Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Hooray For February Baseball!

This is a crummy picture of the TV but, the point is, LOOK!




And, let the record show, the date is FEBRUARY 28TH: Hooray for February Baseball!!! The Nats won this game with a walk off homer by Michael A. Taylor. Of course, it's Spring Training in Florida, so it doesn't "count" for anything except fun and a good workout for the guys.

But still, it's that magic time of year when every team can dream and every kid can dream. Indeed, it makes me feel ten years old again. I love all sports, but baseball is the only one that is woven into my life in this visceral way. It makes my childhood present to me again, and more: it reminds me of my father and my grandfather, and my son.

So at the end of this February, I feel like a kid, with Spring on the way, another baseball season starting, and longer, brighter days ahead.

It's silly taking pictures of the television, but this is where it's happening: The boys in the dugout and wise old Dusty Baker. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Crazy Brain Rest

I have been "resting my brain" (seriously) by experimenting with shapes and colors and texts and stuff. This is kinda crazy, but I love the Bible verse! Anyway, this blog is my "workshop" so I'm not going to hide the clutter that I'm piddling around with.

Whoa! It's so... busy. It's not even finished, but it's overdone and I don't think I'll try to mess it up any further. Meanwhile I tried out a few easy graphic doodles worth remembering for future experiments.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Christianity is not an "Escape"

We can't avoid the big questions. They are fundamental to who we are. We are always "asking them," at least concretely, through the ardor of our desire for life and the tenacity with which we hold onto it and the frustration we so often endure when our expectations are thwarted.

The big questions. We can't escape them: "What is the purpose of all of these things I want and why am I afraid to lose them? Why does life seem to have this 'meaning' that keeps asserting itself?" 

"What do I need to be happy?" "How can we find justice, peace, solidarity, beauty?" "Why do we even care about all these things?" 

"What is this longing inside me that aches and is never satisfied?" 

"Why must we die, and why must we endure the death of those we love, this dark abyss of separation from them?"

Even if we are convinced that we "know the answers," we are always struggling with questions like these in our hearts even if not in our conscious thoughts. We are always searching within the horizon of these questions, always struggling with the circumstances in life because of them. But we can't find satisfying "answers" that make the questions go away. 

The more we live and learn, the more we come to realize that these questions move us toward an ultimate Mystery -- a definitive "answer" that we cannot give to ourselves but that we hope to receive, a promise that sustains our conviction that life is good, that it's worth living and hoping even when everything seems impossible.

As Christians, we think we know the meaning of life and death. We think we know the answers to the great human questions. And indeed the Gospel is the revelation of the truth. This is a fundamental and inestimable grace that gives light to our path. But we hold the truth in faith, in a certain "obscurity," through a glass darkly even when our attention and vigilance are at their height. And we are also weak, so easily forgetful, distracted, confused. 

We Christians can't expect our collection of thoughts, or the level at which we understand things, to be sufficient to end the essential "restlessness" of our human journey in this life. Our minds do not somehow provide us with an escape from the drama of human existence, from grappling with the mystery of our own destiny, or enduring the gut-wrenching suffering of our limits and failures, of the twisted strangeness of sin and the inescapable reality of death.

Of course, our faith reassures us that there is eternal life, that death has been conquered. There is comfort here; indeed, when life seems incomprehensible we are reminded that our trust in Jesus must be radical and total. We must trust, because it is through love that faith holds on in the most obscure places, the inexpressibly personal places where ideas can seem so cold.

Christianity is not "cheap and easy answers to the fundamental questions of life." Christianity is not an escape from the fragility of our own humanity. Christianity is a Person who loves us and endures our vulnerability to the very end, transforming it from within. The "answer" is the way He embraces each of our lives. We are changed by living with Him. We are not changed by a satisfying explanation. We are changed by Him.

There is no way to "cheat" the drama of life with its challenges, its choices, and its call to endurance. We must live through everything, trusting in Jesus Christ. He is with us, through everything, and He is the source of our strength, especially when we feel powerless and He seems somehow "distant" or even absent. His love draws us infinitely beyond ourselves, toward the fulfillment for which we have been created. He not only promises this fulfillment which we cannot imagine, but He walks with us every step of the way. He is the Way, and He takes upon Himself all the darkest and most desperate and most remote human places.

We must trust in Him, always.

