Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Triumph of Faithful Love

Today is the feast of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. So many whose names we don't even know, who shed their blood or gave their bodies to be burned in the persecutions of the first century. We honor today these unknown martyrs whose sacrifice in Christ, along with that of the apostles, changed forever the great "city of the Gentiles." May they help us to engage the dangers and the drama of our own time, placing our trust in Jesus who is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

The prayer of today's liturgy:

O God, who consecrated
the abundant first fruits of the Roman Church
by the blood of the Martyrs,
grant, we pray, that with firm courage
we may together draw strength from so great a struggle
and ever rejoice at the triumph of faithful love.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Friday, June 29, 2012

"Honeymoon" - An Adventure Together

June ends beautifully, with the great Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. This always leads me to reminisce about the Eternal City. As I've said before here, Eileen and I are both "Romans" by virtue of the (different) times we each lived and studied there in our youth, and by our great excursion together at the beginning of our married life.

We spent three and a half weeks in Italy for our "honeymoon" back in 1996. We were able to make this trip because we didn't seek a "lovers' solitude" experience; we spent all but five nights at the homes of friends. It was a real trek, from Rome to Assisi to Florence to Ravenna to Milan to the Italian Riviera. I'm so glad we did it then, when we had the time and the energy of our youth. I'm glad that, while we were still able, we rode trains and buses, slept on floors or (worse) the infamous Italian "letto," and hauled bags that got bigger and bigger as we accumulated loot along the way! I recommend this kind of honeymoon for you young folks, especially if you are humanities buffs like us. Trust me, you will never be able to throw yourselves about with such freedom as in these early days of marriage. Soon come the babies, and then come the bad backs and the arthritis. Youth is the time to explore, to rough it, to have an adventure, especially with your spouse. Go somewhere beautiful and fascinating, full of human history and aesthetic richness. Or go on pilgrimage to the places where God's love has touched the world. You will build a foundation of common experience that will stay with you forever.

In Rome we spent a week and a half at an apartment not far from the Vatican, with a friend's mother. This lovely old woman cleared a room for us, made coffee for us every morning, and often fed us abundantly in the kitchen at night (even if we had already eaten). I have never found a restaurant that can match the culinary magic that happens in the simple Italian kitchen. Oh, my my!

We went to all our favorite spots in Rome and shared them together. We brought our newly married life to the tomb of St. Peter, and prayed a long time. We explored churches and ruins and great art. June 29th sticks in my mind because we went to St. Peter's basilica for the ceremony in which the Pope (then Blessed John Paul II) invests new Archbishops with the pallium, a woolen band worn as a sign of their particular responsibility and their communion with the Pope.

It was a beautiful ceremony, very crowded of course, so that we barely had a glimpse of the Pope. (We had no idea, at that time, that we were going to meet him in a few days!) Afterwards, in the midst of the crowds, we bumped into a little bishop from Malaysia--whose name I do not remember--and struck up a conversation with him. He was the first bishop to bless our marriage.

I wonder where he is today. We never did get his name.

Among many things, Rome is also a place of unusual meetings and unexpected changes in plans. It is a place where all the cultures of the world gather, dialogue with one another, and celebrate together the One who brings true unity to the whole human family.

[P.S. I'll tell some more stories of our honeymoon adventures in upcoming blogs. :-) ]

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fortnight for Freedom: The Foundation is the Person

I am quite struck by the fact that, during this "Fortnight for Freedom," the people of the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation are working on the texts of the annual retreat, given this past spring by Fr. Julian Carron. This section of the retreat is full of quotations from talks that Msgr. Giussani gave in the 1990s, but their point is stunningly pertinent to this very moment that we are living together.

The charism of CL is a witness in the Church to the truth about the human person. I have followed this charism for 22 years because here I have learned to recognize, and have been provoked again and again to remember, who I am. It is an ongoing education, through life more than words, in being a human person, in being myself.

