Monday, May 22, 2017

Shakespeare Outdoors!

On the left, Prospero and Ariel (played by GUESS WHO?); on the right, Ariel in her scary costume (made by her mother) in Shakespeare's The Tempest performed by the JOHN XXIII MONTESSORI CENTER'S Elementary Program under the direction of Mrs. Eileen Janaro. I took only a few pictures with my phone. Mostly I sat back and enjoyed the show. It was great fun, and I'm sure Jojo was not the only kid to get excited about Shakespeare. 😊


Friday, May 19, 2017

Face-Ball

I noticed online the Interesting Media Development that Facebook is now live streaming a game every week for free in cooperation with MLB.tv -- another sign that every internet platform is incorporating various aspects of live, interactive, audiovisual media. "New Media" (a term originally coined by Marshall McLuhan in reference to television) keeps getting newer all the time.

As for me, I watched the Nats on cable and put up with the commercials. For whatever reason, it didn't help their luck.




Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Can There Be Joy in the Midst of Suffering?

The Christian life is supposed to be characterized by "patience, endurance, and joy" (see e.g. Colossians 1:11). This may lead some Christians to think that if they experience suffering as something obscure, disorienting, or overwhelming, they are somehow not "being Christian enough."

Is it necessary for Christians to try to churn up cheerful, sunny feelings and the appearance of psychological tranquility when they are in the grip of physical or mental sufferings? Are they somehow "doing it wrong" if suffering weighs on them, i.e. if they experience suffering as suffering even after they ask for the Lord's help?

Certainly not. Emotions are indicators of attitudes and priorities that should not be ignored in any character assessment. But emotions themselves can often be the locus of suffering for a variety of reasons that are not related to people's decisions or actions or to anything else under their control. Moreover, there is a mysterious depth in the relationship between joy and suffering in anyone who adheres sincerely to the crucified and risen Jesus. Unfortunately, too often Christians feel pressured to conform to a rather superficial psycho-emotional profile even while enduring relentless and disorienting afflictions. And when they cannot hold up this artificial conformity they feel like they have failed to trust God enough, and are even tempted to discouragement.

Thus, it is important to clarify what we mean when we speak about Christian joy and patient endurance in the context of bearing sufferings. Of course, these things are real; they are capacities founded on the new life that we receive in the Holy Spirit when we are baptized into Christ. If the Holy Spirit dwells in us, we have the radical potential to endure our trials "joyfully" and patiently, to live them within the redeeming death and resurrection of Christ.

The grace of the Holy Spirit enables us to bear up "under" our difficulties with an awareness, a determination to keep going forward toward the goal that gives meaning to all of it. Concretely speaking, this is a "supernatural" goal, eternal life, the fullness of maturity in Christ, which means that patient endurance is the fruit of the working of supernatural grace. It cannot, therefore, be reduced to any merely natural psychological or emotional state.

This grace, this life in the Spirit, is a gift. Certainly it calls for the cooperation of our freedom, but it first of all elevates, empowers, and attracts our freedom. And if we allow grace to work, to engender the cooperation that is both a further gift of grace and the most profound realization of our own personal freedom in action, we are made more and more like God, living in His love.

It is the light of the Holy Spirit that enables us to recognize the destiny to which we are called. We grasp the reason why we must "never give up," why we must keep going forward. But this is a grasp in faith and love, which may not manifest itself clearly in our regular ways of understanding. Hence there can be "dark nights" and all sorts of strange and secret paths on which people are patiently bearing their burdens, especially when those burdens involve the cognitive and emotional incoherence that so often accompanies suffering on the natural human level. 

It is important to emphasize this supernatural grace of the Holy Spirit by which we are enabled to bear willingly and faithfully any kind of crazy problem with patient endurance. Of course the grace that gives us a participation in God's own eternal life is working also (in its own time and its own ways) to heal and perfect our human nature. The whole personality of the Christian is being mysteriously transformed in Christ, and aspects of this mystery can sometimes "break through" on the mundane human level in striking and beautiful ways. Thus it is not surprising that we meet people in the world who possess Christian joy and patient endurance in suffering in a way that is obvious, that is visible and "tangible" to pretty much everyone.

