Friday, August 31, 2012


I'm sorry to say that I'm going to have to take a break from the blog for awhile. I'm going to have to really slow down and take it easy for the sake of my health.

Please pray for me.

God bless you all.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

More Than Conquerers

          Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
          Shall tribulation,
          or distress,
          or persecution,
          or famine,
          or nakedness,
          or peril,
          or sword?
          As it is written,
            "For thy sake we are being killed all the day long;
             we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
          No, in all these things we are more than conquerors
          through him who loved us.
          For I am sure that neither death, nor life,
          nor angels, nor principalities,
          nor things present, nor things to come,
          nor powers,
          nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
          will be able to separate us
          from the love of God
          in Christ Jesus our Lord.

          --Romans 8:35-39

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Hundredfold of St. Augustine

St. Augustine. There's no end to what we could say about him. There is one particular thing that has always fascinated me. St. Augustine is a radiant example of what Jesus calls "the hundredfold" (Mark 10:31).

Jesus says that if we follow Him, we will receive eternal life...but also, we will receive a hundredfold in this life (along with "persecutions"). He also says "seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added as well" (see Matthew 6:33).

What does Jesus mean? He does not mean the we should follow Him in order to get stuff in this life. That would be to reduce Jesus to our own measure. Jesus wants to transform us according to God's wisdom. He wants to give us a new mind and a new heart. He promises eternal life, which is the mystery toward which everything in this life points, and which is therefore the real meaning of everything in this life.

The Servant of God Msgr. Luigi Giussani often said something that resonates deeply in me, and corresponds to my own experience. He said that if you really follow Christ, you will also discover that you love your wife a hundred times more than you ever could have imagined; that you love your children a hundred times more, your work a hundred times more, your friends a hundred times more. You will discover the real greatness of this life, and you will even be able to embrace suffering.

There is a particular way in which St. Augustine's life indicates this pattern. Here was a man who aspired to be a great rhetorician, an artist with words. He pursued this ambition with relentless passion, but without understanding its true value. And then he found Christ, and he gave up all thought of being a rhetorician. He gave up the desire to be known for his speeches and writings and works in this world. He longed for Christ, followed Christ, and kept his heart fixed on Christ.

And from out of his singular passion for Christ--without even thinking about it, or caring, or noticing it--he wrote an amazing book. Desiring only to praise Christ, he wrote a book that was not only the greatest book of its epoch, but one of the greatest ever written in human history. He gave the world inimitable and unforgettable Latin prose, soaring and poetic diction, and timeless, soul-penetrating insight into the heart of the human being.

Aurelius Augustinus the rhetorician and scholar, had he followed his ambition, might have become a teacher with some following, or even perhaps a minor provincial statesman of his period. Students of late antiquity might have known his name. But Saint Augustine, by following Christ, became also a hundred times more in the history of this world. He wrote books that speak to every time and in every language, and he gave us words that ring out through the ages--words that rival any that have ever been uttered in human speech.

There is something of the hundredfold here, although it has been more for our benefit than for his.

"Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace" (Confessions X:27).

Monday, August 27, 2012

Here We Go Again?

Okay, it's time to say it: I'm not feeling well.

No, this is not the usual "ups and downs" I've been going through during this remission (which has lasted two years). No, it's not the flu either.

I know this disease. We're old friends. But, is this just a little bump? Or a flare-up? Or a relapse? I don't know. And, yes, I am worried. What can I do? Not much of anything, beyond what I already do.

I know there are always new ideas out there, and for some people they can help. But I've been to the whole circus. More than once. I've been on all the rides. And we've spent all of our money! Nothing has helped. My own little regimen, developed from experience, has worked better than anything (and its cheap too!)--so I'm gonna just ride this out.

First of all, I have to bring all of it, including my hopes, frustrations, fears, and even the anger and bitterness to Jesus, and give it to Him, and say "Jesus I trust in You. Have mercy on me!" I have to abandon myself to wherever He wants to lead me. Sometimes (really, most of the time) I have to pray, "Lord, give me the grace to want what you will for me."

