shechem with Joshua that day, knowing the rest of the scriptures of the people of Israel—that’s 87%—would once and again call people to fidelity and deeper intimacy with God? If we knew, then Far be it from us to forsake the Lord for the service of other gods would come from our lips more as a prayer than a declaration.

What if we knew by personal experience the culture of the world of St. Paul, one in which the accepted order was women were less than men, not just paid less than them? (In those days women and children were property. Women played no legal role; no one would call them to give official testimony!) What if we all were eager to hear what this Saul-become-Paul, this Jew-become-Christian looked and sounded like, even what he had to say?

What if we walked in on him speaking as we heard the echo of his voice today? Respect one another, don’t think oneself greater than another: sensible; it makes for a good society. If we did walk in then, we’d have heard Paul’s words, Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. If we stood inside that time and culture, we wouldn’t disagree; at worst, we might nod off: that hotshot apostle wouldn’t be telling us anything we didn’t know.

What if we were nodding off, when Paul said, Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her sanctity? We would snap awake so fast, especially the men.
“Love our wives? What!” Or,
“This is new”; or,
“Hey, that makes them equal to us!”
And if we had been hanging around listening to Paul already while he was in town, then his words that diversity unites us in Christ Jesus would touch us deeply. The diversity of male and female helps each man and each woman know Jesus better as each one responds in love. A Canadian woman of our time observed, “Yet too many women still haven’t experienced this love, and too many men have missed the challenge.”

What if we took up that challenge more often? In our day and culture, we all move in different circles, interacting with people we know as well as people we don’t know. The many and varied people help us men and women—young and old, healthy and ailing, strong and defenseless—to discover the particular, personal ways God has created each of us to be in the world today. I affirm each one’s goodness and recall that God has great desires for you to reshape our world. I also ask you: what if you took your experiences today--all of them--and turned them over in your heart, not declaring, “See what I’ve done!” but take them out one by one in leisurely prayer, and ask, “How did I meet my Messiah Jesus today in my work; at home; at school; in the store; at the gym; on the street?”

Set aside your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week to do that. Pause to be aware that God has created you for a particular purpose. Ask your patron saint to present you to Jesus. Speak to Jesus in your words about the variety of people in your life, and name for him the ones who give shape, meaning and purpose to your life. Ask Jesus to help you be more aware of Jesus at work for you in and through others. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. The daily bread Jesus gives us includes people, flesh-and-blood sacraments. People sanctify us and help us to sanctify our world because through them we meet our Messiah Jesus by whom everyone is remade holy.
Wiki-image by Adiel Io of raising a Torah scroll is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license. Wiki-image of icon of Jesus blessing is in the public domain.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Site: Resource for Forthcoming Edition of Roman Missal

The new texts are understandable, dignified and accurate.

"They not only strive to make the meaning of the text accessible for the listener, but they also strive to unearth the biblical and theological richness of the Latin text."
From the following post on
Bishops Present Coming Missal Changes
Web Site Aims to Familiarize Catholics With New Text

WASHINGTON, D.C., AUG. 21, 2009 ( The U.S. bishops' conference launched a Web site that aims to educate Catholics about the changes in the Mass that are coming with the new Roman missal translation.

A press release from the conference announced today that this site includes background on the liturgical texts, sample wording from the newly translated missal, and answers to frequently asked questions.

The conference's Committee on Divine Worship expressed the hope that this will be a central resource for those responsible for implementing the text. ...

More to follow next week.

Saturday word, 22 Aug 2009

Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary (22 Aug 2009)
Ru 2. 1-3,8-11, 4. 13-17; Ps 128; Mt 23. 1-12
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Courageous, Loving Humility

This memorial celebrating Mary’s queenship is younger than we are. Yet in the 4th Century, poet-St. Ephrem called Mary “queen.” Reflecting on her annunciation, Ephrem sang, “Mother of God, queen of the universe, you are above all the saints, the hope of the patriarchs and the joy of the saints.” In a prayer he composed, Ephrem called the “Mother of God,” “...Queen of the world, hope of those who are in despair: You are the joy of the saints; you are the peacemaker between sinners and God….”/1/

When we pray “Hail Holy Queen,” when we ponder the rosary-mysteries of her assumption and her queenship of heaven and earth, we touch an ancient detail of our church’s tradition.