Here are some excerpts:

Since the power has as its ideal and aim subjecting everyone's life to rules..., this elimination of freedom has dramatic consequences, since we don't want all to be enslaved, or maneuvered on the orders of a central mechanism. So how is it possible to resist? How is it possible to offer an alternative to the dominion of power that means to put itself in a position to determine every aspect, every expression of man's life, dictating even the moral laws? The only resource for blocking the intrusion of power is in that vertex of the cosmos that is the "I," that is freedom.
 ....The only resource that is left to us is a powerful recovery of the Christian sense of the "I." I say the "Christian" sense not out of preconception, but because Christ's word, Christ's attitude, Christ's conception of the human person, of the "I," is the only one that explains all the factors that we feel boiling up inside us, emerging in our hearts. For this power will be able, could be able to crush the "I" as such, to prevent the "I" from being "I."
 ....The strength of this subject that is called "I,"...the greatness of the subject, the newness of the person is given by a belonging that is neither in things that happen, nor in gardens we imagine and construct, in earthly gardens we have thought up and built.... The strength of the "I" and of the you, the strength of the subject, of the person, is in something other to which I totally belong, to which the "I" totally acknowledges it belongs. This is the lived experience of the personality: acknowledging that I belong to what makes me.
 --from texts of Msgr. Luigi Giussani (my italics)

And Fr. Carron comments:
As soon as something happens, we fall apart, not because we are fragile, or because of the circumstances, or the environment. Let's stop it! We fall apart because of our lack of self-awareness. No power in this world could eliminate us, no matter what the circumstance, if we had this self-awareness, because the self-awareness does not lie in physical energy, or in our possibility of success, or in our capacity. Our strength, all the energy of our strength is in the simple acknowledgment of Him to whom we belong, He who makes us now.
Then Fr. Carron continues, quoting from Msgr. Giussani's book In Search of the Human Face (1995):
Because the Lord is everything, but "not on the strength of our sentiment, because 'we feel' that He is everything; not on the strength of an act of the will, because 'we decide' that He is everything; not moralistically, because 'He has to be' everything, but by nature."

These are some selections of what I have been reading today.

They hardly even begin to do justice to the retreat, but they do indicate the challenges we all face in a society that aims to suffocate the human person. This is a crucial way of looking at current events: we must allow them to awaken us to the truth of who we really are, who we belong to, and what is our destiny. We are challenged, all of us together, to help one another to live and judge and engage reality from this awareness.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Illness Is Real, And It Can Be Treated

People who read this blog know that I have written a few things about my own experience in dealing with both physical and mental illness, in the context of trusting in God's mercy (such as my book, Never Give Up: My Life and God's Mercy, published by Servant/Franciscan Media, which you can order from their websites, or your local bookstore, and of course on amazon  Click this Link! Order Now! Get it for a loved one or a friend! Available on Kindle too!)

#ShamelessAdvertisement - haha.

Really, this is not about money (although money would be very nice, thank you). What motivates me to continue promoting this book is that I know it has helped many people, regardless of whether or not they have health problems. The book still seems to be doing a lot of good. What I want more than anything is for people to read it. And give it to other people so that they can read it. The book is not just for "sick" people. It's for people who suffer. And everybody suffers!

Below I am presenting again a post from June of 2011. It remains timely and important. The title of the post was Mental Illness Happens to "Normal" People. Here it is:

Tonight I am reflecting upon mental illness, but this time not my own.

It is so hard to get people to see that mental illness is real, by which I mean that it is real illness, and that it happens to people who are "regular human beings;" not just people who are in mental institutions or who have pieces of shrapnel sticking out of their skulls.

I understand the difficulty. Some good and patient people had to work on me for a long time to convince me that I was sick, and that I would only do further harm to myself and others if I didn't submit to the kind of healing processes that this illness requires. I can see why it's such a difficulty to introduce the topic in other circumstances, when people show signs that this kind of pain may be afflicting them. This is especially a problem for Christians. We Christians, I believe, are still very uncomfortable with approaching the widespread problem of mental illness in our society and among ourselves.

