Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter Sunday!

Happy Easter from the Janaro family.

We had to take the picture inside because it was too cold out today! Its windy, rainy, and there are only a few brave buds on the trees. I think it may have been warmer on Christmas. But it doesn't matter. Its still Easter. I thank God for this family. We thank God for one another.

Easter Sunday. At the heart of every life, and of all reality, there is a miracle. Love really does win, in the end. We can be free, forever.

Beyond all our dreams, something actually happened.

Mors et vita duello
conflixere mirando:
dux vitae mortuus,
regnat vivus.

Death and life have contended
in that combat stupendous:
the Prince of life, who died,
reigns immortal.

Jesus Christ is Risen, alleluia.
He is Risen indeed, alleluia, alleluia.

May He give you all abundant joy, and a hope that cannot be defeated. God bless you!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Holy Saturday 2013

Where are you, Jesus?
I can't see you.
It has all been accomplished.
I know that.
Tomorrow is the great Feast.

Why am I still searching for you?
Is this the greatest pain: wanting?
Why do I still "want"?
I want, I want, I want,
its not enough, its not enough.

I know you,
so why am I still looking for you?

Living, and not being finished, is exhausting.

I believe,
I have seen something....
A glimpse that just makes me want more,
makes me expect more from everything.
And I can't control it.

I am dying of this thirst.
And then there is a lance in my heart
that is turning desire into compassion,
and I don't want anyone to be left alone.
I don't want anyone to be left alone.
Is this the greatest pain?

I must leave my room
and run
and search for the dead.

Now I see you!
I see you
and you show me the wounds,
and they are shining.
And you tell me not to be afraid.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Hour Has Come

Jesus answered them,
"The hour has come
for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Very truly, I tell you,
unless a grain of wheat
falls into the earth and dies,
it remains alone;
but if it dies, it bears much fruit."

"Now is the judgment of this world;
now the ruler of this world
will be driven out.
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth,
will draw all things to myself."

John 12:23-24; 31-32 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

This Tremendous Mystery

The Eucharist is Jesus Himself. In this sacrament, He is really, substantially present. This tremendous mystery—His crucified, risen, and glorified body and blood in His once for all infinitely loving offering of Himself—made present every day by His sacred ministers ordained to act as His instruments, ministers who remain men with personalities and struggles and flaws and who need love just like everyone else.

The Lord of the Universe, Mighty God, Prince of Peace; His body, blood, soul, and Divinity are really present in the Eucharist. I can visit Him in any Catholic church. I can, even here in my home, turn to Him inwardly and focus my heart on that concrete Presence, offer Him my love and adoration, and pour out my sorrows to Him. And I can receive Him, my food and drink, my sustenance, in holy communion; thus He nourishes me and draws me into His life.

Some Christians find it hard to bear the “physicality” of the mystery of the Eucharist. But we believe that the Infinite, Eternal God became man and gave us His body and blood on the Cross, so why should we shy away from the Eucharist? After all, it was His idea, not ours: “Take this, all of you and eat, this is my body.” “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” Those are His words, mysterious but wonderful. They are embraced as He is embraced, with an abandonment of ourselves and our own limited mentality; our own calculations of what is possible and what is not possible for God. Only thus can our human hearts expand to participate in the life of the God who is Love.

--from Never Give Up: My Life and God's Mercy by John Janaro (Servant, 2010).
Click the link to learn more about this book!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Oops...forgot about that one, again!

One way to measure one's lack of progress in Christian and human maturity is to keep a blog. Blogs allow one to look back at the past and see that not much has changed. Here is a post of mine from Holy Week, two years ago. I could have written the same thing about this Lent. The same forgetfulness about something I should be seeking all the time. Still, there is sorrow, and the desire to remember, not just during Lent, but all the time. And so I make this sorrow and desire my prayer to Jesus. Here is the text:

So, how was my Lent? Kinda shabby as usual.
I prayed more. I ate less. I gave up a couple of things I like. Then what was that other resolution? To make an effort to be kind to the members of my family. Hmm. I sort of forgot about that one. Not that I was mean to my family. Okay, I barked a few times at whining children. Mostly I was nice, though. I'm a nice guy.
But that wasn't the point of the resolution. Be Kind. It's a very concrete resolution. It means more attention, more readiness to do good to them, more cheerfulness in the little stuff. "Make an effort" doesn't necessarily require success, but it does try, sometimes.
I don't think I tried much at all. I think I pretty much forgot all about it.
Kindness is something different from just "being nice." One can build a wall between one's self and another person by being nice. Although it doesn't have to, "being nice" can degenerate into a way of pretending to be involved in another person's life. One can use "niceness" as a way of touching another person superficially so as to distract one's self and the other from the need for a deeper engagement.
Kindness implies involvement with another person. Kindness is a gift of one's self, in a gentle and simple way, which seeks to affirm the goodness of the other person and make him or her aware of that goodness. Kindness is companionship with the other person in simple words and gestures. Often, kindness is refraining from the assumed familiarity that tends to absorb the other person into the environment of "things" that need to be manipulated for one's own purposes. It means refraining from being sarcastic, curt, bossy, or dismissive.
In families, it's easy to forget courtesy. It's easy to just push one another around. It's easy to forget that one's spouse and children are something more than mobile furniture in the house. It's especially easy for the husband and father to fall into this rut.
Intent on my own (important) purposes, I blow through the house, into the kitchen where I practically run over my wife. "Excuse me," I say (nicely), but at that moment she is just an object in my way. Then there are so many impatient utterances: "I'm in the bathroom!" - "Put that thing away!" - "Get out of there!" - "Clean up this mess!" I'm not the only one who speaks this way. We all do it to each other.
Then there are the countless opportunities to show attention and concern that just pass by, because I am too busy, too self-absorbed, or just don't feel like bothering. Love is diminished.
Okay, I don't want to beat this to death. After all, we are a normal family. We love each other very much, and we are often kind to one another. But, of course, we need more kindness. We need more generosity of spirit toward one another, more affirmation, more gentleness, more attention. Lent is a time to remember this need. It was a simple resolution.
But, for the most part, I forgot.
Jesus was kind to those who crucified Him. He prayed that they might be forgiven. "Love is patient, love is kind...." Simple, authentic kindness. It seems like a little virtue, but in the end it is a form of mercy.
I have a few days left. As we commemorate the gift of Christ's love for the whole world, and as we strive to love Him and to imitate Him, and to receive His mercy, I pray for the grace to remember, even once, to make an effort to be kind to the people in my life that I love most and so easily take for granted.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Oscar Romero: Stop the Repression...of Any Human Life!