The first reading about Ruth suggests that Mary’s royal reach exceeds Catholics and other Christians. Islam, too, reveres Mary. Many people with no affiliation with faith don’t fight to get out of Mary’s orbit. Indeed, the queenly “consolation of the world”/2/ does not discriminate on the basis of faith or even on how well people, who claim faith, live it.

The first reading about Ruth recalls God’s love is universal and worked in all things and people so that in the fullness of time Mary’s Son would live, die and rise to absolutely new life. Ruth, not a Jew, was kind to her Jewish mother-in-law and sister-in-law. The people praised the foreigner because she loved her husband and his mother, Naomi. People said to her, “[Your] daughter-in-law...loves you. She is worth more to you than seven sons!” Ruth was the grandmother of David, is whose line Jesus was born.

Jesus’ matriarchal ancestor, Ruth, was also modest: Freely showing deference, Ruth said to [Boaz], “Why should I, a foreigner, be favored with your notice?” Hers was not false humility nor poor self-esteem; she was not puffed up.

Being puffed up, a phrase St. Paul used/3/, is a human temptation, and it’s more seductive when one knows privilege. If following Jesus is a challenge, then it’s a daily one of aligning hearts and minds with strong, courageous, loving humility, which shapes us not honors, privilege or moral superiority. That’s how Jesus encouraged his disciples to differ from the scribes and the Pharisees, who occupied…the chair of Moses. Jesus was not merely advising, “Practice what you preach,” because anyone can do what is right without have one’s heart in the doing.

Staking one’s heart and life on this new way instead of on privilege is the royal/4/ way Jesus embodied and proclaimed. What Jesus embodied and proclaimed returns us to the “Queen of world” and “of the universe.” Rejoicing in Mary’s Assumption and Queenship increases our joyful courage to anticipate her destiny by the ways we live.

1. Ephrem’s Marian Prayer calls Mary “queen” twice.
2. Ibid.
3. 1 Corinthians 4. 6, 18, 19; 5. 2; 13. 4; Colossians 2. 18.
4. See James 2.8.

Wiki-image of icon of Mary is in the public domain .

Friday, August 21, 2009

Catholic Job-hunting site

Just discovered: features free job listings for Catholic organizations, as well as free job searches and career tools for anyone seeking employment.
Description is from the site's home-page. People may customize to make this domain their home-page. Check it to see it's offerings updated regularly.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday word, 16 Aug 2009

20th Sunday of the Year (16 Aug 2009)
Prv 9. 1-6; Ps 34; Eph 5. 15-20; Jn 6. 51-58
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Graced Self-Knowledge

The struggle to understand Jesus’ words about his self-proclaimed identity as the bread...from heaven and his life-giving quality astonished his hearers, who quarreled among themselves, saying,“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” I want to reflect briefly with you on this astonishment then on communion’s effect on us.

This part of the Fourth Gospel remains difficult to appreciate for one reason because it challenges interpreters of scripture. It’s also difficult to appreciate because humans then and now object to cannibalism./1/ Yet, in the earliest days of the church that’s exactly one charge leveled at Christians. The Romans were a modest people, although exceptions existed, which isn’t different from us. Anything that deviated from their accepted norms was objectionable. The way to deal with the objectionable was to call it as one thought it was. People were accurate sometimes but not accurate at others, as with the Christians.