How great and significant such Christian witness is in this world! It always strikes us with the freshness of a reminder of the fulfillment we seek, of the promise that is the root of our hope. It reminds us that in this present age, life in the Spirit (the life of grace) is "already" the beginning of eternal life, which is destined ultimately to heal and transform everything.

The presence of profound Christian joy in a suffering person's life, however, is usually not so "externally" obvious. It is the secret daily sustenance of so many humble people in their apparently unremarkable human struggles and pains. It cannot be simply reduced to any set of human emotions or personality traits. The joy engendered through a living relationship with Jesus and a firm hope in His mercy has strength and vitality beyond what we can perceive in others or even in ourselves.

But if we look with sufficient faith and attention, we may glimpse signs of this joy and loving endurance even in exceptionally hard and unusual places. We may find it mixed with the symptoms of the burdens it bears. We may be distracted from it by the rawness of the wounds that are borne, the physical or mental ugliness of the affliction, or the peculiar, confusing, and unconventional modes of love that have characterized the holy fools throughout history.

All God looks for is an open heart. He'll work with anything that doesn't oppose Him. If He could make children of Abraham from stones, He certainly can take badly broken human beings, failures, oddballs, beggars, crazies, and raise up exotic masterpieces of holiness.

Never look down on any human being. God loves each and every one of them with a persistence and an intensity beyond anything we can imagine.

The life of grace is a "process," and it takes a unique shape in each person's life, and in accordance with their concrete vocation, the burdens they bear, and the sufferings they must endure. It is a process of maturing, and it takes time. For most of us, it takes a long time to work through all the obscurities and ambivalence of our weak humanity.

But the Holy Spirit is at work in us, and is the source of our strength and our growth.

Let us therefore not be discouraged by our own weakness. Rather let us turn and return to our loving Father every day, place our trust in Jesus, and keep moving forward.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

100 Years Later: Fatima and the Prayer of the Gospel

May 13, 2017!

Here we arrive at a bright moment in our Centennial, a moment that indeed is more present in significance and impact on the Church and the world than ever.

As we join Pope Francis in marking the 100th anniversary of the first visit of the Virgin Mary to the three shepherd children in the fields of the village of Fatima in Portugal, we begin a season of remembrance which is not simply recalling past events, but living the presence of Him who is the Son of Mary, who is Lord of history and who chose to intervene in the midst of the great evils of the world through the tenderness of His loving mother.

Mary came in a very particular way and entered the experience of little children (as the canonization of the young Jacinta and Francisco reminds us) during the period from May to October of 1917. She transformed their experience by presenting the full witness of the Gospel, letting them see both the tremendous mercy of God and the stubborn resistance of human beings bent on their own destruction.

She asked them (and us) to make sacrifices for sinners, to live the mystery of her Son's passion in a personal solidarity that would bring His saving presence to a desperate world.

And she asked them to pray. She asked them, and all of us, to enter more deeply into the whole of the Gospel, to be with Jesus in a more profound and intimate way by "praying the Gospel" in union with her own heart.

She asked us to pray the prayers given in the Gospel (from the words of the angel Gabriel, of Elizabeth "filled with the Holy Spirit," and of Jesus Himself) and to fill our minds and hearts with the Gospel, to learn to dwell with Jesus the way that she did. She asked us to join with her in her own great pilgrimage as she accompanied Him from the moment of the Incarnation to the fulfillment of the beginning of the New Creation in the glory that He has shared with her. We journey together with her, with hearts and hands and voices.

This is the Rosary.

Fatima is about Jesus. It is about growing closer to Jesus through His mother, the Theotokos. It is about growing closer to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary--her "heart" which is her utterly unique personality shaped by her singular experience of God's Love. She wants so much to draw all of us into the embrace of this Love, this tenderness that has transformed her into our mother.