Sometimes I don't want to pray. I don't feel like it. What I feel is something like, "Why did You create a universe, and then let the human race fall, and then throw me into this life with a brain and a body that don't work, and then just allow me to fail, fail, fail? What kind of a deal is this?"

I know, of course, that it's all about the mystery of the redemption, and the love of Jesus for the Father from the Cross which is greater than every sin, and is the deep truth about my own being and my suffering. There is a mystery here. It's transforming my life. But I am not always going to feel warm and fuzzy about it!

This is not a reason to get discouraged. Never give up! I must take this "feeling," this whole drag on my consciousness, and offer it to God. Somehow. Even if it's nothing more than the struggle to refuse to let discouragement take hold of my will. There is a mysterious kind of choice we can make in the midst of the most crushing desperation, which (I'm trying to describe it, but no terms are adequate) is to allow our being to keep praying. It's the choice not to snuff out that radical hope. Sometimes people (especially people with mental problems, which can make it impossible to think properly about anything) need to grab that place and just hold on.

Meanwhile, I can still write about these things, right here, for you. At a certain point, I wrote a book about all this (see the link on this blog). It's been going on for a long time, and it has drastically changed the life of my family, although I believe we have grown from it. But it's not easy. I'm sure your life is not easy either.

I think it builds solidarity when we share our sufferings with one another. One of the hardest things is that all suffering bears the taste of loneliness, of being misunderstood, abandoned, unloved. Jesus knows that "place" and He is with us there. He calls us to be there for one another.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I'm in a "Real" Magazine...Two Months in a Row!

Well, what do you know! The Meditation for the Day for August 27 in Magnificat is by...gosh!! Well, there it is. No matter how much I do on the internet, everyone (including me) still gets excited to see something in print. Perhaps printed books and magazines won't become obsolete. You can hold a book in your hand, according to its own real dimensions. You actually have the thing. Is it the sense of touch? The feel of pages? I don't know. I know that I love the internet and electronic media and electronic books and magazines, but I also love "real" books and magazines and even dumb, unwieldy, oversized, print-staining newspapers! Maybe its just the transition between epochs. Or maybe not.

In any case, here is a selection from the "meditation"--in case you don't get the magazine IRL ("In Real Life," hahaha). Although I must say, I feel more and more that the "IRL" tag is maybe a bit silly and misleading. The internet is very real indeed, and a lot of real life is played out on these electronic connections. Miracles even happen through the internet. Its not a problem for God. But He needs us to surrender all of our media, and all of our lives, to the mysterious workings of His wisdom and love.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, the meditation:

Jesus is the intimate companion of each and every human person, even those who do not know him. He knows each one of us; God the eternal Son of the Father unites himself to my humanity and to your humanity. He lives in us and suffers in us and through us. He accompanies us through our companionship with one another and reaches out to others through our witness. 
Jesus knows who I am and who he wills me to be. He knows the secret of why I was created. He knows my sins. He knows how to heal me of them, how to draw me to himself, how to make me the adopted son that I am meant to be in him for all eternity.
And so my joys and sufferings are his infinitely wise, uniquely crafted, and tender love through which he shapes my life and leads me to my destiny. How little I really understand about my destiny. How little I understand about the eternal life that means belonging to him for ever.
We must remember every day that God is with us and that He draws us toward our true identity, which is to reflect His eternal glory in that unique way that corresponds to each of us as a person created in His image and likeness—a reflection that we do not yet understand but that He sees and knows.
We ought to dwell upon this and call it frequently to mind. Those little prayers throughout the day are worth so much: “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I trust in you. Come, Holy Spirit.” No matter the storms and the fury; the depths of our lives are not solitude. At the heart of life, of every moment of life, there is companionship with the Merciful God.

Friday, August 24, 2012

How Can We Make The World Better?

We're all so worried about the world, about its evils and injustices. These are evil times, we say. People are full of selfishness and violence, and our political leaders are driven by destructive agendas.

It would not be realistic to deny any of these points. And indeed, we are all called to do what we can to build up the good, and to struggle against the evils that afflict our society, our communities, our families, and our own lives. There are many things we can do.

Here is something all of us can do: Pray the Rosary! Every day.