One defender preserved these discrediting remarks. These are mild ones. We are in church, after all.
[Christians] know one another by secret marks and insignia, and they love one another almost before they know one another; everywhere also there is mingled among them a certain religion of lust, and they call one another promiscuously brothers and is thus that their vain and senseless superstition glories in crimes.”/2/
Brother and sister, the common way Christians called each other confused those who did not share their unifying experience with and in Jesus. The cannibalism charge is too gory to relate; see my blog. My point is that people in the days during and after Jesus took very seriously their norms and their religions.

Earliest Christians had something we lost: a freedom to imagine themselves in the past and future as well as the present./3/ We connect with their freedom at mass when we proclaim the mystery of faith: Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our live, Lord Jesus come in glory! That form includes us. Another form, Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again, does not include us, which may impress us as no more than a mental act of remembering just as the ones that include us.

Yet the earliest Christians were not mentally remembering during their eucharistic celebrations. They were doing as Jesus told them—and us: Do this in memory of me. Memory was less mental and more active.

Each celebration made present the past—at the altar, what Jesus did; and the future beyond the altar in daily life—Jesus at work in and through believers. This freedom, Jesus past work alive in the present with power to reshape the future, is less not forgetting than enjoying graced self-knowledge. Our sacramental eating and drinking at the Lord’s table is our communion with Jesus; our communion with him, deepened by our sacramental eating and drinking, also helps us recognize ourselves on mission with Jesus and each other.

Christian self-knowledge is practical now as then. Christian self-knowledge is wisdom. Wisdom is not knowledge; wisdom puts to good use what we know and what we believe. St. Paul calls us to be wise, and told us what he meant: Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish people but as not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what are the Lord’s desires for you. Eucharistic eating and drinking intensifies our relationship with Jesus and helps us grow more alert to what Jesus invites each of us to do in his name day to day.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, be alert to the Trinity choosing you. Ask your patron saint to present you to Jesus to converse with him. Confide in Jesus your astonishment at this invitation to feast on him. Recall a communion that moved you, changed you, strengthened you, and tell it to Jesus. Write it as a letter to Jesus if you find that helpful. Ask Jesus to deepen your longing for him to keep inviting you to join him and to give you courage to join him. Close by saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer, pausing to desire at its phrase, daily bread, that the eucharist will keep you close to Jesus and to others.

1. One charge of it is in Minucius Felix Octavius, R. E. Wallis, trans., The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, N. Y.: The Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887), Vol. 4, pp. 177-178.

2. Ibid. The tamer remarks! Of course, New Testament writers witnessed that Christians referred to one another as brothers and sisters (James 2.15) and greeted one another with a holy kiss (Romans 16.16).

3. David Bennett offered this insight to this freedom: “The Greek word for remembrance, anamnesis, does not imply simple psychological recollection. Enlightenment rationalistic assumptions have clouded many an interpretation of Jesus' words here. The word anamnesis, as it was often used in ancient times, means to bring the past into the present and the present into the past. In the Eucharist, we truly experience Christ's life, death, and resurrection, and Christ is made present to us, and we are made present to Him. This is far more dynamic than merely remembering something.” In “The Eucharist: The Medicine of Immortality.”

Wiki-images of postage stamp recalling a World Eucharistic Congress and of a knight receiving communion are in the public domain.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saturday word, 15 Aug 2009

Meredith Nice-Andrew Barnett wedding (15 Aug 2009)
Rv 11.19; 12. 1-6,10; Ps 128; 1Co 12. 31-13. 8a; Lk 1. 39-56
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Meredith and Andrew, you give us an opportunity to appreciate together a mystery of Mary and the mystery you are becoming today in Christian marriage. By choosing today for your wedding, its Solemnity of the Assumption into heaven of the Blessed Virgin Mary allows us to consider destiny, very fitting as you begin your married life together. First, Mary modeling Christian destiny; then, you living it through Christian marriage.

Several are the ways to appreciate Mary’s assumption into heaven: as mystery; as her personal participation in her son’s resurrection; as dogma—an article of faith we cannot abandon and call ourselves Catholic; and as destiny.