We may not even feel any trust, but still we must trust, we must beg to be able to trust, we must continue to hope even if it all seems wild and terrible or full of anguish and emptiness. Because He Himself really endures with us all the tears, the separations, the crushed hearts, the weight of the pain. Really.

He has made it all His own, because He loves us.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Episode One of "MY FRONT PORCH" - Gratitude

Here is the premiere episode of a VLOG series in which I must say something interesting or worthwhile in 60 seconds or less. It's a challenge for a long-winded person like me, but yesterday was such a beautiful warm sunny day that it wasn't hard to be relaxed and speak simply, sitting on my porch.

Gratitude is really a simple thing. But it is an essential thing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Meeting an Other

"To be conscious of oneself right to the core is to perceive, at the depths of the self, an Other. This is prayer: to be conscious of oneself to the very center, to the point of meeting an Other. Thus prayer is the only human gesture which totally realizes the human being's stature" (Luigi Giussani, +February 22, 2005).

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

An Announcement Regarding My Internet Use During Lent

"Thumbs down" or "thumbs up" -- which will it be for me?

I have made an important decision regarding the use of the internet during this coming Lent. It regards what I need to do in order to prepare myself to celebrate the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus.

I have decided that I'm going to give more time to my friends through social media and the internet.

That is not a typo. It means what it says: through social media (or "on" social media, or whatever). Another way of putting it might be "to focus on the human person who is always and in every way the point of communications media."

To focus on "the person" means to focus on you. It means to give, concretely, more time to interacting with you and "listening" to you, while ignoring all that other stuff that wastes time.

I waste too much time reading things I don't need to read about things I don't need to know. I really want to work on that in the "desert" of these upcoming 40 days.

But I don't want to give you up for Lent.

If I didn't think there was real communication with real people going on in all of these various forms of interactive media, I would be GONE... and not just during Lent.

I understand that it helps some people to take "a break" from Facebook, Twitter, or whatever. I take my share of breaks. If this helps certain people for Lent, I don't want to discourage them. But personally I want to focus on an effort to be more human on what Benedict and Francis have called "the digital continent."

This is a work that requires effort, attention, and sacrifice. And it is a work that must be done.

Because if there is nothing human here, if the internet is just an escape, a diversion, a mode of self-indulgence and delusion, then we should totally BURN THIS SUCKER TO THE GROUND. I'm serious!

But I think "real life" and "real people" are the point of what we do online. However much I may fail, however incoherent I may be, my desire is to be here for the real persons who are searching for truth and love and for some way to be together.

I pray for the grace to focus on this reality, and be faithful to it.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Christina Grimmie Won't Be Invisible. Her Light Blazes On.

Christina Grimmie's first posthumous single, Invisible, was released by UMG/Republic Records on Friday. Along with it came news that Side B, the companion to last year's EP Side A, would appear next month.

The strong electronic music style represents yet another direction for her, and she takes hold of it with a wonderful brightness and originality. The large spectrum of sounds and variations of beat are a rich setting for her brilliant voice as it soars beautifully with all the colors and power and gracefulness we have come to know and love. And more.

It's an exciting introduction to this final phase of her musical career.

Then there are the striking lyrics to this anthem that rings with the persistence of someone who refuses to be put down by the negativity of another person.

The lyrics, indeed... wow! There is something deeply dramatic going on here.

The song is about a girl and a boy that she once trusted in some way, enough to allow herself to be vulnerable and open to him ("I thought you were worth it / Pulling back the curtain / I see why I was hurting, boy"). He tried to make her "disappear" or even die, at least metaphorically, but she insists that this is not going to happen ("I won't be another ghost / No, I won't be invisible / You see me everywhere you go").

Indeed, this "boy" is not the master of her existence ("I don't need your permission / to go on existing with or without you, boy"). She will not be defeated by his effort to put her down; rather she will go on with a presence that is stronger than ever. The bridge of the song is enough to give you chills down the spine. She sings these words twice, transitioning with a crescendo into the finale:

"I won't be diminished, eclipsed, or hidden
You're gonna see my light blaze black to life
Like the phoenix rise."

"You're gonna see my light blaze back to life like the phoenix rise."

On the surface this appears to be a song about a girl breaking free from a bad relationship that had descended to the level of emotional abuse, a girl who is determined not to be smothered by the boy who refuses to respect her humanity. Sure. I don't want to take anything away from this obvious meaning.