I'm not "getting pious" here (i.e. I'm not suggesting that "piety" is a substitute for grappling with human problems, or a pretext for hiding from them). We must engage the circumstances of our lives. But as Christians we should know that if we don't pray, we'll be neglecting the most important dimension of our circumstances...and our lives.

Pray the Rosary! Pray to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is something Our Lady of Fatima asked us to do. She often asks for simple things: "Build me a church...." "Make this medal...." "Say this prayer...."

"Yes," we reply, "but the Rosary is not simple. It's hard!"

Not really. It's not so hard. What's hard is to be confronted, day after day, with the smallness of our love. We always make a bad job of the Rosary, because we don't love God very much.

So let us ask the Lord, through His loving Mother, to give us the grace to love Him more, and the grace to say the Rosary better. That won't make us perfect tomorrow. But the daily Rosary will teach us to be humble and to be faithful, in one small thing. And thus we take little steps, with trust.

Let us entrust it to Mary's heart. Let us entrust everything to her, and through her, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I think Mary asked for the Rosary and devotion to her Immaculate Heart at Fatima because the New Evangelization is all about the faith becoming concrete. It's about the faith being recognized as reality, and adhered to with affection--because what we believe in is the Love of a Person.

Mary makes things concrete. The Rosary is a way of joining with Mary in the "pondering of her heart." If we pray it, we will grow. It is an extraordinary, healing, miracle-working prayer.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ten Years Ago: From An Old Book Of Mine

Ten years ago I began writing The Created Person and the Mystery of God, and it went through editing and finally publication a year later. I was glad to have a book that I could show people and say, "Here, this is the stuff I do." It was my schtick, my "song and dance" routine. "It is a youthful work of Janaro's early period," haha!

In many ways, the "routine" has changed. The words were larger then, and the perspective was, perhaps, smaller. I'm not sure I agree with everything that fellow wrote. Above all I think what I write now comes from a deeper place, and I even think I understand texts like this one better today than when I wrote them.

Perhaps getting knocked around a bit has done me some good after all. Still, many will probably think the writing sounds the same. As my kids say, "blah blah blah, blah blah blah!" But to be fair, there is much value in the truth expressed here. In any case, I hope that I have time to mature as a "thinker," because it appears that I'm going to need a lot of time.

The Mystery who gives man his being has drawn close to him, spoken to him, and become his companion within history. What we want to begin to understand is that this gift, this message, this continued presence of God in man’s history is an affirmation of the value of man himself; it corresponds to all that is most noble and beautiful in man, and it heals what is broken in him.
God addresses man His creature according to the fullness of the dignity of his humanity—God addresses man as man, as a person. Man therefore is not called to adhere to God in a way that contradicts his humanity; he adheres to God with the full richness of his nature and his capacities—that is to say, by a fully personal act—an act that fully engages his reason and his freedom; an act that does justice to his reason and emerges from the depths of his freedom; an act of knowledge and love.
--from The Created Person and the Mystery of God by John Janaro (Click Here)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Happy, Happy: So What Does It Mean?

Happy is not sappy.

Like so many other words that relate to the human being, "happiness" has been twisted, degraded, and used to fool people. It is not the solipsistic state of being pleased with one's self. Nor is it the temporary (and merely apparent) satisfaction of human impulses. Nor is it even the exaltation of any kind of earthly success. None of these things last. And we all know that happiness is meant to last. Forever.

In this passing world, we may call a person truly happy if they have found the beginning of happiness, if somewhere in the midst of all their human incoherence, the flower of joy has taken root and sprung a shoot inside the soul. In this world, true happiness always remains a goal. But it begins within us and sustains us--sometimes in mysterious ways--as we travel the arduous road to its final destination. The name for happiness in this life is hope.