Christian destiny is not that unwelcome, even cruel, reversal we name fate. Nor is Christian destiny predetermined, insulting human freedom to make life fruitless folly. No! Christian destiny is life with our triune God, as Jesus revealed it and as Jesus fulfilled it in his dying and rising.

The dead-and-risen One shares his absolutely new life in the Spirit with us! Jesus did not reserve it to himself, which is the conviction closing the first reading from the Book of Revelation: “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed One.” Christian destiny is about being saved, that is, caught up in Jesus’ resurrection-life already.

Mary modeled the already of God’s saving power: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. ...the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his Name. She shared her joy by caring for her pregnant cousin.

Being saved, that is, being caught up in Jesus’ risen life at our every breath, fuels each one’s Christian life. Christians by their choices and actions grow in union with our Messiah Jesus and one another; living their union with Jesus affects others and the world, infusing the world with the effects of faith, hope and love/1/ and changing lives.

Faith, hope and love: the practical effects of our Christian destiny focus any description of it—like my opening remarks—on concrete action. You allowed St. Paul to remind you and all of us that abiding, mutual Christian love is practical. It will challenge you, at times with some surprise. Christian love, St. Paul reminded, is patient and kind, but sometimes lovers are not. Christian love does not envy or boast, but sometimes lovers do. Christian love bears...[and] endures all things, but sometimes lovers do not. Christian love does not insist on its own way but sometimes lovers do.

That last, Christian love does not insist on its own way, brings us back to the hallmark of Christian love: it’s mutual. Andy and Meredith, I want to affirm what you have allowed me to see: your desire to live a Catholic marriage. I also want to remind you that at each step of making one life together, Jesus accompanies you, drawing you and your love for each other into the mutual love, which his Father and Jesus and their Spirit enjoy—our destiny. You’ll never lack for Jesus’ companionship blessing your love with the love of the Trinity.

Your mutual compassion for one another will fashion you from today as a domestic church./2/ Your married life will help you save each other’s souls and welcome “children lovingly from God”/3/; your married life will also allow Jesus to work through you for the sake of the world. You will never lose your individual selves. In Christian marriage both of you will strive to make one life together.

Even more than the way you give love, the way you receive love from each other will allow Jesus to guide you on that still more excellent way, your mutual compassion. Jesus embodied and models compassion for you and for all, and continues creating you to be the man and woman God desires you to be for each other. Your married life, with its challenges and its privileged joys, will allow you to live your Christian destiny and help others to live it, too.

I mentioned joys and challenges. Joys are obvious, challenges need a word. Together you have already had your share of challenges, recently the death of Andy’s grandmother. Loss is always a challenge. Not as recent but still fresh is the challenge you negotiated when we began marriage preparation. You negotiated it well, and I remember how emphatic you were that marriage preparation could not have come at a better time for you. While challenges demand our attention and energy, challenges are not without opportunities. The opportunity of living faith, hope and love affects you as spouses by deepening your intimacy, drawing you closer and blessing us and the world with yet one more expression of Christian destiny.

Meredith and Andrew, I’m very proud of you and, I wish you every good thing. I congratulate you on behalf of the church. It is true that Jesus created you for one another. It is even more true that Jesus will create you each moment for everything ahead of you. Please remember that in pledging yourselves to each other you allow Jesus to work through you for our Christian destiny—the salvation of each other as well as our world. As you forge one life together Jesus begets something new: a new harmony to feel Jesus creating you and your mutual love for each other, and to help us and others feel Jesus recreating the world to taste his salvation and power.

1. See Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, 4, of The Second Vatican Council.
2. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 11, of The Second Vatican Council.
3. Rite of Marriage, Ch.2: 42.
Wiki-images by Jason Hutchins of exchanging wedding rings and by pabloendemico of Calceolaria cana are used according to the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license .

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Word about the Word

Because Jesus reassured that "when two or three are gathered in my name, I am in the midst of them" (Matthew 18.20; from today's gospel at mass), the statement is not fluff. Does it mean something for contemporary Christians?

