Thursday, June 30, 2022

Painted Bird

Let’s end June with a bit of a messy digital experimental “painting,” from my original photograph of a blue jay. I’m not sure I’m anywhere near satisfied with it, but here it is anyway:

Monday, June 27, 2022

The Inviolable Dignity of Every Human Being

The recent decision of the United States Supreme Court (Dobbs v Jackson) should bring a sense of relief and hope to anyone who understands that the dignity of every human person is not self-created, but radically given by the Mystery that is the source and sustenance of all things.

In this epoch characterized by the seemingly unfettered and enormous expansion of human power in every direction, the most vulnerable human beings and human relationships are often cast aside. We remain afflicted by the endemic problems of a society that values having over being; a society that draws us to assess the worth of human persons by their external achievements, economic status, and influence in shaping the dominant mentality, rather than by their inherent personal dignity and their perseverance in the fundamental human vocation to love and to be loved in interpersonal communion.

By overturning the legal implications and partially correcting the reasoning of its prior decisions (Roe v Wade, 1973, and Casey v Planned Parenthood, 1992), the U.S. Supreme Court has taken a step in the direction of opening up greater space in our society for protecting, affirming, and supporting the inviolable human dignity of the person of a pregnant mother and the person of her pre-born child. Moreover, the basic relationship that constitutes an irrevocable bond between mother and child - a bond that begins with the mysterious entrustment of the unique, new human individuality of the child to his or her mother’s womb - has a chance to receive more of the attention and commitment it deserves from others: from families and communities, from the mother’s place of work, and from the larger society.

The Court has not made abortion illegal in the USA. It merely permits individual States in the Union to make their own laws regarding abortion. This certainly challenges citizens of each State and their representatives to work for changes in their laws, to bring them as much as possible into accord with justice, equity, and compassion toward all human life. It also calls for new and creative forms of collaboration between civil authorities and local communities to support mothers and children (before and after birth), to support families, and to dismantle the social injustices and fragmentation that put seemingly unbearable pressures on many pregnant mothers, and too often leave them feeling isolated and desperate.

What we know for certain is that abortion is never “the solution” to the difficulties faced by pregnant mothers and the children whom they nurture in their wombs. Every abortion kills an innocent human being who possesses an inviolable human dignity, and does violence to a given and irreplaceable interpersonal relationship between mother and child. 

A pregnant woman is a mother, who carries in her womb a pre-born child who is in the process of “growing up” through this relationship (just as all of us once did). These pre-born children are unique, individual human beings who have been given and entrusted to their mothers’ special care, to be immersed in their first “home” - the first environment of their fragile lives. They depend totally and concretely on their mother’s welcoming love, which might not be “sentimental” - often it can be very difficult and cause her much suffering - but which must at least be a “yes” to this new human being and a willingness to accompany him or her in this time of the beginning of human existence, the most radically needy and vulnerable moments of the human journey.

We all owe compassion and dedicated support to pregnant mothers in our families and communities; they too need an environment of love and “belonging-to” those who are near to them. Even as the pre-born child has been entrusted to his or her mother, so also the mother has been entrusted to our unconditional love and companionship. Too often we neglect our responsibility to mothers, but here we must change our hearts. We must remember them. They need us! 

The gift of new life is a mysterious event, and it is hard for a mother to say “yes” - it calls for many sacrifices, and we must do whatever we can to help her bear them - to stand with her in love and compassion. It is especially burdensome, and even terrifying, when the pregnancy occurs in the context of violence and abuse, or when it seems to disrupt the genuine human aspirations and personal development of a woman. This can be a tremendous source of suffering, and no one should presume to measure the depths of another’s suffering. Every human journey is mysterious and often painful (incomprehensibly painful), though the journey never ceases to hold forth an inexhaustible promise, for which we all search with the very core of our hearts. We must not deny or ignore this suffering. We are called to help one another to bear it, with love, on a journey of hope that continues to seek ultimate fulfillment and peace.