Following up on yesterday's post, here are the words of a happy man, who makes reference in this little piece of text to another happy man (a man who taught thousands of people--including me--how to follow the One who makes us happy):

Thus do we discover the truest dimension of human existence, that to which the Servant of God Luigi Giussani continually referred: life as vocation. Everything, every relationship, every joy, as well as every difficulty, finds its ultimate meaning in being an opportunity for a relationship with the Infinite, a voice of God that continually calls to us and invites us to lift our gaze, to find the complete fulfillment of our humanity in belonging to Him....
The Lord...calls everyone to recognize the essence of our own nature as human beings: we are made for the Infinite. And God has our happiness at heart, and our complete human fulfillment.
Benedict XVI (August 20, 2012) 

Monday, August 20, 2012

What Does Religion Have To Do With Being Happy?

Often when we witness to our faith today, the problem people have is not so much what we believe, but rather why any of it at all should be considered vital and important by a human being.

Our society has room for religious views of all kinds, as long as they remain on the level of abstract theories about things, or irrelevant musings about "what's behind it all." Even many Catholics hold their faith in this way, as a kind of "background" explanation that only needs occasional contact with the real interests of life.

There is a dislocation in our secular culture. Having pushed God to the margins of reality, we have lost the awareness of the fundamentally religious character of human existence.

Religion is not just one part of life; it is the deepest dimension of everything in life. It is much more than an organization, rituals, and a set of ideas to which one nominally adheres. It goes right to the core of the question of the meaning of life in the concrete sense, i.e. the meaning of everything that we actually do in our daily life. 

Why do I get up in the morning? Okay, I have to work, or feed the kids, or whatever. Why? Why work? Why have a family?

At first these may appear to be stupid questions with obvious answers. "I work to get money, you dope!" Why do I need money? "Because I need food and stuff...." Why? "Because I want to have a decent life, a good life, I want to be satisfied, I want to be...." At a certain point, this questioning will lead me to dig up something deep inside me, something that is so close to my soul that at first it might seem like the easiest thing in the world to understand. It is as close to me as the roots of my desires and interests, and so when I assign a word to it, I might think that I know exactly what I'm talking about.

"I want to be HAPPY!!!"

But what is "happiness"? We know that this is what we really want. But what is it? This is not an abstract philosophical question. It's a question about why I got out of bed this morning.

We live in a culture that claims that the "real world" is confined to its material elements, and that the ultimate arbiter of rational human interest is empirical science. Everything that appears to be outside of these confines belongs to the realm of dreams or delusions, or at best to the unknowable and inaccessible (and therefore irrelevant to the serious business of life).

In this context, the question "what is happiness?" becomes almost subversive. The need for happiness, if we confront it truly, will take us beyond this world, beyond everything, toward an Infinite Mystery which is the only reality that truly corresponds to our hearts. It is a religious question, and human cultures throughout history--regardless of how they have attempted to answer it--have always recognized its religious nature.

But if we really believe that there is nothing significant beyond this world, then the need for happiness is desperate, unsettling, even pathological.

It is therefore something to be suppressed. We must not ask this question. We must distract ourselves from it, even though it permeates our being. We must live our lives on the shallow surface of every experience.

The truly religious person, however, is someone who is at least seeking the answer. And the Christian claims that the Answer has come into the world, and is seeking us.

This is a basic reason why our Christian faith doesn't make any sense to people. This is why people can't understand why it matters to us. Indeed, this is why many of us don't understand the place of faith in our own lives.

We have been conditioned to evade ourselves, to suffocate our hearts, to flee from the deep cry within us that cannot be satisfied by anything in this finite world. And this evasion has become a forgetfulness. We have cheapened and falsified all the terms associated with the question of happiness: love, justice, goodness, truth, beauty, freedom. We no longer remember how to ask the question.

No wonder the Christian proposal makes no sense. Fr. Giussani often quotes Reinhold Niebuhr's insight: nothing is more incomprehensible than the answer to a question that has never been asked.

There is, of course, still another possibility. There is the possibility of meeting some real people who have actually begun to be happy. The human person might wake up, remember their heart, and discover that they have been controlled by lies.

Nothing is more subversive to the dominant powers of this world than happy people.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mary: At the Center of the Whole Human Race

Mary, the Mother of God, shapes the Christian identity of the believer and the vocation of every human person. For every human person without exception has been created to know and love Jesus Christ, and in Christ to share forever in God’s very own life of Ineffable Love. Mary, indeed, is at the center of what it means to be a Christian, which means that she is also the center of the whole human race. In accordance with the mystery of God’s magnificent, gratuitous plan of love, she brought forth into the world and continues to bring into our lives the One who concretely constitutes the true meaning of our humanity.