One reason is because Christians believe in free will and personal responsibility, and we think that pop psychology is an attempt to rationalize bad human behavior. Sadly, there are modes of psychology and even psychiatric medical practice that give us reason to think this way. Lacking a proper foundation in human nature and a recognition of the human religious sense, some doctors seem to invent illnesses that don't really exist, overdiagnose, misdiagnose, and give poor treatment for genuine conditions so that the person is worse off than before. This fact doesn't help Christians deal squarely with the issue. Admitting mental illness appears to be an abdication of personal responsibility, an attempt to evade the effort to overcome personal weakness by moral effort. And since we are all sinners and we all do this to some extent, it makes it hard to clarify where the line is between sinfulness and affliction.

And yet afflictions and disorders of the "mind" are physiologically based, scientifically documented, and clinically verified beyond any reasonable doubt. Patterns of illness, treatment, and response/recovery are established. What is necessary is for more Christians to get involved in psychiatric medicine, psychology, and psychotherapy. Medical treatments and clinical analysis must be brought together more and more with a Christian understanding of treating and caring for the whole human person. Meanwhile, psychiatry needs to become more integrated with other medical specialties (indeed this is beginning to happen; I have found that psychiatrists often have a broader understanding of various illnesses in general than other specialists). This is important because there are so many physical factors that impact upon the emotional and psychological sphere. An integral approach to the health of the whole person is increasingly necessary in this stressful, fragmented world. The human person is so fragile on every level of his or her being.

We Christians (and, for that matter, all of us "normal" people) need to recognize that mental illness does not place a person in some strange category of rare freaks. Mental illness happens to normal people. It happens among us, in our communities, in our circles of friends, in our families. It happens to talented people and articulate people and even people who have the gift of helping others.

We must not be shocked, disoriented, amazed, or at a loss for what to do when it does happen. We must be ready to help the person in need. I encourage everyone to learn more about these things, for their own sakes and for those they love.

If you or someone you know needs help, you might try this website:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Forerunner

We who eagerly honor you 
are unable, O Prophet,
Forerunner of the presence of Christ,
to extol you as it is meet to do;
for by your noble and solemn nativity
the barrenness of your mother
was undone,
and the tongue of your father
was loosened,
and to the world was proclaimed
the Incarnation of the Son of God.

(Troparion for the Nativity
of the Forerunner,
St. John the Baptist,
Byzantine Liturgy, June 24)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Yesterday's Anniversary

Our sixteenth wedding anniversary. Sixteen years of good times and bad, sickness and health. And five completely new human beings, created by God. On the day we were married, none of them existed. But God knew them. He brought us together not only for each other, but also for them. The miracle of creation is happening all around us, and through our cooperation. How can we look at life and not be amazed!?

The Janaros in current form
My dear Eileen Janaro, I love you more than I can ever adequately express, and I love the adventure of the life we share. Thank God for you and for the miracle of our family.

So what did we do on our anniversary? We spent the day taking a long trek to visit some family. And a bunch of us went out for pizza. It was worthwhile and it was fun, but it was very tiring. Ack, I get tired too easily!!

We had about ten minutes alone, enough time for presents. I gave her a pendant of a small butterfly with mother of pearl in the middle and made of some interesting local metals. I knew it would look good on her.

We'll get to go out together, just the two of us. It's not so hard to get away, now that we have "built in" babysitters. But today I'm exhausted. There are so many things we would love to do, but we have to adjust everything to the limits of my illness. And it's not that I'm dragging my feet. I've pushed my limits too hard many, many times, and it's not good. For now, slow and steady seems to work best

The Janaros, June 22, 1996

Things could be a lot worse. I feel pretty good. Somehow the gaps get filled, and life opens up new possibilities for us and new vistas for the kids (which they might not have if I were Superdad).

Still, it's not easy being married to a person like me, who has all these health problems. But we help each other to grow. Marriage is a vocation. That means that it is difficult but good, and that it always raises new challenges.  It also means that there is grace! It's not "cheap grace"--we have to ask for it and ask for it, again and again, day after day. Not because God is stingy, but because we have to keep making room to receive His gift.

The gift of grace is abundant. Grace is at the center of marriage. It's not "magic"--it doesn't "fix" the other person or the circumstances in such a way that everything becomes easy. It generates the possibility of love, even in the most difficult circumstances, and it builds (slowly, day by day) new ways of looking at everything: the trials and also the joys, the past, the present, and the future.