The Servant of God Oscar Romero
On the evening of March 24, 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero was shot and killed as he began the offertory of the Mass in the chapel of Divine Providence hospital in San Salvador. For three years he had preached fearlessly against the growing violence in his archdiocese and in his homeland of El Salvador.

There is a bravery about the basic story line of Romero that is deeply inspiring, that resonates powerfully in the human soul. In the years after his death his heroic image has been used to promote all sorts of political agendas. He is widely admired in the affluent secularized Western culture, which nevertheless keeps his true figure at a safe distance. But the poor still love him, and have an instinctive sense of the real value of his life.

Oscar Romero always said that his desire was to do God's will in the particular circumstances that had been entrusted to him. He wanted to follow Christ. He was a Catholic bishop immersed in what was the beginning of a long and horrible civil war. He was a Latin American bishop. His lifelong commitment was to be faithful to Christ and to the Church. He defended the dignity of every human person, not simply for the sake of "civil rights" or as the leader of an NGO, but because he loved Jesus Christ.

He served the poor and the defenseless, recognizing that Jesus gives transcendent value to every effort to relieve suffering and render the conditions of life more human, even as He transforms from within the inescapable suffering that must be borne. In loving the poor Romero loved Jesus, incarnate, God made man at the center of history, Jesus living, transfigured, crucified and risen forever.

He truly loved human dignity and fought for real justice against real forces of evil, and it was precisely his recognition of Christ's humanity that empowered him to do so. It was not his own courage, or his sentiments, or his ideology. It was Christ. This is why he could hear the voice of Christ in the cries of his people and in the teaching authority of the Church to which he adhered with unwavering fidelity.

It is also what made him prophetic. For those who want to listen, his voice speaks with consistency about all kinds of human repression. Romero had a clear and simple vision, because it was the Church's vision, which sees that the commitment to real social justice and the defense of the preciousness of human life cannot be separated.

He remains relevant for post-modern Latin America, where the dictators of old are gone but the dictatorship of relativism is growing stronger. He remains relevant for bishops in Latin America and throughout the world, who are still called to defend with their very lives the dignity of every human person, created by God, redeemed by Christ, and destined to be transfigured by His glory.

In this 33rd anniversary of his heroic death, I want to present a few texts of Archbishop Romero. The final text is familiar (along with so much of his great testimony), but the others are not so well known. But they too are the words of a courageous man of faith, a man of the Church, and a man who really loved his people.

I. Notes from the day of his priestly ordination, April 4, 1942:

Yes, Christ!
By your Sacred Heart
I promise to give myself entirely for your glory ...
I want to die this way:
in the middle of work,
fatigued by the journey
 tired and weary ...
I will recall your toils
and they will be the price of redemption.

II. Life, Marriage, and Family:

One of evils of public life in El Salvador was the "discreditable propaganda for, and imposition of, anti-birth policies that are practically castrating our people and are undermining their reserves of morality" (Fourth Pastoral Letter, 1979 #19).
From a sermon: "As one medical student said and, forgive me for saying this: they are castrating our people. There is massive sterilization of women and men. Contraception materials are freely and shamelessly distributed with no fear of punishment. I implore you to reflect seriously on this matter because the source of life is as sacred as life itself and the relationship between woman and man, sanctified in matrimony, has a dual objective: to love one another and to enter into full and complete intimacy with one another not only for pleasure but also for procreation. Therefore the principle of the Church states that every conjugal act has to remain open to life and anything that disrupts life at its very source is a sin against nature" (Sermon, June 17, 1979).
Regarding abortion: "My sisters and brothers, this is a crime. If we experience repression when young women and men as well as adults are killed, then the same must also occur when life is removed from the womb of a woman. The life that is destroyed in a woman’s womb is the same that occurs when a person is assassinated or when the Minister of Education is assassinated. When the child is aborted from the mother’s womb, that child is also assassinated [emphasis mine]. If life is deprived of coming into existence because one is simply seeking pleasure, then this is also an assault on nature" (Sermon, June 17, 1979).