Realism requires us to affirm the fact that pregnancy is a relationship between two persons. Whatever circumstances may have preceded and occasioned his or her conception, the pre-born human individual has been called into existence by the Mystery who sustains all beings, who fashions every human person with ineffably tender care and calls them to the fullness of life and a communion of love. Pregnant mothers are specially called to love their pre-born children, who are destined to become fully mature, but at present are completely and immediately dependent on the unique and essential “hospitality” that only the pregnant mother can give. We who are their families and communities are called to love them both in whatever ways we can. Society should prioritize shaping the larger environment and its resources to foster this love. Abortion is the very antithesis of what is crucially needed here.

We must acknowledge the wide range of difficulties, anxiety, disorientation, and suffering that can accompany a pregnancy, and recognize with sorrow the many ways we have failed to stand with and support persons in need: women who are persons entrusted with the responsibility of motherhood, and their children, who are persons - distinct, unique living human beings - from the moment of conception, and who remain persons throughout pregnancy and after birth, through childhood and growing up. Children depend on their mother’s love for the formation of their personalities - for learning the truth about their own personal dignity and how to give themselves in love. The mother-child relationship is always a fundamental human interpersonal relationship; once it comes into existence, it is intrinsically oriented to the real growth of both persons. This relationship is essential and necessary, but not sufficient. Therefore, mothers and children are entitled to love, respect, and support from those around them. Moreover, the structures of society ought to prioritize their needs, and even reorient social life in ways that will be more congenial to the integration of motherhood with the general scope of women’s personal and professional talents. Such a reorientation, however, requires a renewal of the desperately endangered ecosystem of family life. This renewal calls for courage and creativity in the wise use of new and emerging resources, as well as much healing of minds and hearts.

Families are deeply afflicted by a terrible combination of rampant ideology and insatiable cupidity. It should go without saying that every child also has a father. But in our society fathers are too often drawn away by a false sense of autonomy, the delusion of self-sufficient power, the pursuit of their impulses, ambitions, and the idolatry of money. Fathers who neglect their responsibilities toward their children are only dehumanized and lacerated by their alleged (false) “independence,” and impoverished as persons even if they cover themselves in the illusions of shallow materialistic “success.” 

Part of the wreckage of “human ecology” in our society today comes from the paralysis-of-the-heart that masquerades as the “ideal realization of freedom”: the pseudo-ideal of radically making one’s self, attaining self-affirmation without belonging to others in relationship, without permanent commitments, without responsibilities, without depending on others, without acknowledging the real, structural needs of the heart for the gift of an “other” - ultimately the “Other” on whom everyone depends, who alone can fulfill the human heart. Instead, this pseudo-ideal tries to absolutize the “self,” as if one could achieve one’s own being through what is in fact a loveless, impenetrable solitude. Since the beginning of the epoch of power, men especially have been tempted by this radical ideological vanity. It is a more recent tragedy that women - having rightly discovered their freedom and equality as persons - are being sucked into the pursuit of this same eviscerating false ideal of freedom.

Once again we must insist: this is not reality! This is not true freedom! This is inhuman! As long as our society continues to run after this charade (like the pigs running over the cliff), it will generate violence and destruction, and leave helpless victims in its wake. There are many who are vulnerable in this society, and among them are certainly pregnant mothers and their pre-born children - especially those who are in crisis and don’t know where to turn. The legal system should not hold out abortion as an option, when it is in fact a further plunge into inhumanity and destruction. The reality is that abortion kills an innocent human being who possesses an inviolable human dignity, and does sundering violence to an irreplaceable interpersonal relationship between mother and child. 

And no one attains genuine human personal freedom by evading reality, covering up facets one doesn’t wish to see, blinding one’s self.

The individual living human being must always be regarded as a person, from conception to natural death and at every moment in between, a person who is worthy of love, who makes a claim on our love because he or she is our brother or sister. Persons are not meant to be alone, but to exist in communion with other persons, in a communion of love. We do not have the right to give or take away any person’s human dignity, or to absolve ourselves of the responsibility to love those who have been given to us.

We must love one another because we belong to one another; we are not biological accidents, nor autonomous self-engendering aliens merely coexisting in a common space, nor obstacles to one another’s assertions of a will to power. We are entrusted to one another by the One who is the Source and Fulfillment of us all, and the reason for all our hope.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

The World Changes Through Mary’s Heart

“If we want the world to change, then first our hearts must change. For this to happen, let us allow Our Lady to take us by the hand. Let us gaze upon her Immaculate Heart in which God dwelt…. In her, there is no trace of evil and hence, with her, God was able to begin a new story of salvation and peace. There, in her, history took a turn. God changed history by knocking at the door of Mary’s heart” (Pope Francis).