By cooperating with her whole being, her whole affections, her whole heart and her whole will, Mary brought into the world the only One who can give meaning to the universe. For from the beginning, the universe has been destined to be transformed by God's gift of Himself. God created the universe and everywhere permeated it with a mysterious impetus corresponding to the design of His Love. And in the beginning, the human being was created to be a tupos, a sign, of the-One-who-was-to-come, the One who will bring all things into unity and fulfillment in Himself.

Here and now, Mary brings to me the only One who knows the profound mystery of who I am; the One who knows, from within its very source, the gesture of Divine Love that created me, and that calls me to eternal life, to a participation in His Glory.

Friday, August 17, 2012

He Draws Us Through Her Heart

Jesus draws close to us through the tender-
ness of the loving heart of His mother Mary, and draws us to share in His joy and peace, even in the midst of suffering.

If we ask God for His peace, it is because He has already begun to work within us.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Totally Involved By Him

The center of existence,
which is what gives meaning
and certain hope
in the all too often difficult journey of life,
is faith in Jesus,
it is the encounter with Christ....
It is not a matter here
of following an idea or a project,
but of encountering Jesus
as a living Person,
of letting ourselves be totally involved
by Him and by His Gospel.

Benedict XVI

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Clothed With The Sun

We know that Mary has been assumed body and soul into heaven. She sent us a picture!

Indeed, it's more than a picture. We are so familiar with reproductions and even color photographs of this "picture" that we are in danger of growing accustomed to it. But the original is unique.

We all know that the "tilma" has been the object of many scientific studies. They can't explain it. They know it's not a painting. Indeed there is no known human technique for making an image like this. Studies have concluded that the colors and patterns of the image are on the tilma in the way that color and design are on the wings of a moth.

In other words, they are like something natural. There is no sign of human artifice. At the same time, no one can explain how the image actually "interacts" with the cloth. To put it simply: it's not like anything we know.

And then there are the eyes....

I like the story of a Japanese optic specialist who came to Mexico to study the eyes of the image with the latest technology. According to the story, he was making his examinations through his scope when, suddenly, he fainted to the ground. When he regained consciousness, people wanted to know what happened, and he said:

"She was looking at me!"

As a pilgrim (three times) to this amazing place, my response is, "Of course she was looking at you."

During this beautiful period between the feast of the Assumption and the feast of the Queenship of Mary (August 22), I cannot help but recall the precious time that I have spent with her.

The Virgin of Guadalupe, Mother of the Lord of heaven and earth, Our Merciful Mother...she lives there. People who seek her, with attention and faith and patience, will find her, and will be changed by her personal presence.

Moreover, quite of few distracted or merely curious people will be surprised by a tap on the shoulder, and an encounter with a person who knows them, and looks at them with a profound tenderness. It makes them forget any other reasons they had had for coming. And they find themselves being loved, and healed, and gently corrected and set upon the right path. So many people speak of these experiences that it must be more than a collective delusion.

"Here, I will give all of my love...." This is the promise she made to Juan Diego.

Mary lives with her whole humanity, body and soul, in the New Creation. And in some mysterious way, her glory radiates from her resurrected life, and touches this earthly place and this inexplicable image, so that she might be "there" for us, to meet us, and to become a personal presence in our lives.


P.S. - I neglected to mention the extensive temperature studies that have been done on the cloth. Regardless of the temperature outside, the cloth and its image have always maintained the same temperature. It always measures 98.6 degrees. Fahrenheit. Yup!

People, this is for real!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Hero, A Young Man, and An Old Poem

St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Catholic priest, took another prisoner's place in the starvation bunker at Auschwitz, where he died on August 14, 1941. As he stepped forward from the line up, he spoke clearly to the camp officer, "I am a Catholic priest. I will take that man's place."

This is a poem that I wrote 23 years ago today.