III. Stop the Repression:

A direct appeal to the military and the police: "No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. It is high time you recovered your consciences and obeyed your consciences rather than a sinful order. The Church, the defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, of the person, cannot remain silent before such an abomination. We want the government to face the fact that reforms are valueless if they are to be carried out at the cost of so much blood. In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression" (Homily, March 23, 1980).

The following evening, on the Vigil of the Feast of the Annunciation, a single bullet pierced his heart as he began the offertory prayer of the Mass. His journals and other evidence show clearly that he had offered his life to Christ, although he considered himself unworthy of it. But he died as he had prayed from the beginning, as a priest:

I want to die this way:
in the middle of work.... 

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Jesus says, “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” And in this passage, the word “life” implies the whole of one’s “self,” one’s very person insofar as one feels a satisfaction in mere self-possession.

Why does God require this of us? There is always some part of us that feels that this is just asking too much. I don't even know what it means to "lose myself."

But this is not simply a moral exhortation that Jesus pronounces. Indeed, it is crucial for us to realize that this is not an external mandate that is merely imposed upon us.

It is not as if we could have been happy as human persons by living a life of rational and courteous self-interest, if only the omnipotent God had not decreed this alien and seemingly unnatural requirement of total self-sacrifice as a “condition” for earning some future happiness.

At some level, I am continually tempted to view it in this way. God wants "all of me" but I don't want to give "all of me...yet." This is where the bargaining starts. I want to find some way to give God "enough" for the day so that I can just keep the rest of myself and seek the things I want.

I am afraid to abandon myself completely to God, because I don't trust Him enough. But life is a school in self-abandonment, and God teaches us by His grace to give ourselves. It is original sin, and our own sins, that cause us to fear “losing” ourselves and to perceive this as a suffering that diminishes us.

God teaches us that the need to "lose ourselves" is not an external, imposed command of some capricious omnipotence. Rather, it is at the very heart of what it means "to exist," because existing is a participation in the mystery of Infinite Love.

What we must begin to learn is that “going beyond ourselves” and becoming, continually, a self-gift is the only way that we can truly exist as persons. Persons are created to exist in relationship. Our spiritual intelligence and freedom are the capacities to adhere to reality and “go out of ourselves” in the affirmation of our relation to reality, and in free, loving communion with other persons and God. We lose ourselves, we give ourselves away...not to oppression and slavery, but to the mystery of love, of a fulfillment of existing.

This is “life”!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How is it Possible to Live This Way?

I found some words in the archives of this blog, in March of 2012. They were taken from a reflection posted in March of 2011. Now, I am moved to present them again, with numerous revisions in the continuing search for greater clarity. Behind these words are many particular stories, and they continue to happen in new ways. But this is still true, even as these friendships continue and new friendships are born.

Indeed, this is what has opened my life to the world, engendering in me a surprising courage and a greater openness to all kinds of people. I know that this life that has been given to me is worth sharing. This is why I am online, pouring out my reflections and my sufferings and my struggle with temptations to discouragement. I hope, in the midst of all of this stuff, that you might catch a glimpse of the Pearl of Great Price.

I did not begin to take Jesus Christ seriously in my life because I had a mystical vision, or some kind of paranormal experience. I discovered, in a new way, that Christ was real when I met a group of friends who really followed Him, and who also lived life with exuberance, vitality, interest, freedom, and joy.
I met people who were able to be themselves without constraint, who were glad to be alive, who were ready to give and sacrifice themselves and also to have fun, whenever having fun was the appropriate way to respond to the reality at hand. And it is often appropriate, because real human life is full of so much that is ironic, so much that is beyond our control, unexpected, petty, burdensome, so much that is a little bit ridiculous.
In front of real human life, some people are cynical, while others are distracted, detached, or sad. The miracle in front of real human life is cheerfulness, an innocent spirit that is not dislodged by life because it knows the place of everything. It is a playful wisdom. It is joy. It is more than resilient in the face of suffering; it reaches out to others with tenderness; it endures great pain and sorrow with an intrepid patience, with a radiant hope.
I met some people. They were not perfect people. Far from it. They often forgot about this life, betrayed it, and failed, miserably, to live it. They were sinners, but they had a place to bring their guilt and be healed and changed, again and again.
It was a miracle that they lived this life at all, but it was even more amazing that this life continued to be restored, renewed, and to grow deeper. It was stronger than the sins and all the ambiguity of these people. It was continually changing them, drawing them on, building them up. It was a new life, transforming the very real and very human lives of these ordinary people.
And it stirred a question in my soul: "How is it possible to live this way?" What I saw was not an illusion or a dream. It was a fact. And I wanted to live this way too. I wanted this implacable, unconquerable joy and hope at the center of my own life, but I couldn't give it to myself; I couldn't make myself this way.
It was clear that this life was a gift, and that it was only made possible by Someone Else.
This is what converted me to Christ. Not scrupulous religious intensity. Not intellectual brilliance. Not the desire for a safe place to hide. What converted me was meeting a group of people who believed that it might be possible for life to be wonderfully happy after all, even with all its mysterious burdens and suffering. I saw with my own eyes that the life that had been given to us was good and beautiful. I saw that the laughter of children was not a deception destined to end in disappointment. Not because life is easy, but because there is Someone that makes every minute of it worth living, and even embracing with joy.
This is what converted me to Christ: the miracle of human beings who were glad to be alive, who were full of hope, who had found something greater than their fears.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Pope, St. Joseph, and Us: Tenderness and Gratitude

It has been quite a ride this year, from Our Lady of Lourdes Day to St. Joseph's Day. Who would have thought that all of this would happen?