But it's striking how the life and death imagery is so strong. It's expressed as a struggle against being "eclipsed," becoming a "ghost," becoming "invisible." What is at stake is the determination "to go on existing" and to be the opposite of invisible, to be present, to have an impact on reality.

Then there is the phoenix. In fact, the phoenix is a powerful symbol both in classical mythology and in Christianity, where it is a reference to the resurrection, to the triumph of eternal life over death in Jesus Christ and those who belong to him. Indeed, the sharing in Christ's resurrected and glorified life has an impact even on this present age, and those who have gone to be with the Lord remain with us even as he remains with us in his presence and his power.

We're gonna see her light blaze back to life like the phoenix rise. Wow!

It's remarkable how this song resonates symbolically with the strange and awful event that took place a few months after it was recorded. It almost sounds like an "answer" from her in opposition to the inscrutable violence that tried to destroy her (and that, ironically, has made her in a very painful sense "invisible" to our earthly eyes -- because we walk in the darkness of faith, whereas she says "now you see me with the lights on").

In spite of the occasional spunky references to the "boy," it almost seems as though she is speaking to us, reassuring us, strengthening our hope in the One she has loved and continues to love. In another sense, we should remember that Christina lived her whole life 'opening her arms' with trust, letting herself be vulnerable. She was always offering herself, loving others whatever the risk might be. Of course, she was very human, with all the flaws and complexities of an ordinary life, as well as the beauty and special challenges of a prodigious musical talent: the ambition, the sensitivity, the energy, and the suffering that go with being an artist. And she had a unique gift and calling to communicate love with the simplest words and gestures, and the grace of a compassion and a companionship that reached out to people all over the world, that welcomed everyone but especially teenage kids who needed encouragement or who felt lonely, lost, hopeless, afraid, rejected, or forgotten. By living her life, by just being true to her real self, Christina made this love present in those very ordinary places where 21st century kids go to search for meaning and affirmation.

I tend to exaggerate things, and I don't want to do that here. I want to point to the mystery here: a grace that was "incarnate" in the real life of this girl from New Jersey, who was a regular kid with all the regular problems of any girl her age, all the incoherence, all the "shocking" mundane peculiarities of being human, along with her outstanding musical talent. I do not want to dress up Christina as an "angel" or a "saint" in the ethereal and distant, "unfamiliar" way we tend to think of such things. But I want to point to this secret fire, this extraordinary love that was inserted, like a hidden diamond, within all her ordinary human expressions, her quirks, her goofiness, her passion for music, her love for her family and friends and food and video games, her YouTube creations, songs, recordings, concerts, everything. This gift was easy to ignore or to miss entirely, but precious to those who discovered it.

This vocation that led her to invest herself so deeply, to offer herself in love, to take the risks of gratuitous love, must have weighed heavily on her in ways that no one ever knew. As a Christian, however, she knew first of all that she was loved with an everlasting love. This was the source of her hope, her courage, her willingness to keep getting up and keep going, to be faithful to her vocation, to risk letting her "light blaze back to life" even when it was painful. Christina was hurt in many ways in her life, and no doubt made plenty of mistakes and bad judgments, indulged in vanity and folly, committed sins and begged for forgiveness. We all carry the treasure of Christ's love in our frail earthen vessels. Christina carried this treasure that was luminous and radiant for the sake of the world; she carried it in her utterly fragile humanity, entirely dependent on His grace every day. She was called to be a witness to this great love, and she often fell short but she never gave up. And in that final moment, in the face of violence, she didn't give up. She opened her arms. She refused to be invisible. She refused to stop loving.

Getting back to the song: it's as if she is reassuring us with these words that she hasn't stopped loving with that remarkable, unconditional love that even now personally touches people. Her light still blazes. She shines on, this bright beautiful star.

Of course, I'm not saying she intended to convey this level of symbolism when she originally wrote the song. All these images work on the most obvious level of meaning as strong and dramatic metaphors. I wouldn't blame anyone if they said, "Hey, Professor JJ, come on... aren't you stretching this a bit too far? It's just a dubsteppy pop song... a three minute song, a dance song, it's fun, it's spunky, it's a bounce-back-after-a-bad-relationship song. Aren't you just over analyzing it? You know, like you tend to over analyse everything!"

Am I? Well, it's true that I over analyse things. It's also true that reality is mysterious. In any case, I'm not the only one listening to this song and going, "What? Whoa!" Ultimately, I don't believe in mere coincidence in this strange universe. In any case, I think we're glad to hear her sing these words of tremendous affirmation at this time. We're glad to hear her voice.