His promise rests between the being-with bookends of this gospel: Jesus is Emmanuel, which means God with us (1.23), and I [Jesus] am with you always (28.20).

In what ways is God with us? Fr. Jack Mahoney invites readers of a Thinking Faith online-essay to explore that.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Updated Website for Catholic Charities USA

The sanctity of life and human dignity drive the vision and mission of Catholic Charities, which seeks to serve people in need and eliminate oppression in all its forms. Each diocese in the United States has a Catholic Charities to help people to serve as well as to be served. The updated website is a treasure trove of information, inspiration and facilitates taking action on behalf of and for others.

Catholic Charities USA is a member of Caritas International.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday word, 10 Aug 2009

Monique Gonda memorial mass
(11 Aug 2009) Is 25. 6a, 7-9; Ps 23; 1Jn 3. 1-2; Mt 5. 1-12a
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Divine Doing

On behalf of Gesu Parish, I extend our prayers and heartfelt sympathy to you, Les, Doug, Chris and Karen at the death of your mother, Monique. Your children grieve, too. Your mom’s final months were long and challenging for you as well as her. I know what that’s like because my sister informed me while I was living in Asia that Alzheimer’s began to manifest itself in our mom. When I returned in six months I was able to help my sister, who had been doing the lion’s share of being with our mom and getting her good care.

Although my mom is still alive, I grieve often as she lives her long good bye, as Alzheimer’s is aptly called. I pray that you be more courageous than your grief is sharp. Your confidence in our risen Messiah will help you grieve well and come to experience your mom’s presence in real and new ways.

Today the Catholic church bids farewell to one of hers. I offer a few words to console and strengthen you in your grief; to help you appreciate God’s astounding compassion by noticing Jesus’ victorious dying and rising were present in Monique./1/

We are grateful for the words of remembrance Doug, Chris and Karen offered. They helped us connect your mom and her passing with the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I am grateful to Karen for selecting the scriptures proclaimed at Monique’s memorial mass. They shape my brief reflection with you.

I met Monique at University Hospital after Monique’s surgery. Even in her pained weariness, Monique was delightful. She looked very tired, and I asked her if she slept at night. Monique told me she did, but the most draining thing for her after her abdominal surgery was sitting up in bed. That was more tiring than the short walks she made to restore muscle tone and her body’s energy.

Unfortunately, Monique was unable to make steady progress. That is particularly painful to you, her children and friends, because Monique was vibrant. Her final illness and its repercussions challenged her in many ways, particularly in letting go.

Not only did we staff members who visited Monique these many months notice her weakening, we also noticed her resistance in the face of it. This resistance is no shortcoming or failing; it is part of our human condition. Being with Monique did not mean that you, Les, Doug, Chris and Karen, or any of us could affect changes that would restore her health. Being with her--whether in person or over distances that separated you--was more important than anything you did. Being with Monique was more–life-giving than doing for her.

I saw that at The Normandy when I visited Monique there. More than once did I see a caregiver sitting with a resident outdoors or in the person’s room. One day when I arrived at Monique’s room, caregiver, Debbie, was sitting in a chair at the head of her bed. That was what Debbie was doing. She spent more time doing that than any other service she performed to ensure Monique’s comfort. I did that, too.

Why is that so important? All of us can name challenging times in our lives when people accompanied us through a challenge. All of us can recall how important their presence was, although they could and did not change our circumstances.

Monique weathered many challenges in her long life, from her youth in France to raising her family in the States and seeing them grow to adulthood. For a vivacious, thinking and thoughtful Monique, her challenge to let go--of her strength, of her routine, of her house, of her independence--Monique’s challenge to let go was steep and lonely. That’s why to have company was so important for her; why it was so life-giving because everything by which Monique measured her life was ebbing.

Vivacious Monique did not want to die. I know she didn’t because a caregiver observed what I observed, and Karen confirmed that.