But its no different than anything else in life. We have frequent upheavals that change everything in a short space of time. And there are many more ordinary sorrows and joys, surprises, routines, work and rest, changes, expectations, disappointments. Life will not allow us to stand still. In every circumstance, we find ourselves called forth, summoned. Life points us toward a destination, and places us on the road.

As Christians we know that we are challenged every day to grow in the grace and love of God, to become the person that the Lord wills each of us to be. We are called to be His children, and ultimately to be fulfilled by sharing in His glory. The mercy of Jesus is there to sustain us--His mercy is moved especially by our frailty and poverty--and therefore hope must illuminate every step of the journey.

This year we have arrived at St. Joseph's Day at the end of an ecclesial adventure (and, I suspect, the beginning of another).

But every year, this day is a special celebration of a very personal relationship for me. St. Joseph has been my father-in-faith, my friend, my benefactor for many, many years. He has taken care of me from my student day to marriage, and thereafter, he has taken care of us, the Janaro family. He is just like the Joseph of Sacred Scripture: silent, in the background, ready to take us up in the midst of change and even danger and quietly see to it that we have what we need.

We were determined to name a child after him, as a way of acknowledging his great care for us in the communion of saints. But we kept having girls. We finally got tired of his humble attempts to "hide," and thus our youngest became Josefina. He responded by taking very special care of her.

I talk to St. Joseph every day. I ask him to obtain for me the grace to be the man, the husband, and the father that God wills me to be. I thank him for always being there for us. Ever since the angel came to assure him that he really did have a role in the mystery of the redemption, he has been there to protect and care for Jesus and Mary and the whole world of Mary's children, Jesus's brothers and sisters.

My own fatherly heart is full of gratitude to him. Of course this is truly and fundamentally gratitude to God who is the giver of every gift. But God doesn't just give some abstract or magical kind of help. God makes us "gifts" to one another. God's love generates relationships of persons who share in His love, a communion of persons, a real family.

Grazie San Giuseppe! And, of course, Viva il Papa Francesco!

Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man,
a working man,
yet in his heart we see great tenderness,
which is not the virtue of the weak
but rather a sign of strength of spirit
and a capacity for concern,
for compassion,
for genuine openness to others,
for love.
We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!

Pope Francis
(Homily of Installation Mass, March 19, 2013)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day From the O'Janaros!

"A wee bit Irish (note the shamrock) e tutti Italiano!" A wee bit Irish and all Italian? Is it possible to be "a wee bit" Irish? I don't know.

I am "tutti Italiano"... although Italians don't accept that. They want to know about the regions of my ancestors. Napoli, Potenza, places near Bari, and even Catania in Sicily (there is some dispute about whether Sicily is "really" part of Italy). Some of my ancestors immigrated first to Uruguay. I want to run with that: South American Italian immigrants have, for some reason, suddenly become the coolest people on earth! ;)

I'm not Irish. But I am "Irish-in-law" because Eileen is more than half Irish. The kids, I think, are 31.5% Irish. That seems like more than a "wee bit." Nevertheless, I vote for pasta today over boiled beef and potatoes!

Anyway, this wee bit of a part-Irish lass wishes you all a happy St. Paddy's Day:

Which side of the family does the "ham" come from? ;)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pope Francis: "The Courage to Persevere..."

Let us not give in to pessimism and discouragement;
we have that firm confidence
which the Holy Spirit gives the Church,
with his mighty breath,
the courage to persevere
and to seek new ways to evangelize,
to bring the Gospel to the ends of the Earth.
The Christian truth is appealing and persuasive
because it responds
to the profound needs of human existence,
announcing convincingly
that Christ is the only Savior
of the whole man and of all men.

Pope Francis

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Josefina's First Thoughts About the New Pope

This conversation actually happened. I am not making this up. I think it reveals something about the emerging mental capacities of a five to six years old child. Or maybe its just Josefina's mind; I'm not sure. She's unique in many ways.

We've been watching all the conclave stuff and talking about it, and now we have Pope Francis. At some point in all of this, Josefina clearly started trying to figure out what was going on. We had told her about it in various ways, of course, but now she was thinking it through herself. Our talking and the television and her own imagination and memory were all active in the process. And she said....

Josefina: "That's the new Pope?"

Me: "Yes."

Her (in an earnest tone, and with a serious expression): "But who will train him?"

Me: "Train him for what?"

Her: "umm...Mass!"

Me: "Oh he doesn't need to be trained to say Mass. He's a priest and a bishop. He's been saying Mass for many years."

Her: "Before?"

Me: "Yes, of course."

Her: "When he was playing baseball?"




Me: "Huh? He wasn't playing baseball. What are you talking about?"

Her: "I thought he was one of the Cardinals."

Of course, we all cracked up at this point! Oh no, hahaha! hahaha! "Hahaheh... actually that's a pretty smart connection she made...," I thought.