Of course we forget about grace, most of the time. Let us thank God for the moments that we remember, and ask that those moments might increase. In spite of how it may seem at the beginning, the grace that builds up married life is not a great wind or a roaring fire. It is the sound of the breeze, and the still, small voice.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day One

There are many issues involved in the HHS mandate. There is one that should be clear to everybody: The executive branch of the United States government is attempting to assert power over the consciences of religious believers. Catholic Christians who adhere with religious conviction to the teachings of the pope and the bishops in union with him will face fines and other coercive measures if they refuse to cooperate with a government policy that violates those teachings. Moreover, the government claims the authority to determine what constitutes a genuine religious activity. This puts Catholic Christians, led by their bishops (!), in a position of having to beg the government for exemptions or accommodations of this law so that they can keep their charitable and educational institutions running, and secure respect for the consciences of the persons who are responsible for establishing and executing the policy of these institutions.

The government has proposed a modification of its policy, and the bishops have judged that it is still not acceptable. The government disagrees. They say that it should be acceptable. Gosh, who has authority in my religion?

Deep breath.

What part of "WE CANNOT OBEY THIS LAW WITHOUT VIOLATING OUR CONSCIENCES" does the government not understand?

Whether they understand or not, it remains a fact. We will not obey your unjust law. And we will not stand for the fact that our bishops--the successors of the apostles of Jesus Christ our Lord and God--are forced to wait upon the bureaucratic court of a government executive who is massively overstepping the boundaries of his power.

For this reason, as well as for the great sufferings of our culture, we are praying, and making sacrifices, and fasting during these next two weeks.

I am doing this because I am committed to the authentic dignity of every human person, whose relationship with his or her destiny transcends the dictats of the State.

And because I love the Church!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Starting Anew

I am studying the notes of the annual CL retreat given by Fr. Julian Carron. This passage strikes me, because so many in our society today (ourselves included) try to justify or escape from sins, even to the point of enshrining them as "rights" in civil law. Why do we do this? I believe its a form of desperation, because we have not encountered (or else we have forgotten) the face and the gaze of the One who affirms us for what we truly are, and opens up the wonderful possibility of starting again, of being free.
"Man is never ultimately what he does, rather, he is that relationship with the Infinite that Christ affirmed by His gaze upon all those He encountered, particularly the sinners.... Precisely because we have encountered this same gaze, we can acknowledge our errors and mistakes without justifying them, because a person never ceases to be such, no matter what errors he commits....
"For this reason, acknowledging the objectivity of the error and the need for reparation (something that is always intrinsic to a position of truth) does not in any way mean rejecting the person. Christ introduced this gaze into history. Often we are the first to be scandalized by certain errors, ours or others ('How is it possible!?'). [But] it is not a matter of denying them, or censuring them, or justifying them; it is a matter of being able to face them in order to start anew.
"But what is the point of departure to begin again? 'Recovery for man, in any interest of his, in any expression, can only start from a renewal, full of pain at one's forgetfulness of the memory of Christ: the memory of Christ as normal content of the new self-awareness of the Christian' (Fr. Giussani). This memory is the source of morality as recovery, as a striving to always begin anew, untiringly, no matter what error has been committed.... [It] exists solely as a striving and an entreaty, if we turn as beggars, abashed and thus humble, with a certainty that is renewed every morning."
--Fr. Julian Carron 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Brain, Body, and Soul

The mountains are stately, and the air is cool and dry. I've been waking up very early in the morning and going for long walks. I breathe in the air, deeply. Dry air is like medicine (shucks, it's better than medicine). I can almost feel it going through my brain and my whole body, rejuvenating me.

The brain is such a fascinating, delicate, and (it turns out) remarkably resilient organ. I have often said that we must pay attention to the amazing discoveries that are taking place today regarding the brain and the central nervous system. We have learned so much about brain injuries and diseases, as well as the many ways that neurological functions can be healed or at least reconfigured. Every day we learn more and more about the corollaries between psychological and emotional states and the various parts of the brain with their neurological and chemical components. The health and proper operation of the brain affects human behavior. And human behavior, in turn, can develop, alter, or help restore brain functioning.