Friday, June 24, 2022

Saint John the Baptist AND Sacred Heart Feasts

Since Easter was so late this year, we have an interesting confluence of feast days on the Roman Church calendar. Yesterday was actually my Name Day feast this year: the Birth of Saint John the Baptist. It got “bumped” to June 23 because the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a “moveable feast” that always falls on the Friday of the week after Corpus Christi, which this years happens to be today, June 24.

Saturday is the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (whose solicitude is particularly important for us in these times, and we must continue to entrust ourselves to her as we did in a special way on this past March 25). 

And then, of course, comes SUNDAY, which is always precious, the “Easter” of every week, the “Lord’s Day.” 

Rejoice in these beautiful days of celebration!

“Raised up high on the Cross,
he gave himself up for us with a wonderful love
and poured out blood and water from his pierced side,
the wellspring of the Church’s Sacraments,
so that, won over to the open heart of the Savior,
all might draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation”
(from the Preface, liturgy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus).

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Celebrating 26 Years of Marriage

Today Eileen and I celebrate 26 years of marriage. The collage shows us in our wedding picture (1996) and today (2022) after so many years of married and family life, and raising kids to adulthood and to the beginning of the next generation

Eileen and I have passed through so many wonders and challenges and difficulties and all kinds of circumstances beyond anything we ever imagined when we committed our lives to each other on that hot day of June 22, 1996. We have both changed so much since that day, and yet our love has grown stronger through the years. Yes, it has taken hard work, mutual sacrifice, and continual openness to reconciliation. But married love depends on more than these things.

Marriage is a mystery that is beyond our power to control. It takes us beyond ourselves, only to enable us to find ourselves and one another ever more deeply. Marriage is in fact a gift of God’s grace.

This gift of grace is abundant. Grace is at the center of marriage. It's not "magic.” It doesn't "fix" the problems of spouses or the circumstances in such a way that everything becomes easy. Rather, it generates the possibility of love, even in the most difficult circumstances, and it builds (slowly, day by day) new ways of looking at everything: the trials and also the joys, the past, the present, and the future.

Of course, so often we forget about grace. But marriage is a sacrament, and the bond that unites and sustains us is the redemptive love of Jesus who never abandons us. It is His fidelity to us that enables us to be faithful to each other, to love each other and help each other, to forgive each other over and over again.

We thank the Lord for the moments that we remember His constant redeeming and transforming presence, and ask that those moments of memory and gratitude might increase. In spite of how it may seem at the beginning, the grace that builds up married life is not a great wind or a roaring fire. It is the sound of the breeze, and the still, small voice.

A wedding day is a wonderful day, well worth celebrating year after year. The joy glimpsed by newlyweds united in Christ is vindicated, enriched, refined, and empowered to endure and be renewed again and again through the years, as we journey together on the road toward the fulfillment of eternal life.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

I Am A “Happy Father”!πŸ™‚

Father’s Day has certainly become “different” over the years, especially over the past five years, with my own father passing into Eternity and my children growing up. This Father’s Day 2022, the family got together, as we do on most Sundays. I wasn’t feeling well, and had to take a couple of “breaks,” but it was a beautiful day for an outdoor picnic, and so we had a little celebration. I didn’t take any pictures.

It was a day for me to be silent in my heart, and look upon with wonder and gratitude these people whom God has given to us over the past 25 years. Along this mysterious journey, and even in front of all its peculiar difficulties, the reality of the gift shines through, and I can say, “I am a happy father!”

Here is the most recent picture of the “original” Janaros of this generation that was taken last month after Lucia’s graduation (daughter-in-law Emily and granddaughter Maria were away for her sister’s graduation that weekend, so they are not in the picture). Just look at them!

***I still struggle with feelings of uselessness in relation to my wife and these kids. I don’t fit the typical “stereotype” for fathers, at least on the surface. I don’t have much to offer “from the neck down,” and even with my mind and voice I have made the same kind of mistakes that most fathers make.