"No, not this kind of Cardinal!"
I should point out that she was probably thinking of our local summer league baseball team, the Front Royal Cardinals. She's been to a few of those games. Also, Josefina tends to refer to every sport as "baseball" (I wonder why, haha).

So, I tried to explain to her the difference between the Cardinals who play baseball and the Cardinals who elect the Pope. And I also noted, "He's the same age as Papa [my Dad]. How could he be playing baseball?"

She thought about it for a moment and then said: "Did Papa play baseball?"

Woooosh! We're on another topic. :)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

We Have a Pope! (White Smoke on a Seven Inch Screen)

Wow! What a day! Exhausting!

My windows on the world are a notebook computer, a seven inch Kindle Fire, and a cheap not-very-smart phone. For most of the afternoon, my Kindle was tuned in to a live webcam view of the chimney.

I tried to do other things in the office of the John XXIII Montessori Children's Center. But I kept looking at the chimney, over and over... me and the rest of the world.

If I had to leave my desk, I took my Kindle with me. I'm glad I didn't crash into anybody as I walked through hallways, staring at a digital image of a chimney instead of watching where I was going.

Most of the time I sat at the desk, looking at the chimney every few seconds, and then going over to Facebook to chat with other people who were also watching the chimney. The image kept pixilating, and often the digital variation looked like smoke. No smoke. A bird (seagull? pigeon?) perched on top of the chimney. The bird became an international celebrity for about an hour.

Meanwhile, kids kept popping their heads in the office. "Is there smoke yet?" Not yet, I told them. I'll let you all know. After the first vote on Tuesday, we had a crowd of kids in the office watching the black smoke pouring out of the chimney on the seven inch screen of my Kindle. The black smoke what quite unmistakably black.

So it went on, and I began to wonder what would happen if this turned out to be a long conclave. Chimney-watching every day for how long?

The internet had opened the possibility of an intimate sense of participation in these events. It had been deeply moving, to enter the Sistine Chapel with the Cardinals, to pray for them one by one as they took the the oath, to see human hands from all over the world, human hands of so many shapes and sizes and textures and hues, pressing against the book of the Gospels. Human hands.

But it was also good that we were not digitally looking over their shoulders as they voted. We observed a kind of silence (when our minds weren't racing with speculations). But it was the silence that we needed. The Cardinals were cloistered, and in a certain sense the whole Church was cloistered. The Cardinals had to stand before God with their consciences, and pray for the light of the Holy Spirit. We had to accompany them with our waiting hearts, full of that mysterious expectation that ultimately wants a "Someone" whom we can see and hear and even touch.

The man who would emerge on the balcony of St. Peter's as Pope would not satisfy our desire. He would not be the One for whom our hearts are made. But he would be a sign--and in his ministry we could hope to be guided on the journey, and even to see a glimpse of the New Creation that has already been fulfilled in the resurrection of a Man, and that is breaking into our world and changing our history right now. We hoped that the living testimony of this man who would step out on the balcony, this "papa," might focus the eyes of our faith on the Face of the One who lives forever, the One who is the definitive triumph of Love, through whom the heavens and the earth are being renewed.

And so the human beings gathered, thousands in the square, stretching their necks, cheering, praying, expressing that radical human hope; that joyful restlessness full of the profound depths of hope, but also full of ambiguity, lack of focus, and vacillation. Around the world, human beings looked at their digital gadgets with the same deep but often distracted hope.

Catholic Christians prayed to Jesus, prayed for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and also wondered if the guy they liked was going to "win;" if he would be tough and clean up all the messes made by the Church's members; if he would he be media-savvy.

We wondered if we would "like" him; we wondered if he would be energetic and zealous; we wondered how he would "do" the new evangelization; we wondered if he was young or old, disorganized or competent, an "insider" or an "outsider," a scholar or [and?] a pastor with heart. We wondered about his views on X, Y and Z (insert favorite opinions).

You can bet that bishops, priests, sisters, lay men and women who work for the Church, and of course theologians wondered, "How will the new pope affect my career?" (Let's be honest, people!)

I wondered many things as I watched the chimney. But the depths of hope had been strengthened by the witness of Benedict. He was confident that Jesus is the head of the Church. He had had the courage to put in Jesus's hands the office of successor of St. Peter with faith and serenity, so he might embrace the final pilgrimage of incapacity that was now upon him.

Hope had been strengthened, yet still I wondered many things.

Then, suddenly, a puff of smoke. "Looks like gray. It will turn black.... No. Is it? Could it be?"

I opened the office door and shouted "WHITE SMOKE!!!"

Kids crowded around me in the office to see the white smoke. There was no doubt that it was, indeed, white. I switched my Kindle over to EWTN's live stream.

Then we waited more.

Eventually, the Chelsea Academy folks set up a laptop with a projector in the large assembly hall. The teachers and the students of Chelsea and John XXIII gathered together to watch... and wait.

My kids will always remember this. The gathering and the expectation....

The curtain rustled.


Then, at that moment, the screen froze up! "Ack!" "Wait, its back. Here we go... what's with the sound? I can't hear...."

"Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum, Dominum Georgium Garbledigarbleum Sanctae Romanae Digarbledigooble Garbleorum What? Whatswrongwiththesound? Icanthear Whodidhesay
whoisGeorgium? Broonkbriipbroop nomen imposuit Franciscum!"

"Okay, Franciscum. Francis? Pope Francis. Pope Francis!"