She's still surprising us even now, this "blazing light" that keeps shining.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Here's a Conversion Story, Because Writing is Too Hard!

Clement of Alexandria was a pioneer Christian scholar in the third century

I have a lot of days where I would do anything to avoid actually writing!

I would like to say that the reason is because I need to allow my thought processes and my modes of expression to "mature" like fine wine in the deep cellars of my subconscious mind. That may be partially true, but mostly I have to admit that writing is hard.

Sometimes, I would rather walk on hot coals than write. And I'm supposed to be a "writer." Even writing on the blog is hard, and what I do so often here is just offer "pieces" of writing. But writing of any kind requires a lot of energy. It's like breaking rocks with your mind. Even if you're good at it, it's exhausting.


Since there may be a few people out there who are not already subscribers and faithful readers of MAGNIFICAT, I decided to escape from actual writing by presenting my Great Conversion Story for this month's issue (which appears on pp. 270-271, right before today's segment).

This month's witness comes from Clement of Alexandria, who in a certain sense was the forefather of the Catholic university as we know it today, with its confidence in both faith and reason.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Hope: The Lord Remains With Us

I have been messing around again with graphics, using texts from Pope Francis's most recent Wednesday Audience addresses in which he is presenting his catechesis on hope. Background, fonts, colors, patterns: using the resources lets some parts of my brain rest while others are engaged. And I can listen to music while I do this. Meanwhile there is the useful effort to learn the possibilities for presenting written texts in a visual context.

Here are two versions of another beautiful text from the same homily:

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Creativity and Suffering in the Artistic Life

Words for a artist friend who is going through a difficult time, and who is also a Christian:

Your wonderful creativity is born out of the peculiar attention and vivid sensitivity of your experience of reality, your rich inner vitality, and your desire to communicate in concrete ways. You have an intensity of soul that cannot be kept inside you; it is the energy that pushes you to make your art, which is one key facet of the whole impetus of your life.

You live this way by nature, temperament, and the particular talents you have cultivated, but especially by the gift of grace--the charism--by which the Holy Spirit lives in you and suffuses your being and activity with his presence and life. He sustains your humanity and your dedication to your art and gives it the form of a mission.

The Spirit works through all your human engagement, commitment, and effort. But his power is most manifest in the places where you experience the greatest fragility, incomprehension, and sense of helplessness.

That is what will enable you to carry on even in the midst of suffering, and to remain with hope in front of even the most desperate circumstances.

The poetic intuition born in you--it grows deeper in suffering. Seeing and feeling deeply means more pain in life, I know. Give yourself from that depth, in your art, in your writing, above all in love (as Jesus did) and you will do beautiful things and the Lord will use you to open the hearts of others.

Your mission, in Christ, is a mystery that he alone understands.

And it is good that you allow us, your friends, to see you as you are, in all your dedication and limits and sorrows. Thank you for being totally yourself in front of us. Jesus is working through all of this in powerful ways, in our hearts, in ways we may never recognize in this life. But his work remains real and essential for you and for us. Just hang onto him and trust him, and keep being yourself, in grief, in hope, in joy, in work and the new things that open up in your life, in silliness, in times of "I-can't-take-it-anymore," being broken, wounded, consoled, the whole of it.

God is at work through it all. He is working his Divine art, fashioning a wonder of beauty through your weakness. It is the radiance of the love that endures all things, the love that never ends.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

We Are Afraid to Trust in God: What Can We Do?

We must trust in God. But why does this seem so hard?

If trust is something we are afraid of, then we must ask Jesus to take the fear, to heal us, to open our hearts so that we will be able to trust in him. Whatever we are afraid of, we must bring it to Jesus, and let Mary help us.

And we must keep asking, keep praying, never give up.

God's plan for our lives is to heal our hearts and enable us to love him. But we can't see this with our eyes. We need faith.

We need to reach for God from wherever we are. He is with us and loves us and will open us up to that love in the way that he knows is good for us.

He wants us to ask for him, not because he is holding back, but because he knows that it is by asking for his love that we open up space inside ourselves to receive him.

I have begun to realize that I just have to give everything to Jesus. That means especially the feeling of resistance that I have toward him, the feeling of wanting to keep myself because, in some ways, I trust myself more than him.