Of course there are many hypotheses about all of this that are being proposed and tested. I cannot propose my own in a scientific manner, as I am not a scientist. Rather, I am a "guinea pig" in this ongoing study. Being a philosophical guinea pig, however, I cannot help finding the whole thing very interesting. I am also aware of the attempt of some in the scientific fields to relate brain functioning to the universally human realm of "transempirical" experience.

Neuroscience has been able to observe a correspondence between brain activity and various "spiritual" experiences. Some people would like to rush to the conclusion that this correspondence constitutes an explanation of the phenomenon of "spirituality," the human impetus toward transcendence, or even human consciousness.

Not so fast.

I think what we are finding is evidence of the profound, inseparable interrelationship between the brain (and indeed the "body" itself) and "whatever it is" that constitutes within the human being the foundation of those specifically human experiences of thought and action. We are speaking here of experiences such as consciousness, self-awareness, and the capacity to affirm the truth about principles, ideals, and realities that go beyond direct contact with the senses.

There is a great difference, however, between discovering a correspondence and discovering a cause. For example, every time I raise my hand, a shadow of my hand appears the wall. Here we observe a correspondence between the shadow and my hand. But we cannot conclude from this that the shadow causes my hand to raise. And (presuming that all we could see was the shadow on the wall) we clearly cannot conclude from the observation of the shadow alone that the hand does not really exist and that what people call "the hand" is really just a shadow.

So also, the fact that a certain configuration and functioning of the brain has been observed in studies of monks who are meditating does not prove that this apparently spiritual experience is nothing more than a kind of brain activity.

A classical philosopher like Thomas Aquinas would be fascinated by all of this new research, but not terribly surprised by it. He would see in it a confirmation of his own conclusion that the human being is a composite of "soul" and "body," and that the "soul" is both a spiritual reality and also the "form" (the pervasive, integrating vital principle) of the body.

As is so often the case with Aquinas, he provides us with a kind of "outline" and conceptual structure with which both scientists and philosophers can collaborate in building an ever deeper understanding of the mystery of the human person.

As you can see, I had a thoughtful walk today. :)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Two Hearts

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us. We are specially blessed by the feast days of the two Hearts, who are thus enthroned in our home:

The time of the person is the time of the human heart. In the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, the mystery of the human heart is revealed.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Verbal Warfare (One Year Later)

Here is a post from June 2011 that is worth revisiting:

Sometimes I am frightened by words. We have more words today than ever before in history, and more ways of saying them. So many of our words boil down to people saying things to people about other people. We call it conversation or (bless us) "concern" for one another, or--depending on our media platform--opinion, journalism, scholarship, analysis, information, exchange of views, etc., etc., etc.

What so much of it really is, in the end, is one form or another of self-affirmation, gossip, unnecessary curiosity, detraction, calumny, or cynicism. We use words to assert ourselves, or to make war on one another. And our words express what is inside our hearts. We have hearts full of violence.

I have asked myself, "How often, when I speak or write, am I truly seeking to edify reality, to affirm what is good? How often are my words aimed at distraction, or at drawing attention to myself?" How many wasted words! And yet I have a desire to speak the truth. I have the desire and the prayer that my words might be works of mercy and instruments of peace. And yet I am always running into myself.

I think perhaps we speak foolishly because we are insecure. We seek attention with our words, even at the expense of others. Why? Because we are afraid that we are not loved. Or, rather, we have forgotten that we are loved. We are not nourished by a vital connection with the One who loves us.

We need prayer. And not just more words of prayer. We need silence.

We need to let Him love us.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

He Will Satisfy

If you preach Jesus,
He will melt hardened hearts;
if you invoke Him, He will soften harsh temptations;
if you think of Him,
He will enlighten your mind;
if you read of Him,
He will satisfy your intellect.

—Saint Anthony of Padua

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


"Too heavy for us, our offenses,
but you wipe them away" (Psalm 65:4).

I once heard our culture described as a place where "everything is permitted, and nothing is forgiven." There is much truth in that assessment. I think this is one of the reasons why so many people are anxiously trying to change moral norms to accommodate behaviors today that humanity's moral conscience has always rejected in the past.

Deep down, people don't believe in forgiveness. They may talk about it, but in their hearts they don't really think it's possible.