But I’m “here,” and I have made much effort to be “here” in the midst of my family for the past 15 years. Perhaps if I had been healthy during those years, I would have been less present to my family, and more excessively absorbed in my career aspirations and ambitions (which were quite large, as were the expectations regarding me as a “rising star” in the academic world long ago, when I was young). 

Work, of course, is necessary and enriching, and there is a balanced way for a father to engage in work commitments beyond the home that not only provides essential family income, but also opens wider perspectives for his children and inspires them to grow in maturity. This path - common for more physically healthy fathers - has its own trials, temptations, and sacrifices that so many fathers quietly embrace each day for their families.

I have had special limitations, but I keep trying to do the essential thing: to love and care for my “kids.” I think they know that their very flawed, very human parents love them. I pray for them (and for myself), begging God in front of the immense disproportion between my own weakness and the gift of the vocation to fatherhood. Without the love of the Mystery who sustains all things - the God who alone is the Father in a radical sense, the Father of us all, who gives His love to us through Jesus Christ - I could not endure or face any of the perplexing challenges and twists and turns of this life. Even the joys would inevitably spoil and inflate into illusions of pride, or else frustrate by their own finitude and turn to disappointment and loss.

Jesus does not take away all the weakness and poverty, but He stays with us, and so we are reminded and prompted by the Holy Spirit to turn to Him and adhere to Him, recognizing in Jesus the fullness of every moment - He who makes us children of God our Father through His redeeming love.

His love illuminates our sorrows too, and our grief. I remember my own father with gratitude and prayer, and I miss him. It was touching the way Facebook brought back memories of Father’s Days from the past.

Then there’s being a grandfather. Seeing “your children’s children” is a great blessing, full of surprises. Of course, you know I’m a “happy Papa”!☺️

Saturday, June 18, 2022

My Parents in “Living Color” on Their Wedding Day

*In a previous post I was speaking of the history that falls within the scope of my memory. Well, just to go back a bit further: 62 years ago today, June 18th, this glamorous couple got married. 

I don’t remember this event, but I wouldn’t even be here without it.πŸ™‚ Dad was 25 and Mom was 21. Mom was just a bit younger than our Lucia who gets married in three weeks.

Now my parents are both together again with God. We remember them with love, we miss them, we remain close to them in prayer, and we look forward in hope to a happy reunion with them when our own labors in this life our done. 

Oh… and BY THE WAY, I worked with a digital color filter and some “touching up” to enliven this originally black-and-white photograph. It’s far from perfect but these tools keep improving. It’s fascinating even to get a “hint” of color from that day…πŸ“Έ⭐️

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Papa Reads To Maria, the New “Bookmonster”

Maria is not really a “bookmonster” yet, but it looks promising. Right now she seems more interested in playing with the pages. It’s a good thing that Mother Goose has “tough” pages.

But she likes being read to, and Papa likes to read to his granddaughter. Soon she will learn to point out the chickens and the sheep and other characters. When this blog began in 2011, Josefina was the veteran bookmonster. She would drop a whole pile of books on my lap and say, “Read me book.”

In any case, reading to Maria makes both of us smile.☺️

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Nixon in Our Living Room

What’s my oldest memory of a “breaking news” story? This was a question going around on social media. People were saying, “9-11” or “the O.J. trial” or even “the Berlin Wall” (which would put a person “north” of 35 years old). These are the answers of today’s adults.

Dang, I’m so old! I remember lots of “news” in the background on tv, including machine gunfire every night and reporters talking about “Saigon,” “Viet Cong,” etc. I don’t remember any of the 1960s assassinations. I have a vivid memory of watching the Apollo 11 moon landing, and following all the adventures in space. But my first clear memory of breaking news is watching the U.S. election results in November 1968. 

That night, the news announced an event which stunned some people, brought a sigh of relief to some others, but also left many people still feeling perplexed and anxious and confused about their country which seemed broken, perhaps beyond repair. We had a presidential election that day, an election that everyone was on fire about even though no one seemed enthusiastic about any of the candidates. My parents disputed with my grandfather over it, sometimes to the point of shouting matches that abruptly ended our Sunday afternoon visits. Of course, Italian-Americans always shout at one another; it’s a form of “love language” with us (up to a point, after which it’s just abusive). In any case we would return the following Sunday afternoon for dinner and a new round of argument.

