Sunday, April 21, 2019

Beautiful Easter Sunday

It has been a beautiful Easter Sunday and beginning of the Easter Season.

Praised be Jesus Christ!


Saturday, April 20, 2019

Holy Saturday: We Wait in Hope

Digital art from the "Cross" series
Christ is buried.

The seed of the New Creation is sown in the depths of the earth.

And so, we wait in hope for the fulfillment of that Kingdom which has been inaugurated under the sign of the Cross.

He is the resurrection and the life. The depths of God's love - Absolute Love - are deeper than the darkest of graves, deeper than the whole abyss of death.

Tomorrow we rejoice in the victory of Christ, risen in the flesh. He makes us sons and daughters of His Father in the Spirit, and already in this world we begin to taste the transfigured life that is our destiny, the life of human persons suffused and transformed by Love.

The longer we remain in this world, the clearer it becomes to us that this is not our lasting home. Our loved ones go before us in death, which is still a painful mystery and yet in Christ, in Christ's transforming love, it has become the passage to fulfillment, to eternal life.

He lives. They live in Him. We also live in Him, even in the midst of this world, and so we live in hope. If we groan with sorrow, it is encompassed in the mystery of endurance, of suffering, of solidarity with the whole creation that waits with eager longing to be made new.

Love is breaking the hard ground that holds us, the limits and frustrations of this life that we fear, the sins by which we hold back and refuse to become larger than our own ego with its illusions of control.

Let us go forth without fear. All tombs - the tombs of our loved ones, the tomb where we buried my father recently, our own tombs - are destined to be empty, in the end. This is not our home. We are made for a New Creation.

"I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance" (Romans 8:19-25).

Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday: The "New Commandment" to Love as He Loves


"God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us."

~ 1 John 4:8-11

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

"The Day You Slipped Away..."

It's Wednesday of Holy Week.

I have been feeling... unfocused. Dislocated. Like the ground under my feet is not quite the same. I feel the strangeness of death.

I woke up the other day and thought, "Dad is dead? That's not possible! It doesn't make any sense. He can't be dead. He's my Dad!"

Yes, I still have faith. But faith doesn't make suffering go away. It gives the capacity to endure, to go forward - somehow - in the midst of the night. It suffuses every human reality, including death and the gaps and shifts in the human relationships of those who remain behind. It sustains us on the peculiar, unpredictable road of grief.

But why do I have a picture above of two very different people who don't seem to have any obvious connection to each other? What do C. S. Lewis and the 19-year-old, early-aughts version of Avril Lavigne have in common?

Grief.

I have been reading Lewis's A Grief Observed. I saw it the shelf. So I pulled it out and started reading it. It's his journal of his struggles following the death of his wife. His is a very different kind of loss, and many of its particular details don't resonate with anything in my own experience (though I can empathize). But Lewis, the great Christian apologist, does not hide the raw emotion or the darkness and strangeness of what he's going through.

I recognize the odd spectrum of feelings, which resemble in certain respects the symptoms of Major Depression. Lewis says that sometimes his grieving "feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting."

That's insightful. He also spends many paragraphs reasoning about the ways of God, acknowledging his incapacity to understand, and allowing for the fact of the anguish that human beings of flesh and blood, of time and history, must simply endure.

Lewis expresses in erudite terms his own experience of sorrow, without shrinking from its forcefulness.

Meanwhile, a song keeps coming into my head from 2004.

Here too is a genuine grieving, an experience of sorrow and loss. Avril Lavigne wrote "Slipped Away" after the death of her grandfather. She loved him very much.

The popular music song is a completely different form of expression, not one that ordinarily lends itself to long discursive insights. As for erudition, I have noted elsewhere that Avril's lyrics "read" very simply. They are not "stand-alone" poetry.

The song is a visceral, intuitive tonal painting of grief in its diverse hues. Vocal inflection above all gives the song its weight as a cry of bewilderment and pain, along with rhythmic structure and instrumentation. The emotions are universally accessible even while they maintain their raw and distinctly adolescent form.

Personally, I'm much affected by the almost echoing repetitions of the bridge leading into the final refrain. This section hits hard:

I had my wake up
Won't you wake up
I keep asking why
And I can't take it
It wasn't fake
It happened you passed by
Now you're gone, now you're gone
There you go, there you go
Somewhere I can't bring you back
Now you're gone, now you're gone
There you go, there you go
Somewhere you're not coming back
The day you slipped away
Was the day I found it won't be the same, no
The day you slipped away
Was the day that I found it won't be the same, oh
Nah nah, nah nah nah, nah nah
I miss you.

Once again, the way to appreciate this is to listen to her sing it (click below). I think I may find it cathartic, eventually, once the "invisible blanket between the world and me" removes itself.
.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Our King is Coming...


Palm Sunday. 

The GREAT WEEK has begun, during which we walk with Jesus from Jerusalem to the Cross to the silence of the tomb, and then ... the beginning of something totally new! 
⭐ # JourneyTowardsEaster2019

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Dad Was "Always Holding Me Up, With Love"



Today marks two years and ten months since Christina Grimmie's young life was taken from her and from this world. Now, as I mourn my own father's death, Christina's musical legacy gives me words that help me to be grateful for his love.