I can understand why people feel that way. Sometimes I feel that way myself. If I see "myself" as consisting in an autonomous project of self-definition, a project that I carry out alone, I will run into my own limitations everywhere. I will always fall short. And if I am truly alone, what can I do when I fail, other than condemn myself and suffer the condemnation of others.

Thus we try to bend the moral norms, so that we can define our failures as success, and demand that others do the same. This can only be brought about by a refusal to look at reality, and by doing violence to ourselves and others. This violence, in turn, must be justified and redefined. We are afraid to be alone with the horror of what we have made of ourselves.

But perhaps our culture may begin to notice that redefining the standards of what it means to be human, among other things, doesn't work. We still bump into our own limitations, everywhere. We who claim to be "free" are in fact a society obsessed with guilt, terrified of failure, and full of self-loathing. We flee into addictions in a desperate effort to distract ourselves. To put it simply: we are not happy.

But what if I am not "alone"?

What if the core of my person consists in "belonging-to-Another"? What if my real life is in fact a relationship with the Source of all meaning and goodness? And what if I begin to realize that my very be-ing in this moment is the result of the fact that I am being loved by the One who is Infinite Love?

If this is true, then I am "good" and my humanity is a gift. A precious gift. I am precious to Someone. And when I fail, I can seek forgiveness. I can hope that the One who is Good will make me good. This hope is written on my heart, and I do not need to suffocate it. There is forgiveness.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Eucharist: From The Heart Of Christ

Everything begins, one might say, from the heart of Christ who, at the Last Supper, on the eve of his passion, thanked and praised God and by so doing, with the power of his love, transformed the meaning of death which he was on his way to encounter. The fact that the Sacrament of the Altar acquired the name “Eucharist” — “thanksgiving” — expresses precisely this: that changing the substance of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is the fruit of the gift that Christ made of himself, the gift of a Love stronger than death, divine Love which raised him from the dead. This is why the Eucharist is the food of eternal life, the Bread of Life. From Christ’s heart, from his “Eucharistic prayer” on the eve of his passion flows that dynamism which transforms reality in its cosmic, human and historical dimensions. All things proceed from God, from the omnipotence of his Triune Love, incarnate in Jesus. Christ’s heart is steeped in this Love; therefore he can thank and praise God even in the face of betrayal and violence, and in this way changes things, people and the world.
--Benedict XVI (Corpus Christi 2011) 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

At The Pool

Time seems to move more slowly in these long summer days.

The kids are getting some time at the pool. I was out the other day without a hat, and got a bit of sunburn on the top, in that place where there used to be hair.

Josefina, of course, still has to use the kiddy pool. But she can sit at the shallow edge of the big pool if someone is watching her. Here she is with her big brother, the Fish:

Some people are too shy to be photographed at the pool, but not Teresa. She is working hard on learning how to swim:

There are those who would rather be left in peace at poolside, wrapped in royal towels. "If Daddy thinks he's gonna get a smile out of me, he can just forget it!"

"In fact, I'm going to HIDE!"

But Daddy is persistent, and finally Jojo smiles...sort of:

And we all had a lovely afternoon.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Let This Light Shine: The World Meeting Of Families

The World Meeting of Families in Milan this past weekend was a beautiful event. It was one of those things that are really worth reading about. It was a witness to God's truth and love expressed in the family. And it remains as an encouragement to all who struggle to live this truth and love in their own families, a reminder of the precious vocation of marriage and the family, and a reawakening of the desire of families to let this light shine in our suffering world.

Here is the link to the Vatican website. A few things have been translated into English. Especially important is the "Evening of Witness"--the dialogue between the Pope and families on Saturday night:

Pope Benedict spoke very personally about his own family, and I pray to the Lord that my children might have some taste of this beautiful grace that has so deeply shaped his life:
"We grew up convinced that it was good to be human, because we saw God’s goodness reflected in our parents and our brothers and sisters. And indeed when I try to imagine what Heaven will be like, I think it must be like the time when I was a small boy. In this environment of trust, joy and love, we were happy, and I think that Heaven must be rather like those early years. So in a way, I am hoping to return 'home' when I leave for 'the other part of the world'."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Taking It "Easy"

The Janaros are just taking it easy.