August 14th

I am the guardian
of the flesh and blood that I command.
I stand
from world's edge to windowless walls,
the quarry-block place markers
around my becoming-all-things.
I am a mother's graceful, sweet breath
like fine, penetrating mist
against your broken, burned skin.
I am the witness
stepping out of place
beyond the trembling assembly
of bony finger-clutched this-moment,
toward the timeless returning unto dust of you
and you
and you.

step forward...
                           ...out of place
for I am
your sacrifice.

--August 14, 1989

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Olympics: What Did They Show Us?

The Olympics are over.

Here in the U.S.A., it was fun to get up in the morning and turn on the television to watch people from all over the world compete in a wide variety of sports.

The girls, of course, were especially captivated by the gymnastics. For a few weeks we may have several amateur gymnasts romping around the house, adapting the furniture to their routines. After the 2008 Olympics, Lucia turned the couch into a trampoline (they're not supposed to jump on the couch!) and almost went flying through the front window, shattering completely one of the glass panes (no one was hurt, thank God).

Of course, we also enjoyed the swimming, the diving (everybody loves synchronized diving), the sprints and the distance runners, the field events, archery, some of the more unfamiliar sports like water polo and handball, as well as the standards like volleyball, basketball, tennis, etc. (there was no baseball this time, which is a crime that must be rectified).

But the highlight of the entire Olympics, for our family, was (of course) Team U.S.A.'s gold medal in Women's Soccer. After last year's epic World Cup, with all its heroics and the brave but heartbreaking loss to Japan in the final (see last year's blog), we were ready to see "our girls" take the pitch once again.

They seemed like old friends: Abby and Hope and Alex and Carli and Meghan and everyone. And they did it again. With grit, relentless energy, and their never-give-up team spirit, they thrilled us, amazed us, and put us through the agonizing suspense of close matches and dramatic finales. And then, finally, they won the gold. Our American women were champions!

And they really were...indeed all the many participants in the various sports, within their defined courts or fields, gave a display of excellence, and those who won showed us what it means to be the best. In our rejoicing in victory or our sorrow in defeat, we could not help acknowledging that "goodness" is objective and real, and that human beings strive to attain it.

We cheer our athletes, who build something beautiful and awesome by the arduous work of developing their talents, strength, and skill. This requires intense training, total focus and dedication, and lots and lots of sacrifice. Here, people in our culture today can clearly see the value of submitting to an objective discipline. People see the value of sacrifice. They are stirred to the experience of a kind of wonder.

But things of deeper beauty are not so evident. People don't see these things, and so they don't even understand why they are worthy of seeking, of effort, of sacrifice.

It is here that we must aspire to be champions. We must take the "field" of each day, and keep working hard and making sacrifices in order to live lives of deep beauty, so as to make truth and love shine in the world.

Friday, August 10, 2012

I've Been a Christian For Years, But I'm Still So Selfish!!!

These days (when I'm not just goofing off and enjoying the summer with Eileen and the kids), I am working on the task of shaping certain themes from the reflections that have appeared on this site into into a more substantial and editorially polished presentation (i.e. a "book"). I am getting a good sense of the topics that I have developed consistently here over the past year and a half, and I have outlined various possible projects.

One theme that appears frequently in my meditations, and that manifests itself again and again in so many anecdotes from ordinary life, is the fundamental Christian vocation to charity.

I've written quite a bit about my experience of the struggle to love in a true, Christian way. It is the experience of being "converted" (slowly) from the tendency of selfishness to the cultivated dispositions of sincere self-giving. I feel very strongly my own need to be converted more fully, to be healed from a way of "loving" that is stunted by the ambivalence of my wounded humanity, by the reduction of persons to things, by the craving to amplify and assert my distorted perceptions of myself and others.

As I reflect on my own life, I discover many areas that are still formed by this kind of disoriented self-love, this selfish, grasping appetite that strives to subject reality and persons to my urges and impulses. But Christian life is a path of conversion from an egocentric posture to an ever deepening habit of authentic charity--an attitude of mind and heart that truly loves other persons for who they are, and for how Jesus makes Himself present to me through their own personal uniqueness.

I am working on developing this theme into a book.