She will teach us to become little children again.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Joseph Ratzinger: The Word of Mary's Heart Changes History



Pope Benedict XVI, while he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, shared some profound reflections on the meaning of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These may help us as we prepare to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Mary's first visit to Fatima:
"In biblical language, the 'heart' indicates the center of human life, the point where reason, will, temperament and sensitivity converge, where the person finds his unity and his interior orientation. According to Matthew 5:8, the 'immaculate heart' is a heart which, with God's grace, has come to perfect interior unity and therefore 'sees God.'
"To be 'devoted' to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means therefore to embrace this attitude of heart, which makes the fiat—'your will be done'—the defining center of one's whole life. It might be objected that we should not place a human being between ourselves and Christ. But then we remember that Paul did not hesitate to say to his communities: 'imitate me' (1 Cor 4:16; Phil 3:17; 1 Th 1:6; 2 Th 3:7, 9). In the Apostle they could see concretely what it meant to follow Christ. But from whom might we better learn in every age than from the Mother of the Lord?"
In the message of Fatima, Mary says that "'my Immaculate Heart will triumph.' What does this mean? The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Savior into the world—because, thanks to her Yes, God could become man in our world and remains so for all time.
"The Evil One has power in this world, as we see and experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But since God himself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom towards what is good, the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word. From that time forth, the word that prevails is this: 'In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world' (Jn 16:33). The message of Fatima invites us to trust in this promise."

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Her Witness of Love Endures

It is impossible to forget Christina Grimmie. There is more new music coming soon. Meanwhile, on this May the 10th, after 11 months, her witness of love endures and continues to touch hearts.πŸ’š


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

How Are You, JJ?

The cartoon version.
So, how's it going, JJ?

I'm hanging in there. Slowing down (which is always hard for me to do). Reducing screen time because, really, the LED light bothers me. Soft light is better, natural light, of course, is best.

Reading old fashioned books. For whatever reason, I'm on a "monarchy" kick. I just finished a lengthy biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine, the amazing 12th century lady whose influence spread all across Europe.

Since Lucia is presently living in a house built from the stones of one of her ruined castles, I thought it would be fun to get better acquainted with Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, sometime Queen of France, sometime Queen of England, mother of four kings.

What did I learn? Basically, that human beings really haven't changed all that much.

I'm also reading a large biography of the present Queen of England (got hooked by Netflix's excellent series, The Crown). And then, of course, reviewing my favorite dynasty: the ardently Catholic, often wacky, sometimes daft, sometimes heroic, occasionally holy (at least once), and always ingenious Habsburgs.

Sometimes I just don't have the energy to concentrate. But there's always music. I'm very grateful for music.

Perhaps I can rework some topic blog posts from the past and post them in the coming days. 😊

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

These "Disorders" Don't Just Affect Your "Mood"

I have been swimming against the current for months. I think it has been worth it. It has been necessary for many reasons, but I am going to drown if I don't find a shore where I can rest, or even just some calmer waters....

Sorry for the metaphors. It's all I've got right now. My friends, I wish I had control over this whole mess.

Depression. Bipolar. They call these things "mood disorders."

The term "mood" is not strong enough. It's tempting to want to change it to something like "losing-your-freaking-mind!" but that would scare people too much. However, the word "mood" makes one think of things like "jazz" ... and that just doesn't carry the weight and the awful nature of what we are dealing with here.

People have to understand that this kind of pain is beyond the range of anything ordinary, but also that it's not uncommon, it's human suffering, and that although there are no easy solutions, there is help and hope.

Sometimes, patience can be very hard. Let's help one another--whatever kinds of trials we face--to keep hope alive.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Kate the GREAT!

Catherine of Siena, Catherine the Magnificent, Kate the Great ...you've been so good to me. Thank you! 😊

Happy Feast Day!

And just a note, folks: sometimes the words of this amazing lady can seem overwhelming, but we should understand that she does not want to make light of sufferings (which she had in spades) but rather to give us HOPE in Christ crucified, that God will get us through and bring us to Him.


Friday, April 28, 2017

The "Written Word" Goes Around the World

There are all these creative possibilities for communication that have developed or have been refined in the past six years, and here I am... still blogging.

Maybe I should do more videos or something.😜 But whatever I do, I'll keep writing. Writing remains powerful and irreplaceable.

The development of written languages was the original "social media revolution." Ironically, the explosion of "new media" technology, far from replacing the written word, has expanded its use in all sorts of ways.