It's like a new experience, after four summers of Eileen commuting to graduate school. Yesterday we all went for a lovely "hike" (really a stroll, proportioned to the smallest legs among us). Today is a day for hanging around. My wife is making a jigsaw puzzle. I don't know how she has the patience for those things, but she clearly does; I am sitting with her, watching her make her puzzle, and I am reading of course. (I wonder, is there such a thing as a "reading addiction"?) The kids are playing outside.

I've had the Kindle for a month now. It's a really useful tool. But I have to say, I love books. They are just so...peculiar, and you have to take what you get in terms of formatting. That's kind of a relief; I don't always like to have the power to dilly-dally with what font and type size I want to use. And--I'll admit--I like fiddling with the pages while I read.

We are going to relax and recreate for a little while. I may even post less on the blog this month. Maybe.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

All Our Hope

"May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you" (from Psalm 33).
The people of Israel knew to place their hope in God. There has never been a human being whom God has not prompted again and again to the relationship of hope. In the vast ages before the coming of Christ, the prompting was for a promise destined to be fulfilled, and the human heart itself--drawn by God's mercy and love--spoke in hidden languages about a longing and a purpose that it did not understand.

Even today, so many hearts--surrounded by walls of ignorance, presuppositions, and misunderstanding--are still drawn by God to speak the secret language of hope.

The plea of the Psalm indicates the object of this hope for all time, and for every person who is seeking in the midst of impossible hindrances, who aspires to a destiny that calls him or her, but who does not know the way:

"May your love be upon us, O Lord...."

Jesus Christ is the love of the Lord who has come "upon us," for each one of us, for each person in the inner depths of his or her originality, and for the whole human race, called to gather together as God's people. Those of us who know His Name pray all the more vividly, "May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you." Come Lord Jesus, we trust in You. Lead each step of the way, and overcome whatever hinders us. Make us witnesses to Your mercy, so that those who search for a place to put their hope might discover that they have been made for You.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

I Believe In The Trinity

Someone recently asked me, "Why do you believe in the Trinity?" I probably could have given a better answer, but in reflecting upon what I said, I think its not entirely off the mark. This is basically what I said, with a few amplifications and additions.

The Trinity is a mystery of faith, and to adhere fully to the Triune God is the work of grace and the gifts of faith, hope, and charity. I believe because I have been given these gifts by the God who wills to save me and bring me to Himself.

This means that I believe in the Trinity because Jesus has loved me. He has revealed the Father's love. He has poured out into my soul the Holy Spirit who is Love. And still, God is One being. God is One, but not "solitary." God is Love. The revelation of God as Infinite Love corresponds to the deepest needs of my humanity, even as it introduces something new into my life, something that draws me to my true destiny, to the reason for which I was created. It is not something that I made up, or ever could have dreamed. It has been revealed in history, and given to me in my life.

I don't just believe in an "idea" about God, fashioned by any human religious ingenuity. I believe because of the fact that God revealed the mysterious truth about Himself, and because this revelation is handed down in the Scriptures and in the tradition of the Catholic Church. Jesus manifested through His life, His miracles, His teaching, and above all by His death and resurrection that He truly brings the definitive revelation from God. He established the Church to continue His presence among us. These singular events in history have the testimony of credible witnesses and/or those who knew them.

It is true that other religions claim to possess the ultimate revelation from God. But other religious leaders have not given any evidence that the God who transcends all things is truly speaking His definitive and final "word" through them. Some of them are human beings who propose to have found a solution to humanity's ardent questions about life's ultimate meaning. They teach some beautiful and remarkable things, but they still express the human search for God; not the Divine "answer." Others, as in the unique history of the people of Israel, are prophets who are given something of the revelation of God, but not its fullness. They themselves testify that the fulfillment is to come from someone after them.

Then there are others who found new religions, and write new scriptures of their own. But they offer no real evidence that they speak for God. They show no evidence that they or their "revelations" represent the transcendent God's intervention in history. God does not back up their claims with any manifestation of His Divine authority.