"Who is Georgium?" For a moment, the name of "Cardinal George" actually passed through my mind. "No, couldn't be...."

On the (now restored) web stream the crowds were cheering, although I'm not sure they knew who had just become Pope. The EWTN announcers, who had been talking non-stop, heroically, for the last five days were totally silent. Maybe they didn't know either.

"Papa Francesco, Papa Francesco!" The crowd cheered. "Yes," I thought to myself, "Pope Francis... I got that part... but who is he?"

Finally, finally, one of the EWTN announcers spoke, "Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio has been elected Pope Francis I. He is the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina."

And we all cheered. Even though most of us still didn't know who he was!

But when Pope Francis came out on the balcony, radiating simplicity, asking us to pray for him and bowing his own head, the crowd at St. Peter's became silent. So did our crowd and the crowds of all the Church and all the world.

A path opened up in this silence, and we began the next moment of our journey.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Papal Conclave Begins: The Holy Spirit Guides the Church

The Sistine Chapel, from the outside. The
inside is quite a bit more distinctive.
In recent days I have found it difficult to write. So many experts, reporters, and analysts have had things to say, and I am grateful for their work, although reading all of it sometimes only made me uneasy and anxious. This is not to say that I haven't learned some important things, and discovered much about the good work that many are doing in the Church. I have also made my share of jokes (and will, no doubt, continue to make jokes, because true humor is an expression of reverence and affection).

But above all, the approaching moments are a time for recollection, and for drawing close in prayer to our brothers the Cardinals and the one among them who will follow in the footsteps of St. Peter

I am awake in the very early hours of the morning. This is not unusual for me. This morning, however, I hope to participate--in physical distance but electronic proximity--in the Mass soon to begin in Rome, the special Mass for the Election of a Supreme Pontiff offered by the Cardinals before they enter the silence of the Sistine Chapel. There they will choose, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the next bishop of Rome, successor of St. Peter, servant of the servants of God.

The "Conclave" is both mysterious and human. These are men, and they are choosing a man. Popes are not gods. This election does not transform someone into a semi-divine being, an all wise, all knowing being who possesses perfect judgment, to whom the rest of us submit like slaves. As Benedict XVI said, "the Pope is not an oracle."

Still the Pope is a man who is a bishop, who in assuming the office of St. Peter will stand out from among his brother bishops, the men who are the successors of the eyewitnesses of Jesus, those twelve who were empowered and commissioned by Jesus to gather the human race into a communion of persons who share His risen life. A communion of persons who become a "people," the People of God, gathered together in a visible, historical community.

This is mysterious. A two thousand year old historical community, whose members have through the ages done all the evil things that humans do, but who still endure and witness to the beginning of God's victory in the world, the beginning of a new creation. It is an historical community that points to Jesus of Nazareth, crucified and risen, and says, "We are together because of Him."

The Pope and the bishops who are in union with him have an office within this community: an authority which is a service and a profound responsibility. The Pope is not "god" or "emperor" or "dictator;" he is "papa," daddy, a man who is called to exercise the role of father in the great family of the Church.

It is not surprising that all of us are drawn to an intimacy and affection for the man who is Pope. The Church is a communion of love; it is the people brought together by the love of God in Jesus, and it reaches out to every human being. We look to the Pope, we have confidence in his guidance, and we follow him not because we think he is magic, or that his every word is divinely inspired.

We follow the Pope, listen to him, and learn from him because of our confidence that the Holy Spirit guides the Church. The Holy Spirit will not allow him to fail in his teaching on the fundamental realities--faith and morals--which sustain each of us in our vital relationship with Jesus, and with each other. Jesus Himself has given this promise to St. Peter, for the building up of His Church (see Matthew 16:6). Beyond this, we are also attentive to and recognize the unique value of the whole of the Pope's preaching and witness. We trust that the Holy Spirit will guide him and sustain him as an authority and a reference point for what is good for the Church, and good for the world.

And so we pray now, and we ask the Spirit of the Father and His Son Jesus to guide the Cardinals, we pray with joy and hope and confidence because we know that God loves us, God loves the Church, God loves the world and every person in it.

This is the secret of the fascination that people (even non-Christians) have with the election of a new Pope. We are awaiting a gift from God.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Act of Love

Holy Cross Cistercian Monastery, Berryville, Virginia

Act of Love

O my God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
I love you above all things,
with my whole heart, my whole soul, my whole mind,
and my whole strength.
I love you Eternal Father.
In the name of Jesus, my Savior,
I love you.
Send forth your Spirit into my heart,
guiding me in the ways of love.

I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you,
my God,
and all things for your sake and for your glory.
I love you and desire to recognize you and love you more
—as your Mercy and Wisdom enable me—
in each and every human person
created in your image and likeness

I forgive those who have injured me,
I forgive them from the heart
and I pray that you will bless abundantly
and give your grace to all those who have harmed me,
who wished to harm me,
or who have hurt me by failing to understand me.

And I ask pardon for all those I have injured
in thought, word, deed, or omission.
Bless a hundred fold with healing and grace
anyone whom I have harmed in any way,
and have mercy on us all.

(March 12, 2011)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Are We Listening?

"Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts" (see Psalm 95:8).

Every day, we harden our hearts to the gentle promptings of the Spirit of God. We make excuses. We reduce His inspiration to our own measure. We bargain with Him.