The "basic blog" is practically old fashioned. I am working (slowly) with pushing my limits in some other areas. Nevertheless, when I was on my high school newspaper staff doing "paste-up" in 1979 we never would have imagined something like the "basic blog" in our wildest dreams. If we ever even thought of such a wildly distant year like 2017 (!) we assumed there would be colonies in space, with artificial environments that functioned according to the intricate calibrations of ENORMOUS computers!! 😳

As it turned out, we're still imagining space. Meanwhile we fill the earth with our thoughts and pictures and sounds and we have become masters of the craft of communication.

Still, from blogs to comboxes to Twitter and Facebook to memes to messaging to online journalism to Amazon (books? bigger. than. ever.) to Wikipedia, Gutenberg, etc to the amazingly resilient e-mail -- the written word is everywhere like never before in history. As with the development of all human things, we can see in writing today new levels of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

That's all the more reason for people who aspire to the good to "stay in the game"!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

April Flowers

Here are some up-close looks at a few of the lovely blooming things that we have seen over the past week in our beautiful valley.







And this one wins the best picture award, though I must say that bee photobombed this shot. I didn't even notice it when I was taking the actual picture.

Nature at work:

Monday, April 24, 2017

Persons in Our Lives Who Call Us to Love

It is so easy for us to forget that the human beings we encounter every day are real persons. We easily fall into the habit of seeing them as widgets whose purpose for existing is reduced to fulfilling our needs.

Maybe sometimes we're not so selfish. We try to give and take, to be fair, to be nice and polite. Still, we know that we are not adequate to the reality that they bear; we are numb to the miracle of the unique persons all around us.

Part of it is simply the weight of being human. We're tired. We're in a hurry. We're troubled by our own frustrations, anxieties, fears of being hurt, fears of failure. Sometimes we're hungry. Or we have indigestion or we're constipated.

Many of us are in fact physically and mentally incapable of handling stress. The wiring in our brains is all messed up. We have issues, we have defense mechanisms, we have walls that we have built to protect ourselves, we have genetic predispositions to react in certain ways, we have hormones and endocrine systems that are out of balance. Biotoxins flow through our blood, the environment poisons us, youthful impulsiveness drives us or the relentlessness of getting older wears us down. This is the human environment from which our conscious intentions, thoughts, and desires emerge.

But the fact is that we have free will. We are each responsible for ourselves and our own actions. Our human material limitations may decrease our culpability for particular acts (or failures to act) in various instances, but they don't take away our freedom entirely. Whatever problems we may have, our freedom is still summoned to grow in love. Every encounter with a person is an opportunity to love, however small. The call to love is greater than all our weaknesses.

We must learn to adhere to this greater reality that is love. Yet we remain weak and wounded. Where will we find the strength for this adherence?

The call to love is a grace, and it is drawing us toward healing. Healing comes from grace. The capacity to recognize the human person comes from Jesus, whose presence we must learn to recognize. How? We must pray. We must ask for Him to heal us and transform us. We must receive Him in the sacraments. We must follow those who have already grown in the art of living. We must listen, and be humble.

We all have "neighbors," people who have been placed beside us in the circumstances of life and who are therefore in some way entrusted to us. They are spouses, family members, coworkers, friends, people we serve, people who care for us, people in our communities, people who are in front of us with particular needs.

How do we treat these people every day?

The need to recognize the person in front of us, and the possibility for love, penetrates the whole day. But this call of love is blocked by our evasion, impatience, words ill-spoken, the subtle workings of our drive for power and manipulation, or just plain distraction.

There is material for an examination of conscience right there: one that brings humility, and sorrow, and a memory that commits us again to the vocation of love and the work that it requires.

Of course we fail again and again. But Jesus is present in our lives by the grace of His Spirit who works in our hearts and through the life of the Church. We have a Father who loves us, who sent His Son to save us. Jesus has conquered our weakness. We must never be discouraged. We must keep going to Him, seeking Him, asking for Him, letting Him build us up through the instruments of His grace, and learning more and more to recognize Him in other persons, in every circumstance, asking for our love.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Gratuitous Wonder at the Heart of Life

Our being, our life, and everything we have belong to God. 

At the same time, we truly belong to ourselves because He gives us to ourselves. This is the gratuitous wonder at the heart of life.  I am who I am because I am His creature. 

Everything that is “me” is the effect, here and now, of his direct and personal creative and sustaining love. 

This is what matters, even without professional honors, or a job, or even the ability to do much of anything. His love is everything. Outside of that love there is “nothing.”