Of course, Monique’s life is changed not ended./2/ That conviction of our faith challenges us to let go of Monique--she is not available to you, her family and friends, as she was--even though our desire and the assurance of our faith promise that we shall be reunited when Jesus returns in glory with salvation for his people./3/ It is during the interval while we await Jesus’ return, the resurrection of the dead and our reunion with them that we need graced companionship. That’s why we come here. We pray for ourselves as much as, or even more, than for Monique.

Graced companionship is not limited to church. God works in every moment of our lives. At each moment our triune God creates us. When people enjoy clarity rather than live under a veil, to use Isaiah’s image, people enjoy God’s companionship. When we experience anew our connection with God--St. John described that connection as being children of God--we enjoy God’s companionship. Jesus revealed the implications of being children of God throughout his life on earth.

When she was still alert and able to communicate, Monique remarked to her family that at The Normandy she felt love--loved by the caregivers and some of the residents. Monique’s final journey to let go and to accept God changing her life not ending it is Monique’s lesson to me. Being accompanied means we allow others to love us, we allow others in, we allow God in. Allowing others is active; it doesn’t seem so because we are not in control. The Beatitudes challenge us precisely to welcome God’s loving kindness each day so that, like Monique, we will one day be able to rest in God’s merciful doing and enjoy new life, life more vivacious than we can imagine.

Until we enjoy God’s life in an unveiled way and rejoice to see God as [God] is, graced companionship in its many forms, especially as human accompaniment, we will recreate us and wipe away the tears, which blur our faith-vision and challenge us to live it.

1. Cf. Order of Christian Funerals, 27.
2. Preface for
Christian Death I, Roman Missal.
3. Penitential Rite (C,ii), Roman Missal.
Wiki-images of Jesus announcing the Beatitudes and of the New Jerusalem are in the public domain.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Sunday word, 09 Aug 2009

19th Sunday of the Year (09 Aug 2009)
1Kg 19. 4-8; Ps 34; Eph 4. 30-5.2; Jn 6. 41-51
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Two Ways

All writings offer perspectives: those ways authors communicate through their writings. One perspective, which the Fourth Gospel offers, is that two ways of living exist. One way is familiar, and we can gain access to it. The other way we receive as a gift; our efforts cannot make it possible.

The familiar, customary way of living even offers us apparent security. The Fourth Gospel uses the phrase, the world, to name our familiar, customary way of living. Some characteristics of the world, along with familiar and customary, are visible, measurable, available through human effort. Of course, what may be familiar to one may not be to another, and what makes one person feel secure may threaten another. Thus, one more feature of the world may be summarized as often divided rather than united.

The other way of living harmonizes with Jesus and his good news. We do not always perceive his good news as good because it challenges us both to adopt and to exercise in our daily living the values Jesus revealed in his person and continues to reveal by his Spirit, whom he gives us.

Jesus’ word challenges us to move beyond our security and to live his life. Jesus pointed out that the world on its own cannot fulfill us and satisfy our deep longings. In the language of the Fourth Gospel values of the world are empty and misleading. These clearly different ways do not mean that creation is evil or that it is without value. Indeed, God surveyed all creation and found it very good./1/

To live the Christian life seeks to balance living in the world and exercising the values of Jesus and his gospel. At times the world does not favor Jesus’ values or those who try to live them. To live the Christian life also respects and cherishes our humanity and keeps alert to the ways Jesus offers us his divinity and invites us to incarnate it by our living day to day.

That Jesus offers us divinity and invites us to reveal it reminds us that his offer and his invitation are grace; neither is the result of human effort.

To use words from the lips of Jesus, we may say that his offer of divinity and his invitation to reveal it to others by how we live came down from heaven. The language is spatial, but its meaning is more real than space or place. God’s continues to make self-revelation; Christians try to align themselves more with who God is and what God desires.