Or we drown out His voice with every kind of noise, with our own projects, with the plans that our hearts have already set for themselves.

We are so busy. We are anxious about many things.

"Harden not your hearts...."

"But Lord, I have to do it this way, don't you understand? I'm trying to glorify You, preach Your gospel, serve the poor, change society, fight against the evil forces in the world, and do lots of good."

"Harden not...."

"But God, I'm doing this for the New Evangelization! I want to make You known and loved. What more could You want?"

"...your heart."

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"Slushies" From Heaven

The view from the Porch of the Janaro Estate
The snowstorm came to town, as expected. Schools didn't even dream of opening.

A snow day in March!?

Here we are, two weeks before the first day of Spring. Daylight Savings Time begins this weekend. And there's hoodles of snow pouring down from the sky.

We turned on the Weather Channel, and there was a reporter stationed in our town. One of those brave, intrepid Weather Channel people--the ones who stand on the beach to report on a hurricane or go out on a raft in the midst of a flood--came to Front Royal to show her courage. We didn't know whether we should be flattered, or whether we should be evacuating!

Of course, by that time, we couldn't go anywhere.

This Snowman is having fun while he
still can. Temperature's rising.
So we hunkered down and watched the snow and the wind. Well, I hunkered down. The kids, of course, went out to play. I only made a brief visit to check a few things out and take some pictures. It was a wet, wet snow. Good snowman snow. The kids built a lovely snowman.

The snow piled up to more than a foot, I'm guessing, when something strange began to happen. It continued to snow, but instead of getting higher, the stuff on the ground got thicker. It got goopier and goopier, but it was still snow. The temperature was above freezing and I think some of it was melting even as it fell. You could have scooped it up in a cup and you would have of those frozen drinks that you get at fast food places, what are they called? I know that on Veggietales they call them "Slushies," and I can't think of a better word right now.

"And God rained down Slushies from heaven for His people" (says no chapter and verse anywhere in the Bible).

Me: "Josefina, what flavor of Slushie would you like?"

Her: "Strawberry."

Me: "I'll have to pour some artificial strawberry-flavored syrup on the snow!"

Her: <blank stare> [...of course, she doesn't get it...]

Oh well, another joke Fail.

If you think you're funny, try your jokes out on your kids. They are honest and ruthless, and they are already bored of your humor. If your kids laugh, its funny. If your teenagers laugh, take it to the bank.

All it needs is artificial color
and flavor, and... Slushies!
Meanwhile, snow is falling off the trees. Melting. The humongous, dangerous storm has turned out to be (at least in our area) another dud. Which is fine with me.  As the sun sets, the clouds begin to part. I think our snowman is going to have a short life.

No damage to report here, other than a bathroom full of wet coats, sweaters, hats, gloves, and scarves. And a kitchen sink full of hot cocoa mugs. Clearly, fun has been had.

The Weather Channel must be very disappointed. Oh well, at least they can have all the Slushies they want.

Lucia, bundled up in front of the Snowman.

Teresa looks a little cold and wet without a hat!

A lot of snow for a little Josefina

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

March 5: Happy Birthday Eileen Janaro

Happy Birthday Eileen Janaro!

I love you! I love you!

I thank God for you.

Isn't she great??!!

I love this lady, and I always will!

Monday, March 4, 2013

I'm Trying to Give Something Up That I Actually LIKE!

I LOVE this stuff in my coffee!!
Sure, I gave up the usual list of things for Lent. And then there are things that I "gave up" in a "kinda sorta" way, which means I let myself cheat...sometimes (most of the time).

Also, as a zealous observer of the celebratory nature of "Sunday," I break from all these withering penances on Sundays.

And, of course, "Sunday" begins on Saturday evening. Right after First Vespers (which I mean to pray, but I usually miss; its hard to "get a handle" on Vespers, whereas Lauds fits right in with prayers in the morning).

Sometimes this results in a paradoxical (and stupid) thing that I call "Fat Sunday," in which I find myself eating, drinking, and watching stuff that I never care about any other time of the year!

Ice cream? I never eat ice cream... except during Sundays in Lent! Etcetera.

Lent really makes clear what a schlep I am.

Every Lent, I determine to make an effort to be extra patient and kind with the children. That means something more than being "nice" to the children. I can do "nice" without much trouble. Real love, however, is always a challenge. Its a challenge even to remember that the person in front of you needs love.

Its easier to give stuff up. So, during Lent, I muster the courage to embrace a few FirstWorld inconveniences. For example, I don't sweeten my coffee (note for *future canonization cause file*). I really like my coffee sweet. As I said in another post, I use real Stevia, which I have grown to love over the years. So its a sacrifice. Its wimpy. Its firstworldy. But its something.

Still, I can handle it. Its not that hard.

But I never "give up" my half&half in the coffee. Ooooh, no. No, no, no, no, no.

Really, half&half is the closest thing on the supermarket shelf to actual MILK! Even after being nuked by ultra-pasteurization, something real remains, and it tastes good.

It has real fat in it!

These days, I roam the supermarket looking for food that hasn't been kerschnoodled into some "healthy" imitation of what it used to be. Often, when some food item boldly advertises itself as LOW FAT, that means that they have removed the real fat, and replaced it with "fake fat"! And since your body doesn't feel satisfied with fake fat, they distract it by adding a few five-syllable ingredients that ultimately can all be translated by the word SUGAR.