Titles always develop and change, but my working title for this book is something like Learning to Love, or perhaps something eye-grabbing (?) like Why Am I Still So Selfish? The book is drawing together my reflections on life as a process of learning to give myself truly in love. The foundation of this life is the conviction and the ever deepening awareness that I am loved by Jesus. This awareness begins to free me from self-absorption and immaturity, and empowers me to give myself more and more profoundly to Jesus.

My Christian vocation takes concrete shape in Christ's call of love, addressed to me in daily life, in my family, in work and social environments, and on the internet too. And Jesus shapes my life in such a way as to draw me along the path of loving Him and loving others. My sufferings, too, are part of this particular plan of healing and transforming love that Jesus has for me as a unique person, whom He embraces in His infinite wisdom.

This book, however, is not meant to be an academic exercise. I am illustrating this theme with reflections on my own experience (many of which have been drafted on this blog), and also anecdotes from ordinary life, especially family life. In these circumstances the need to grow in love is especially evident.

In answering the call of the vocation to charity, we must have great trust in Jesus, for without Him we can do nothing. But He is with us, working in our lives and teaching us through His Spirit how to grow in genuine self-giving love. We must not become discouraged by our persistent imperfections and selfishness, but continue to work toward cooperating with God's grace and growing in love.

Blessed John Paul II speaks of the Christian life as an ongoing conversion, a work-in-progress through which God's love is integrated into every aspect of our lives, bringing personal and social healing and transformation:
"What is needed is a continuous, permanent conversion which, while requiring an interior detachment from every evil and an adherence to good in its fullness, is brought about concretely in steps which lead us ever forward. Thus a dynamic process develops, one which advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demands of His definitive and absolute love in the entire personal and social life of man. Therefore an educational growth process is necessary, in order that individual believers, families and peoples, even civilization itself, by beginning from what they have already received of the mystery of Christ, may patiently be led forward, arriving at a richer understanding and a fuller integration of this mystery in their lives" (Familiaris Consortio, 9).
I hope to finish drafting a book proposal soon, and I'll keep everyone posted on how this project develops.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Edith Stein: "Fill My Soul With Holy Joy"

Today the Roman calendar observes the memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, known in the world as Edith Stein. Hers is a great story, from her Jewish roots, through atheism, to the search for truth in philosophy, to conversion to Christ in the Catholic Church, to teaching and advocating the dignity and vocation of women, to the cloister of Carmel where she continued to write philosophical and spiritual works, and finally to Auschwitz where she gave her life.

Edith Stein should be a special saint and helper for all who are searching for the truth. She knows what it means to search, and to find. I came across this prayer last year on the social networks. I don’t know where it comes from in her writings, but it expresses so poignantly her relationship with God. It is a prayer for any person who is seeking the truth, and for anyone traveling the path of life:

O my God, fill my soul with holy joy, courage and strength to serve You. Enkindle Your love in me and then walk with me along the next stretch of road before me. I do not see very far ahead, but when I have arrived where the horizon now closes down, a new prospect will open before me, and I shall meet it with peace.

Monday, August 6, 2012

We Will Be White With Fire

          The Transfiguration
          brings the hope of glory
          to our poor human bodies.
          We must never hate ourselves
          over any physical imperfection,
          or any mark of affliction
          borne upon the body.
          We must not be anxious
          for the young brief beauty
          that passes away.
          It is our very own flesh
          that has been loved,
          and that is destined to shine,
          white with the brightness
          of Love's fire.
          Let us be good to ourselves,
          and to one another, for we are loved
          and we are wanted...forever.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Beauty of the Edifice

The feast day of the unforgettable Cure of Ars brings to mind many stories about the humble and extraordinary parish priest. I have always been especially touched by the remarkable and perhaps unlikely friendship between St. John Vianney and another great French priest - who is not a saint (not yet, at least) but who was the great pioneer who helped bring about the restoration of religious life in post-revolutionary France, Fr. Henri Lacordaire, O.P.