I just have to give the whole big mess to him and say, "Jesus here I am. Change what needs changing in me. Enable me to trust in You. Enable me to open myself. Come to all the hidden places where I throw up obstacles to Your love. Come to all the places where I am hurt, where I am damaged and afraid and cannot see that You are here for me."

That is my prayer. Dear good merciful Mother Mary, hold me, carry me.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Springs of Living Water

I can't let this weekend pass without any reference to the wonder of Lourdes, the tender care of the Lord's Mother for the sick and suffering who call upon her intercession, and for that spectacular humble girl of France who in the year 1858 was given the courage to be a prophet before all the world.

Bernadette Soubirous was willing to be regarded as a fool, then to be misunderstood, ridiculed, and to bear physical pain and the soul's aching thirst for God so that she might participate in a great sign for our own times of the Springs of Living Water.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Christina Grimmie Opened New Paths in Music and Media

It is the tenth day of February.

One of the most important reasons why we measure this mysterious thing called "time" is to mark our connection with the past, especially the moments in the past that still shape our experience and awareness of the present. We mark time because it helps us to remember.

Christina Grimmie was murdered eight months ago, on the tenth of June in the year of 2016, by a deranged man who approached her at an open meet-and-greet after her concert in Orlando, Florida and fired four bullets into her head and chest at point blank range. The 22 year old singer/songwriter/musician had opened her arms wide to welcome this man who witnesses say looked troubled, nervous, and perhaps shy. She chose to approach the stranger in the same way she had approached so many others in her brief but stunning career, with love.

The most amazing thing about Christina Grimmie was this love. But it was not the only amazing thing about her.

There was her amazing voice, her amazing skill on the piano keyboard, her songs, and all the effort she put into a significant collection of original music that we have not yet heard. Apparently Christina did an enormous amount of work recording original songs during the last four months of her life. Her family, manager, and fellow musicians are working on bringing together these songs and releasing them according to her own intentions. That means new songs by Christina Grimmie are still coming out. A new single called Invisible will debut on all the media platforms on February 17.

Perhaps she might yet receive the recognition she should have been given during her life. Everyone in the music industry has acknowledged her gigantic talent, even if they didn't know how to "package" her to fit the mould of the dominant trends, or to generate the vast commercialized attention (and profits) expected of "music celebrities." Undoubtedly Christina Grimmie's significance as an artist will continue to unfold into the future. Maybe it remains for those who come after us to appreciate the magnitude of what she has accomplished.

When I first wrote about Christina last summer, a few weeks after her death, I put a lot of emphasis on her foundational and formative influence for this new kind of media-thing called "YouTube" (read that article HERE). Over the past ten years, I've experienced a lot of YouTube videos. I think that YouTube (and audiovisual multimedia streaming in general) is the most radical social media platform of the present time, far more significant in the long run for human interaction than Facebook or Twitter.

But until fairly recently, YouTube just seemed to me to be another place for watching videos, or making videos for other people to watch. It seemed like an expanded version of the "television-vcr-dvd-videocam-thing." In a certain sense it is. In another sense, however, it has a creative dynamic and a reach all its own. I am still struggling to understand this dynamic, but I have learned a lot from Christina Grimmie. She shaped concrete works of performance art that were (indeed they still are) powerful expressions and communications of herself as a person. It's not surprising that she really touched (and continues to touch) people all over the world.

There is more to this phenomenon than mere human art, and I have written in other places about her faith and her special charism. But I don't want to neglect the artistic achievement forged by her tremendous human energy, her great humanity. It's not something you see by watching just one or two of her videos. You might be impressed right away by her music, but it takes time to begin to experience the way that a permanently accessible audiovisual media presentation conveys the unity of the artist with her music and her audience. This is only one of the many facets and possibilities of a media platform like YouTube, but it has a particular appeal for the performance artist. It is one thing to perform for a television show broadcasting to a mass audience. It is something else to craft one's own performance video and then share it in a way that reaches individual persons one at a time who can engage and interact with the video. In this dynamic, one's art is crafted as a personal gift and as an ongoing invitation to interpersonal relationship, to community.

This is what Christina Grimmie began to do in the summer of 2009. She wasn't the first or the only one to do this, but she had a "genius" for it. The genuine expression of her personality was woven into her songs and music and her talking and humor in a pervasive fashion. But it doesn't overwhelm the person watching it, and it can take some time to recognize the powerful gift of herself that she made in her videos and in all the other ways she shared her music. Indeed, it was something she herself developed over time, something that she eventually carried over also to her live concert performances and her remarkable interaction with her followers and supporters.