Anyway, the bottom line is: I really love my half&half in my coffee!

But I have been thinking about the papal conclave with all of its tremendous implications, and I am wondering if I should subject myself to some further mortification (n.b. for *canonization cause file*).

We're not talking black coffee here. That would be martyrdom (for me, anyway). Its not time for martyrdom, yet. But, how about using milk instead of half&half in my coffee? Hee hee. Now that would be hard.

So I tried it.

Yuk! The coffee tastes horrible! I don't know how people drink it this way.

Bad. Mood. All. Day.

I'm embarrassed to even formulate this question, but I'm asking myself, "is this good for me?" Do I need to consult with my spiritual director? Or (since he's very busy) should I consult with that radical bedrock of common sense that God has placed in my life, i.e. my wife?

Really, this is not a hairshirt. This is not flagellation. This is not even switching to Maxwell House. This is nothing!

I'm laughing at myself. Well, that at least is a good thing!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cardinal Tagle on Social Media, Human Connection, and Silence

The purpose of this post is not to engage in conclave speculation. It is just a coincidence that the texts below are from a talk by someone who might be the next pope. I have been interested in the Cardinal Archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Tagle, for some time.

I've watched him quite a bit on YouTube. The Philippines is a pivotal place for the future of the world and the Church. Filipinos are a great people who are presently under assault by the demographic imperialism of the secularized West. (That point deserves a post of its own sometime soon.)

If Cardinal Tagle is elected pope, it won't be because he's "Asian" or because he's "young" or because he has extraordinary personal charisma (all of this is true).

The exciting thing about Tagle is simply this: He's the real deal! He loves Jesus and the Church. Yes, he has "superstar" appeal and he knows instinctively how to use it, but he doesn't care about it. He cares about adoring Jesus in the Eucharist and finding Him in the poor. And he knows how to work with the 21st century media. If he does become pope, he will knock the secular Western opinion-makers completely off balance, but that's not what this post is about.

Regardless of whether he stays in Manila or moves to Rome, Cardinal Tagle is worth listening to. But all I want to do in this post is point to a few of his remarks on social networking, something that is huge in the Philippines. Catholic Filipinos have some experience with trying to use social media as tools for evangelization. Filipinos are online, big time.

These are some excerpts from a conference the Cardinal recently gave on the "spirituality of social media." These words were preached, with enthusiasm and ardor and warmth, moving freely back and forth between English and Tagalog. Of course I only understood the English parts, but insofar as I did understand, I was struck by what he said, and I transcribed some of it. He spoke about the possibilities of the media, the importance of one's own immediate human environment, and (in a point that I found particularly impressive) the fundamental role of silence at the root of any authentic communication.

Here are a few of his words:

You proclaim what you believe in. You proclaim the joy of being a follower of Christ. You proclaim and you hope to be 'viral'! To 'contaminate' others with the joy that comes to someone who has discovered Jesus. 'Contaminate' others, be a 'contagious disease.' Contaminate them with the joy of being a promoter of the Kingdom of truth, justice, and peace. Go 'viral'! This is the fundamental cause of Christians: the Kingdom of God, the Gospel....
But let us not forget that even in the absence of the gadgets, even in the absence of the cell phone, the computers, we can still connect. Let us not forget the basic human relationships that are always available: a smile, a recognition of the other person, a manifestation of compassion; these are all 'communicative,' and they are palpable. People can feel your touch. People can see your tears. People can hear your voice cracking out of compassion. People can hear your 'contagious' laughter, and in all of this, you are connecting. 
The Holy Father says, 'the best communication happens in silence.'... the silence of attentiveness... the silence of prayer. In prayer, we listen, we learn the art of listening. So before I utter my word, I know I have listened to God.... Silence prepares us to utter a meaningful word. Silence is the fertile ground for the communication of God's word. Only those who can be at home with silence can utter a meaningful word... I have to go back to silence... [put] the iPhone in silent mode. Only people who are capable of deep deep silence and communion can learn how to commune with others.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Only God Can Begin

He has called himself a simple pilgrim, taking up the final stage of his journey. It seems like he has disappeared, and yet in these days Benedict the Pilgrim remains vitally important for the Church. We should seek to unite ourselves with him in prayer and sacrifice for the good of the Church and all of humanity.

We are a people who seek something new in the midst of this Year of Faith. We seek a new depth of conversion, of encounter with Jesus, of friendship with Him. We are beginning to realize that the "New Evangelization" is His initiative; it is His work in history, which we are called to discover, adhere to, and follow.

And we now know that it involves surprises; it is a journey that is taking us places beyond our dreams and plans. Let us follow with confidence, and continue to be formed by the wisdom the Lord has communicated to us through this great Pope, whose words have become more radiant and penetrating in the light of his witness of fidelity and self-surrender to the love of God.

"Only God can begin, we can only cooperate, but the beginning must come from God.... Only the fact that God precedes us makes possible our own walking, our cooperation, which is always just a cooperation, not our own simple decision. Therefore, it is always important to know that the first word, the initiative itself, the true activity comes from God and only by inserting ourselves in this divine initiative, only begging this divine initiative, we too can become - with Him and in Him - evangelizers" (Benedict XVI).