Our hope is to live entirely in Him and for Him. And it's a real hope, because He has made it possible. He has made a way for us.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Our Sorrows Will Be Turned Into Joy

Here we are in the midst of Easter Week, and many among us are facing serious trials. Even in my own local community, people have endured the death of loved ones or the onset of serious illnesses, as well as that vast, ineffable galaxy of sufferings that fills everyone's days.

The proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus does not make our pain go away. Does it really matter to the sorrows we experience right now? Or is it just an abstract religious truth, or something that only has meaning for people who don't care about life here and now?

I went for a walk in the woods and took pictures of the wildflowers (whose appearance is beautiful but brief, fragile, inconsequential). Then I made this video. I put it in the "Front Porch" series, even though it's longer (and not on my porch, obviously).

I believe we have reasons for the hope that is in us:



Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter 2017 From the Janaros!

The Janaro Family. Front row: Agnese (18), Teresa (14), Josefina (10). Back row: John Paul (19), John (aka
"Daddy"), Eileen (aka "Mommy"). Insert right bottom corner: Lucia Janaro (16 - currently out of the country
participating in a student exchange program... we miss her this year, but more on her story another time).
After Mass, we had a picnic with some friends and their families at the beautiful Virginia Arboretum.
We brought with us a hamper full of prosciutto and strawberries and cheeses and olives and wine.
Then we came back home and had dinner in the evening: Rigatoni with Corsican beef and more wine.

Christ is risen, alleluia!
He is risen indeed, alleluia, alleluia!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday


Good Friday 2017.

Outside the context of the Catholic liturgy, Bach gives us some good music for today. The Saint Matthew Passion was first performed on Good Friday in the year 1727. That's 290 years ago, give or take a day! Deep music by a man of deep faith.


It looked like this coming from the composer's own hand:


Thursday, April 13, 2017

He Loves Us to the End

In these holy days, Jesus embraces the great mystery of his Passion; he "loves us to the end." He gives himself to us on the Cross, and in the Eucharist, with a love that goes beyond all our ideas and expectations. Jesus becomes the companion of all our sufferings, and he unites himself to every person's death.

None of us knows when we will die. We receive every moment of every day as a gift from God for the fulfillment of our own vocations. Each of us is a unique person, a mystery whose life is held by the wisdom and goodness and mercy of God. The moment of deaththat final moment in the history of our becoming "who we are"is also God's gift, designed to correspond to the fulfillment of the unique calling that each of us has received. It is the passage to the whole encounter with the Destiny that defines every moment of our lives.

In Jesus that Destiny embraces our death from within, becomes a presence within its solitude, and transforms it into a moment of hope and self-abandoning love. What might otherwise seem like the loss of "myself" becomes, in union with Jesus, a moment to give myself over wholly to the Father in complete trust.

The inevitable horizon of death encourages us to live every moment in trusting self-abandonment, in union with the One who said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."

Being a Christian means that even now "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I live in the flesh I live in faith in the Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Christ Suffers This Week

Sunday's ISIS sponsored suicide bombings of two Coptic churches in Egypt joined the blood of dozens more men, women, and children with the blood of their Savior whose Passion and Resurrection we are about to remember and celebrate in the next three days.

Pope Francis's plea for an end to terrorist violence and the conversion of the terrorists and those who profit from this state of war was posted on Instagram the next day: 


Meanwhile, in the readings for "Spy Wednesday," as Jesus mourns the coming betrayal of Judas, the Psalms sing of the bitter gall that human beings offer to the Suffering One who thirsts for their love:


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Death is an Ordinary Moment

Many of the events of this past year have made me more deeply aware of the mysterious and fragile space that marks the difference between life and death.

Death is a moment like any other moment in time, inescapable in its approach, while it also strips away everything except that which really matters.

More than once I have found a way to speak of these things in poetry (for another poem, see HERE). I cannot "explain" or interpret my own poems. I have some sense of how my imagery strikes me, but poetry by nature is concrete and particular. It permits (and sometimes demands) that not all the loose ends be tied. It also insists on the freedom to dialogue with the reader's own perception and imagination.

So I won't pretend that there's any easy accessibility here. I hope there is something evocative for those willing to be patient with the author's efforts.