Christina took new paths as an artist, crafting new kinds of "artifacts" which have their own beauty because they are invested with the beauty of her own person and shaped to express that beauty. At the heart of all of this, of course, is music. Her videos remain to show us how personal music really is. This is even more striking and moving in light of the fact that she has completed her task in this world and has herself passed beyond our markings of time and into the Mystery that originates and fulfills everything.

Her videos show the continuing resonance of the gift she has given us, a gift of humanity and music.

I wonder whether perhaps fifty years from now she will be regarded in a way analogous to how we view another pioneer from fifty years ago, another musician who died tragically at the age of 22 but not before making a permanent impact on the whole realm of electronic ensemble music (i.e. "rock 'n roll"). The plane crash tragedy of 1959 was only part of the reason why Buddy Holly became a legend. He was also a real pioneer, one of the first to really grasp the fact that what he was playing was more than just a guitar with an amplifier attached to it. It was an electric guitar. It was a new kind of thing.

Maybe he never conceived of the whole matter abstractly, but he perceived it in an artistic way, he used it differently, to make new sounds. Musically, Buddy Holly opened up a new world. Electronic music has continued down so many new paths from the trail that he blazed 50 years ago. That's why Buddy Holly is a legend.

Fifty years from now, audiovisual streaming technology with be unimaginably rich in ways of communication and artistic expression. And everyone involved in it will know the legendary Christina Grimmie. They will be grateful to her.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Saint Josephine Bakhita: A Slave Who Became Free

On this feast day of Saint Josephine Bakhita, I thought I would reprint my Great Conversion Story published in MAGNIFICAT in the September 2014 issue.

  Great Conversion Stories
   Saint Josephine Bakhita

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Agatha Still Lives!

February 5 is observed on the liturgical calendars of Eastern and Western churches as the feast of Saint Agatha of Catania (who was tortured and martyred c. 250). She was another courageous young woman who gave her life for Jesus Christ.

Her heroic sacrifice, her total gift of herself to Jesus, has been celebrated since ancient times. She is one of the patron saints of Sicily. Since Sicily was at that time a Greek island, Agatha is an important figure in the Eastern tradition. On this day, the Byzantine liturgy honors her with many beautiful prayers such as this one:

You were a fragrant flower of virginity and an undefiled bride of the Lifegiver; you desired the Source of all good and excelled in martyrdom. O glorious Agatha, intercede by your holy prayers for those who lovingly honor your contest.

Agatha and countless others who followed her example of courage down through the ages bring to mind the words of Saint Paul: "I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ,...to know him and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death" (Philippians 3:8,10).

Even today, Catania celebrates Saint Agatha with a three day festival, including a procession of her remains through the city streets accompanied by crowds of hundreds of thousands of people. It is one of the largest "religious festivals" in the world.

What ancient personage has such a vital connection to real people today? This is not a celebration for Julius Caesar or some great philosopher or politician or king or movie star from the past. This is the celebration of a teenage girl who gave her life for Jesus Christ nearly 1,800 years ago!

Today, Saint Agatha is still remembered and honored with love by countless people, and she is a friend to their hearts. Real people have had real relationships with this person through the ages. They have looked to her example, confided in her, asked for her help. This is not superstition. This is the reality of the Church, the communion of saints.

This communion of persons with God and with one another in Jesus Christ cannot be broken by the power and the violence of the world. They couldn't destroy it in the year 250. Long after the powers that raged against her have been forgotten, Agatha still lives! They can't destroy it in 2017. They will never destroy it.

Violence is only for a time. Love never ends.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Presentation of the Lord

"Forty days have passed since we celebrated
the joyful feast of the Nativity of the Lord.
Today is the blessed day
when Jesus was presented in the Temple by Mary and Joseph.
Outwardly he was fulfilling the Law,
but in reality he was coming to meet his believing people.
Prompted by the Holy Spirit,
Simeon and Anna came to the Temple.
Enlightened by the same Spirit,
they recognized the Lord
and confessed him with exultation.
So let us also, gathered together by the Holy Spirit,
proceed to the house of God to encounter Christ.
There we shall find him
and recognize him in the breaking of the bread,
until he comes again, revealed in glory."

~from the "Introduction" for the procession and the blessing of candles on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.

Fra Giovanni da Fiesole (a.k.a. Beato Angelico), Presentation, San Marco, Florence