God’s gift in Jesus by their Spirit began in each of us at baptism. We come to the Lord’s table and share in his body and blood because the eucharist nourishes and sustains what baptism began. One liturgical guide expressed that this way. “The food of the eucharist becomes for us, not a sort of accessory, but the very source of growth in the word of God. It is not just a religious ceremony for one hour a week, but it becomes a way of living our faith.”/2/

When the eucharist is not “a sort of accessory,” it allows Christians to shed bitterness, fury, anger, raised voices and cutting speech and to exercise kindness, compassion and to forgive because God has forgiven [us] in Christ. St. Paul was always practical in encouraging people to live the faith of Jesus!

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, become alert to the presence of our triune God around you, embracing you and vibrating in every cell of your being. Ask Elijah to renew your confidence in your life and your faith and to present you to Jesus. Converse with Jesus: lay all your doubts at his feet; ask Jesus to help you be more alert to how Jesus offers you divine life and more alert to how Jesus invites you to reveal it by your daily living. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, pausing to desire at its phrase, daily bread, that the eucharist will never be for you “a sort of accessory” but nourishment to exercise your faith and trust in Jesus and to live it with greater vigor and joy.

Link to this homily's Spiritual Exercise
1. Genesis 1.31.
2. Kevin Irwin, Sunday Worship: A Planning Guide to Celebration. New York: Pueblo, 1983, p. 247.
Wiki-images of Jesus feeding the multitude and a mosaic floor is in the public domain.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Saturday word, 08 Aug 2009

St. Dominic, Memorial (08 Aug 2009)
Dt 6. 4-13; Ps 18; Mt 17. 14-20
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Itinerant: His Practical Approach

"If he hadn’t taken a trip with his bishop, Dominic would probably have remained within the structure of contemplative life. . .” so began a brief summary/1/ of St. Dominic. This year’s semi-continuous scripture readings are apt for the founder of the order of men and women, which bears his name, particularly the familiar words from Deuteronomy:
Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words…Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest.
The key phrase is, Take to heart. This means personal appropriation not just memorization or mental knowing. Personal appropriation includes living one’s relationship with God our Lord. On that “trip with his bishop” Dominic noticed that was not happening.

Their trip took them to Spain’s home territory of the Albigensians, who lived a heresy with several earlier incarnations. They considered all material things to be evil. You can imagine the implications of such a principle: sacraments were evil; also the body--which meant procreation was evil and so was healthy eating. Their behavior flowed from their belief: the Albigensians did not believe a good God could create a world filled with pain and suffering. Purists--Albigensians called themselves the Pure--in any age have great difficulty being realists.

St. Dominic wanted to curb and correct this distorted view of God, the world and people. Preachers came and went, but many “traveled with horse and retinues, stayed at the best inns and had servants.”/2/ The Pure, of course, and others rejected them. So Dominic began to move about humbly with three Cistercian monks.

Cistercians, more often called Trappists, emphasized manual labor and self-sufficiency. This preaching effort, in imitation of the apostles, led to the Order of Preachers. Its membership seeks to keep alive Dominic’s ideal: “to pass on the fruits of contemplation.”/3/ This describes the vocation of most of the faithful in the church.

God calls less of us to focus our lives on contemplation only. Indeed, St. Ignatius of Loyola, born 270 years after Dominic had died, was very fond of Dominic. St. Ignatius recognized that contemplation is important and is the foundation of action. Long before Ignatius and his contemporaries/4/ coined the phrase “contemplatives in action,” St. Dominic lived it. Many of us here are called to live that way as well.

1. Saint of the Day, 08 Aug at
2. Ibid.
3. The meaning of
contemplata tradere.
4. Jerome Nadal, S.J., gave particular emphasis to this phrase in his recollection of St. Ignatius.

Wiki-image of El Greco's St. Dominic is in the public domain.

Friday, August 07, 2009

August sky

August hosts the Perseid metershower.

Viewers want clear skies and do well to nap in order to be awake in the wee hours.
Wiki-image by Mila Zinkova of trajectories of two meteorites is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.