This poem is serious, even grave, but it is not sad. It is not sad! On that point of interpretation I must insist.

We Fall

(for C.G.)

We fall, we fall, we fall
with fingers still breathing,
stretching away the air,
or curling tight into knuckles,
burrowing holes down to the skin.

We fall, we fall
in long lush fields thick
with riotous wild green grasses
growing,
growing up
into shivering breezes
or still spikes standing against
the face of the sun.

We fall
and break the warm earth
where roots wind down to the dark,
and worms bend thin throbby bodies
exercising elastic muscle,
and fungi spread slow poison
beneath their pale soft sponge clusters.

We fall
into water,
melting drops of water for the thirst
that burns through our bones.
And the water rushes over us,
the fire fades,
the tension of our fingers yields,
borne away beyond reaching
or grasping.

Rivers burst, overflow;
we are flushed hollow and deep, and buried beneath
bare trees soaked in floods of liquid clay.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Christina Grimmie: "God is STILL HERE!"

πŸ’šThis is so true.πŸ’š

And a lot more crap has happened in the ten months since the murder of Christina Grimmie.

But now more than ever, in remembering her tremendous witness of life and love, we grow stronger and more deeply aware of our conviction that "God is good, and HE IS STILL HERE!" πŸ’š

Sunday, April 9, 2017

"Passion Sunday" - Entering Holy Week

Finally, this year's unusually late observance of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus approaches.


●We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world!●

Detail of mosaic by Mark Rupnik


Georges Rouault, Crucifixion

Friday, April 7, 2017

America, a President, and a War on 04/06/17

Dateline Washington, D.C. The first sentence of this lead article in a well known New York newspaper gives a brutal summary of the day's big event:


Dramatic language from journalists, not surprisingly. But was this rhetoric warranted?

On the sixth day of April, in the latter part of the second decade of a young century that had already provided so many amazing and terrible surprises, the United States of America did something that committed them irrevocably to a war that had already been raging for several years, a war of unthinkable brutality and global scope.

When he ran for election only months before, the President had been touting his commitment to non-intervention. And now?


Those who read this blog know that I have been marking certain moments in the centennial remembrance of what was then known simply as The Great War. The war of 1914-1918 was indeed a horror unlike anything in human history up to that time. But it later acquired the peculiar distinction of being recognized as the initiation of a new genre of belligerence when it was renamed "World War I."

I wasn't planning on any flashy, "click-baity" ambiguity for this day. But it has been difficult for me not to allude to the sometimes creepy irony of how current news can "echo" the news of the past.

On April 6, 1917 -- after overwhelming approval from both houses of Congress -- the President of the United States declared war against the German Empire and America officially entered the still-undecided and seemingly unending slaughter in Europe.

The London Daily Telegraph was happy to herald a new era of cooperation between the Anglo-Saxon "democracies" (England was also an Empire all over the world, but... well, irony and all that).


One could say that April 6 was the centennial of America's stature as an international military power, and the beginning of what has since been known as "the special relationship" between America and Great Britain in international affairs.

As an American, I love and honor the soldiers who served our country in good faith, courageously and honorably risking their own lives and doing what they perceived in good conscience to be their duty. I especially honor those buried much too young in the graveyards of Europe along with larger numbers of their brothers from Europe's lost generation. In this war, as in most ugly wars, the terrible evils must be attributed to a colossal failure of statesmanship, and in a larger sense to all of us, because "war is a punishment for sin." We would do well to remember this today.

Indeed, I did not expect to find any striking ironies regarding the date of this event. I still hope that future historians will have no need to draw morbid parallels between April 6, 1917 and April 6, 2017. After all, the world is very different today in so many ways. The issues it faces are different.

But human nature remains the same. "We" are no better, surely, than our forebears a hundred years ago.

Nevertheless, the fact that America's military intervention in Syria (a solitary event as far as we can tell) occurred on the one hundredth anniversary of America's entry into the conflagration of World War I need not be anything more than an odd coincidence. So we hope and pray.

There are real enemies of the peace in the Middle East today, and it is reasonable to help those who are trying to stop them and to be prepared to contribute to a constructive aftermath. Above all, the millions who are already suffering deserve our solidarity and commitment. There are many ways to help them, but it's hard to see how a dangerous, possibly global escalation of the conflict would help them or anyone else.