Sometimes called "the French Newman," Lacordaire refounded the Dominican order in France, and dedicated himself to a vigorous and erudite apologia for the Catholic faith in his famous discourses given at Notre Dame to crowds of believers and unbelievers alike. He was the towering Catholic figure in the midst of the positivistic French intelligentsia of his time, and he lit the spark that began the Catholic intellectual, literary, and cultural revival of France in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Lacordaire's talents and education, however, were accompanied by a genuine humility and a devotion to the Church, and in Vianney he saw one of the saints that he knew the Church in France so desperately needed in his time. The Cure, in turn, recognized the value of great Dominican's brilliant preaching.

When it was remarked that Lacordaire's conferences had produced few conversions, St. John Vianney spoke up on behalf of his friend. Lacordaire's work with skeptics and unbelievers was important nonetheless, said the Cure, because "we must make them admire the beauty of the edifice before inspiring them with the desire to enter."

Friday, August 3, 2012

Jesus Can Change Me

Recently I posted a rather simple prayer on various media. It expresses the place where I so often find myself in front of God's wisdom and goodness--that is, in those unusual moments when I remember Him at all. When I am roused from the sleep of my daily illusions, I become aware of my great poverty. I am drawn toward God like a beggar, but full of hope:

Dear Jesus,
give me the grace
to want to do Your will!
Change me, Lord!
Change my heart.
Make me the person You will me to be.

After I posted this, I came upon the words of Pope Benedict XVI in his catechesis on the feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori. Indeed, we are called pray with in this way, and with confidence and trust. Here are some of Benedict's words:

We must always knock at the Lord's door with trust, knowing that in all things He takes care of His children, of us. We are invited, therefore, not to be afraid of turning to Him and of presenting our requests to Him with trust, in the certainty of obtaining what we need....
More than anything else, we need [Christ's] liberating presence, which truly makes our lives fully human and therefore full of joy. And it is only through prayer that we are able to welcome Him and His grace, which by enlightening us in each situation, enables us to discern the true good, and by strengthening us, makes our will effective; that is, it enables it to do the good that is known. Often we recognize the good, but we are unable to do it. Through prayer, we arrive at the point of being able to carry it out.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August Begins

Look, it's a new graphic.

I'm getting lazy this summer. Actually I've been busy with many things. Busy. Is that good? I think so. At least it means that I have some energy, although it feels like nervous energy. Nerves...there's nothing to be done with them!

I have, in fact, been writing scraps of this and that in the theological realm. But these things grow slowly, with time and attention, like trees in a garden. I am pruning and watering the ground, and hoping for fruit.

But I don't want to neglect the blog. So here is (part of) the post from one year ago, August 1, 2011. I could have written the same thing today. The human person also grows slowly....

This might seem strange, but I often go back to these posts and learn something from them, or remember something that I had forgotten. In desperate moments, I am reminded of the mercy and love of Jesus, and that He is worthy of my confidence. I see again how He has been working in my life, and surrounding me with signs of His tender care. I am frequently tempted to doubt. These pages have sustained me in the face of those temptations.
It's like having a diary (with a bit of scrapbook too), a diary that I show to everyone else. That's okay with me. I'm an open person, open to a fault. I'm one of those people who actually answers the question, "How are you?" I don't have many secrets; only the ones that I don't even tell myself. So of course there's some fibbing in these pages, but there would be in a locked and bolted diary book too, because we all lie to ourselves.
I know this: God is at work, in me, in our marriage, in our family, in these gestures and attempts to communicate. There are flaws everywhere. It all seems tinged by my faults and my self-centeredness, and especially by my vanity. There is vanity in my reflections and actions and especially in my words. Less, perhaps, than there used to be--I am learning a little more about how to let things go, if only because I am getting older and I just can't fool myself quite as well as I managed to do in the dreams of youth.
Of course, there are no doubt as yet undiscovered realms of foolishness in this, the sophomoric period of my middle age. I still hope to be recognized and acknowledged, and I'm still frustrated because my brilliant words do not get enough attention. Yet that is not the whole explanation for why I write.
To paraphrase Fr. Carron, the point is not that I can talk about Christ being present in my life. The point is that He is present in my life. That is the difference. I probably talk about it too much. But in the midst of all these words there is testimony to the fact that He is here.
That is what really matters.