Some religious leaders claim that the words they have written prove themselves. Their "holy book" is a "miracle in itself," or else there are no witnesses to testify to its miraculous origins. But why do people believe such claims, which can never be verified in any way by reason? I could write a book and claim that it is God's revelation, and if I built strong armies I could force others to accept it as revelation. Or I could develop a slick marketing strategy that manipulates people's hopes, and thereby con them into believing it. But I cannot raise a man from the dead! I cannot do "the works of the Father." Jesus did the "works of the Father" because He came from the Father.

Jesus showed His "divine" credentials. There has never been a man in history like Him. He manifested in Himself the power, the wisdom, and the love of God. When He says, "I and the Father are one" and "I will send you the Spirit from the Father," I believe Him. He has proven in history that He is the One sent by God. No other religious leader has ever been like Him. No one has ever claimed such a divine identity and also performed divine actions with such spontaneity and mastery over nature and the human heart. No one has possessed such a truly miraculous, "out-of-this-world" stature. Other religious leaders sometimes claim that the Christian story of Jesus is "corrupted" and that they have the "real" story about Jesus. But where is the evidence? They make assertions, but they ignore the fact that the Christian event has solid historical testimony. Jesus Christ was (and is) a real man. And no matter how much skepticism is heaped upon Him by scholars, He remains intact, unimaginable, luminous, and compelling. He does more than simply "bring" God's revelation; He is, in Himself, the revelation of God.

And what does He reveal? He reveals that He is the Only Son of the Father, eternally united with Him in the Holy Spirit. He reveals that God is Love, and that God wants to give Himself to me. What reason could I have to say "no" to Infinite Love?

Praise the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, One God who is Love, now and forever. Amen!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Family Is An Ongoing Adventure

We had a happy celebration of John Paul's 15th birthday. He also celebrated the last day of school at Chelsea Academy, where he had an excellent freshman year of high school. We are very proud of him.

Fifteen years. It just doesn't seem possible. In my memory, I feel like I can just walk right into those days when he was born. I can close my eyes and practically inhabit that time, remembering the sights and sounds and smells: He was very late in coming. Eileen and I kept watching videos, and sitting on our old futon couch in the first house, waiting days and days for something to happen. We read our books (I was reading a Faulkner's Light in August, which I finished before he was born). We went out to Washington D.C. to the art museum, hoping that perhaps Beauty might encourage the kid to get moving (by then he was over a week late). We went to an Ethiopian restaurant in Georgetown, mainly because we loved the food, but also joking about our hope that the ancient wisdom and tangy spices of the descendents of King Solomon might be medicinal (Gosh! It's been fifteen years since we've been to an Ethiopian restaurant?? Now that just won't do at all!).

And then, finally, seeing him for the first time, crying and clenching his fists like a little boxer. It's all there in my memory, in a way that is more vital and supple than anything could be on any media device of human invention. It's internal to me, as are all the years that followed--years of being a father (a status that once seemed so strange and new, but that has become fundamental to my character as a human being).

These past fifteen years have been rich with experience and joy and suffering. John Paul has four sisters, Eileen and I have learned much about each other, and marriage, and that Jesus is worthy of our trust even in (especially in) the dark places. We have also learned that being a family is an ongoing adventure. As our kids move into adolescence, we feel like we're becoming parents again for the first time.

In a sense, John Paul is being "born" into adulthood in these years. His physical growth is obvious, but a more profound development is taking place in the soul, the mind, the heart--in his "self-awareness." We have done what we can so that John Paul could grow up knowing that he is loved. We have been far from perfect in this, and we can only trust in the mercy of God to bring good even out of our weakness.

And now we are doing our best to guide him, and to foster an environment in which he can begin to take the first steps of mature freedom.

Fr. Carron recently put it this way: "youth is the time of the You." It is the time for the person to discover that he or she belongs to Another, and to begin to hear the call of that Other. The great energy of freedom awakens to its dramatic possibilities.

For me as a father, it means learning new ways of being present for my child. It means a greater commitment to struggle against the sloth that continually creeps in and inclines me to treat my children as appendages of myself. It means growing in my own awareness of my dependence on the One who has given me this vocation. Day by day, I place my trust in His grace.