By the way, the President in 1917 looked like this:



Tuesday, April 4, 2017

I Want to Give Him Everything... But Not Yet!

"Whoever loses his life for my sake...."
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 on 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 prefer according to my own measure, my own fancy, my anxiety over my own security.

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.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Is Technological Power Destroying the World?

Is technological power destroying the world?

The short answer to this question is, "No."

But as we continue to reflect on what some have called the emerging global "epoch of power," we have to look more fully at the issues and concerns involved in even posing such a question.

As befits the genre of bloggery, I will merely raise a few points here that strike me as crucial in light of my own experience and reflection as a human person, and also as a Christian.

Technological power can be terrifying or inebriating, depending on how we look at it. It is, in any case, power that we hold in our hands, but always within a deeper context. Whatever power we possess, we have acquired it by engaging a reality that is fundamentally given to us (that we will never be able to generate in an absolute sense) -- a reality intrinsic to the existence of the world and our own existence as persons endowed with intelligence and freedom.

We can use our freedom to build up or damage the world in profound ways, but we neither create nor will we destroy the foundations of reality. These points require greater exploration (beyond what we can do here) into the philosophy of ontology, the phenomenology of "gratuitousness," and related themes where reason and faith intersect: the mystery of transcendence, God, creation, providence, and especially redemption and its impact on history.

If we simply look at things from a concrete human point of view, however, we must recognize that technological development is "natural," not because humans impose rationality on the otherwise meaningless stuff of material things, but because (and insofar as) humans use reason (not just abstractly but embodied in human-life-in-a-created-world) to engage the reality in which they find themselves. Technological development (in the positive, constructive sense) occurs when we discover, foster, and apply the potentialities inherent in the natural world to cultivate an environment that serves as a flourishing and beautiful space for the communion of human persons.

There is plenty of room for creativity here, for "high tech," for "comfort" even (which has its place, not as an absolute, but as something entailed by the desire for a greater mutual benevolence, a deeper extension of hospitality). There is nothing inherently wrong with a great development of human "power," but it must be developed in a truly reasonable way, in coordination with the values inherent in creation and the dignity and purposes of human life. 

The industrial and the various technological revolutions have not done it that way, however. Or, rather, technological development has been carried out in a very ambivalent fashion: for good motives and bad motives and (alas, poor weak humanity) most often for mixed motives. 

As a result, humans today have this massive power over the material world, but (all too frequently) at the expense of other less powerful humans and the health of the whole physical cosmos. People of good will recognize the urgency of the need to grapple with these appalling consequences of our use and abuse of technology. The situation has become evident and dramatic in a way that cannot be ignored.

It is understandable why this presents such a frightening prospect. We recognize that the tumultuous expansion of human power in this period of history has also given rise to unprecedented dangers to human life, societies and cultures, and the very survival of the earth's environment.

Can we improve this predicament, relieve the present suffering of so many of our brothers and sisters, and avoid future catastrophe? The answer to this question depends on our willingness to confront the great challenge of our time, to face the essential problem that must be engaged if there is to be any hope of addressing the others. To put it as simply as I can, we must find the deeper resources of our humanity that will enable us to integrate the development and use of human power with personal and interpersonal responsibility, with solidarity with our neighbors and stewardship within the created world. 

How? That is a good question with no simple answer. We need to find the human position from which to ask such a question rightly and sincerely.

In finding such a position, I hope we will move toward a more profound awareness of being human persons living in communion with one another in the world. Each of us can only aspire to move in this direction in life and in relation to our neighbors even if the whole world seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

As a Christian, these circumstances lead me once more into the presence of the One who is the savior, redeemer, and hope of every human person and all of history, Jesus Christ. I pray that we might discover in a renewed and deeper way the centrality of Jesus Christ for the whole cosmos and its fulfillment, and of our need for a personal relationship with Jesus at the center of our faith. And may He lead us to recognize the central value for human society of the whole human person in relation to other whole human persons.

First of all, I pray that the Lord might grant to me this renewal of life in communion with Jesus and my neighbors. My responsibility begins with myself and I need this for myself.