Here is what I would like to say to him:

"Dear Dad, you certainly 'held me up' all these many years - with your strength, quiet dedication, guidance, and help - whenever I was 'down' and 'done' and 'coming unplugged' (which happened a lot). You were there for me 'with love,' as you were for all of the family and for all of those entrusted to you.

"Since you were a faithful reader of my blog while you were still able, you knew about Christina Grimmie and read articles or saw memes/graphics I would post every month. Today, I use these words of hers to express in a clear and simple way my gratitude to you. 

"Christina wrote this song to Jesus, but she also realized that it applied to all the people who had been given to her in her life: her family, friends, and her supporters all over the world. She understood that Jesus was present in the humanity of others, and that He was also 'holding her up' through their love. 

"Of course you now understand these things far better than me, and you see in clear daylight the mysteries of this life that remain obscure and enigmatic for those of us who still journey through it. You have been drawn up by the Love that really does overcome all the violence and evil of this world. For you, fear has finally been banished. 

"May the Lord grant you eternal rest, and let perpetual light shine upon you. May He embrace you forever in His mercy. May Jesus reward you for being an instrument of His love in this world. And please, keep helping me, according to the new ways that God's wisdom and love make available to you.

"I love you Dad."

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Among the Rolling Hills

We buried Dad today, in the Catholic cemetery in nearby Winchester, here in the Shenandoah Valley among the rolling hills. My parents wanted their final resting places to be near where their children and grandchildren live.


Nature herself provided some flowers on the trees in front of the church. Rest in Peace, Dad.


Sunday, April 7, 2019

"Cross" no. 2

Here is another finished digital art piece in what is becoming my "series" of "abstract decorative crosses."

It's all I have right now. Everything else has kind of slowed down as we prepare to lay my father's body to rest this week.


Thursday, April 4, 2019

A Family, Finally Together Again

There are many aspects to my father's passing away yesterday, many memories that are flooding me, many feelings, sorrows and hope, prayer.

THIS PICTURE is, for me, a particular sign of hope and an ardent object of my prayer. This is the Janaro Family, my father's family, around the year 1943.

It shows a beautiful, still young, happy family. Beginning at top left: Walter Janaro (the First), his wife Lucy, and their oldest son Arnold. Bottom left are daughter Rosemary and son Walter (Jr.), my Dad (at about 8 years old).

I think this is the last picture of all of them together. Tragedy was soon to strike, and it would bring great and enduring sorrow to my Dad and his siblings.

In 1944, their father (Walter Sr.) fell ill and died, as did their mother (Lucy) two years later. Thankfully, there were lots of extended family in their Italian immigrant neighborhood in the Bronx. The three orphans stayed together with a grandmother. "La famiglia" took good care of them, and they raised my Dad well. 

But, though he rarely showed it, I know that he missed his parents deeply for the rest of his life. 

His sister Rosemary and brother Arnold grew up, had families too, and grandchildren, and passed away more recently (my Uncle Arnold just last year). When he heard about his brother's death, my Dad (already debilitated and living at Greenfield) said in an unusual lucid moment, "I'm all alone now." He said this with his two sons right in front of him, but we understood what he meant. We knew of his long sorrow. 

Yesterday, everything changed.

The mysterious and all-encompassing joy of being with God - which is my prayer for everyone in this family and my hope in Jesus Christ - also includes the great healing of all wounds and separations. Praying for their eternal rest and trusting in God's love and mercy, I like to picture this family FINALLY TOGETHER AGAIN after 75 years, henceforth never be parted. 

"Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended" (Catholic Funeral Liturgy). God is good, all the time. And He loves us.❤➕

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Rest in Peace, Dad

My father died peacefully this morning, after a lengthy illness. He was three days short his 84th birthday.

➕Grant him eternal rest, O Lord. Jesus embrace him in your mercy.➕


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Life, Death, and Solidarity

There is much that I have found helpful in Henri Nouwen's book, Our Greatest Gift: A Meditation on Dying and Caring.

Nouwen has a special gift for helping us to see how Jesus listens to our mental and emotional questions and embraces our weak, small, ordinary bewilderment and sorrow in the midst of our sufferings. The strangeness of living and dying touches the immense mystery of how God's love is transforming us and the world.

Here I quote one small passage, from pp. 32-33:

"People ask for solidarity, not only in life, but in death as well. Only when we are willing to let their dying help us to die well, will we be able to help them to live well.

"When we can face death with hope, we can live life with generosity.

"We all die poor. When we come to our final hours, nothing can help us survive. No amount of money, power, or influence can keep us from dying.

"This is true poverty.

"But Jesus said, 'Blessed are you who are poor, the kingdom of God is yours' (Luke 6:20). There is a blessing hidden in the poverty of dying. It is the blessing that makes us brothers and sisters in the same Kingdom. .

"It is the blessing we receive from others who die.

"It is the blessing we give to others when our time to die has come.

"It is the blessing that comes from the God whose life is everlasting."

Monday, April 1, 2019

Dad's Home for a Year



Here is a panoramic view of Greenfield Assisted Living in Strasburg, Virginia. What a wonderful home it has been for my Dad this past year, and a comfort to him and us amidst many difficulties. 

We are very grateful!❤