Friday, March 31, 2017

I Have Carried You

The Lord says to his people:
"I have carried [you] from your infancy.
Even to your old age I am the same,
even when your hair is gray I will bear you;
It is I who have done this, 

I who will continue,
and I who will carry you to safety"

(Isaiah 46:3-4).  


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Eileen's Treat: TWO Hockey Games!

Caps fans enjoying the game.
Earlier this month, when I wrote about Eileen's birthday celebration, I noted that we planned to continue the fun by a family outing to see a Washington Capitals hockey game. Needless to say, John Paul and I are hockey fans, but people are often surprised to find out that "sweet, patient, mild-mannered Eileen" is the biggest fan in the family.

In fact, it's not surprising at all that this energetic, intensely focused, dedicated, hard-working lady appreciates competitive sports, and especially hockey, with its combination of graceful skill, toughness, speed, teamwork, and crazy luck.

So for her birthday present John Paul, Teresa, Josefina, and I got tickets to a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (a key division rival) for March 23. What I didn't know, however, was that Eileen's friends had another plan: they got two very nice seats on the second level and a parking pass for Eileen and I to go to the Caps game against the Arizona Coyotes on March 25!

Two hockey games in forty eight hours? A dream come true for my wife. A somewhat more daunting project for me: trips to the city really wear me out. But I knew that both evenings would be special in different ways, and I was determined to pace myself and save up enough energy to do it.

There was only one thing (or "two things" I suppose) that we couldn't plan or guarantee for this double birthday gift: the Capitals actually winning both games.

Hockey is a fickle friend. There was some risk involved here.

The Caps will probably finish with the best record in the NHL this year, but they can still lose. Their most frustrating losses in the past have been playoff games, and I tend to be more "philosophical" than my wife about regular season games. But even I would have been disappointed by anything less than two wins here.

"Big Brother Time"
Thankfully, the Capitals delivered splendidly on their part of the birthday celebration. On Thursday night we were on the edge of our seats with great goaltending and a 1-1 tie taken all the way to the tie-breaking one-on-one shootout.

It's very gut wrenching when everything comes down to the shootout (similar to the soccer experience of "penalty kicks" to end an elimination game). The Caps scored the only goal of the shootout, however, and pulled out an exciting victory. We all had a great time.

It was fun going for an adventure with three of the five kids, as they don't get so many chances to be together and bounce off one another these days, now that some are growing up and having adventures of their own. I know Josefina enjoyed her "big brother time."

On Friday, I rested.

Saturday was a lovely day that proceeded at a leisurely pace. We had plenty of time to get into the city again, get lost and have Google Maps GPS lead us through the labyrinth of Washington DC, and still arrive in time to park and stroll through Chinatown and have a nice dinner.

Below on the right is the Peking Duck. Delicious dipping sauce and moist tasty meat all the way through:


Then we strolled over to the Verizon Center for the game, got a couple of draft beers and settled into our seats. They were terrific, just to the left of center ice on the second level, at a perfect angle to see all the action of the game.

Our view to our left looked like this:


It was another low scoring game for the first 50+ minutes, with the Caps taking a 1-0 lead well into the third period. But then Arizona tied the score with 7 minutes left to play, and we began to wonder if we were not headed toward another regulation tie, with another harrowing overtime period followed by a shootout.

Caps fans were summoned to rally the team with the customary third period multimedia-led roaring of "UNLEASH THE FURY!" I was thinking to myself, "Well that was spirited and a little silly." But then the Capitals scored three goals in less than five minutes in an explosive, dominating display of ... fury. I have never seen the fury quite so thoroughly unleashed. Let's just hope that "The Fury" won't be shy when it's needed during the playoffs! 😜 

Happy with our victory (both our victories), Eileen and I enjoyed the evening air as we walked back to the garage through Chinatown, stopping for ice cream at a not-particularly-Chinese HΓ€agen-Dazs. It was a lovely time in every way.

I was exhausted on Sunday. And Monday, and most of the week, but I was able to take the time to recuperate. It was worth it. Almost like a little vacation. It made Eileen very happy, and that was the best thing of all.

We had actual paper tickets on Thursday night (above). Saturday's "tickets" were bar codes accessed by my mobile phone. 
We got a nice look at the Cherry Blossoms blooming on "the Mall" near the Washington Monument.