But we were hardly the only ones arguing. At nearly six years old, I had begun to be dimly aware of the crises of the times, where violence rose up in response to longstanding racial injustice, poverty, and an overextended, ill-planned, indiscriminately destructive, and seemingly endless foreign war. This sounds like it could be the early 21st century, huh? Or even today, minus (for the moment) the part about the war. But remember, this is 1968. The USA was in crisis before some of your parents were even born!

The crisis with its violence and anxiety had other, deeper roots, however. Among these was the fact that the overall context of human interpersonal and communal relationships was facing immense challenges, seemingly beyond anyone’s capacity to control or even conceive. Technology was advancing relentlessly, in unprecedented ways, but overall it was growth without wisdom

The times were not entirely bad (nor are they now). There were many areas where people could unite, guided by a fragmented and partial wisdom and benevolence, and they were able to direct certain new technological forces in constructive ways. We were not without great human achievements in those times, nor are we today. There was, and remains, much good in the society inherited from my youth, much that must be incorporated within a genuine wisdom for the building of our lives today and in the future.

But the events of my lifetime, in my own country and elsewhere, have often been harsh and even lacerating in ways that we have yet to really understand. I was born into a world where violence and alienation were bred from the strange tensions and turmoil of daily life. We have lived with a terrible restlessness stirred up by the mania and incessant stress of trying to live in a materially overdeveloped, covetous society that has drowned out the search for wisdom and the true purposes of life.

This was true in November 1968, and remains true 54 years later. The anxiousness remains, the precipice grows more harrowing (if we don’t notice, it’s only because we’ve become more accustomed to it). Of course, there have also been very many good new things in the last half-century, or good elements in events and things that are, overall, mired in ambivalence. 

Still, today - as in 1968, and indeed throughout my entire life - many people in the USA feel that we are in danger of falling apart. We are certainly perplexed, confused, overextended, and many of us are afflicted with nervous exhaustion. We, the people, have to face new responsibilities and take on new tasks. But first, we need healing. We need a renewed discovery of wonder, a new desire aimed at the Mystery of reality that still calls out to us in our circumstances, in the midst of the trauma and disorientation and immense potential of our times.

I remember the news on that November night in 1968. I “experienced” that news event in basically the same way I learn the news today: I watched it on television. The now legendary images were clear enough on the screen, as the news reported: Richard Nixon elected President of the United States. 

We all saw Nixon in our living rooms that night, and many many nights and days thereafter. Well… more on this some other time. Meanwhile, this childhood memory/event deserves an expression in surreal art.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

I Ask… I Seek… To Live…

The Communion Antiphon in the Roman Liturgy for the 11th week in Ordinary Time:

Monday, June 13, 2022

Saint Anthony's "Brilliant Sparks of Light"

Today we celebrate Saint Anthony, the great medieval preaching Franciscan, who is still much beloved today not only because he helps people to find things, but also because of his outstanding witness to the Gospel and his ongoing "closeness" to people through the ages, especially in Italian and Ibero-hispanic cultures.

I ask Saint Anthony to pray for the eternal rest of my father Walter Anthony Janaro II. My father took "Anthony" as his confirmation patron saint, and - although (like most men of his generation) not one to speak much about his own spiritual life - I know that he had great affection for and reliance on the saint who was born in Portugal in 1195 and ministered in Padua, Bologna, and other parts of Northern Italy until his death in 1231. His sanctity was so evident that he was canonized in 1232.

Saint Anthony was one of the bright lights of the renewal of Christian life - the "new evangelization" - that swept over thirteenth century Europe. Here are some words from a sermon quoted in Magnificat for today's meditation:

“Today Christ stands at our door and knocks in the person of his poor. It is to him that we open when we give aid, when we give ourselves to those in need; for he tells us plainly, When you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.

“When a crystal is touched or struck by the rays of the sun, it gives forth brilliant sparks of light. When the man of faith is touched by the light of God’s grace, he too must give forth sparks of light in his good words and deeds, and so bring God’s light to others.”

~Saint Anthony of Padua

Sunday, June 12, 2022

The Trinity and Our Vocation to Interpersonal Communion

In his Angelus Message for Trinity Sunday, Pope Francis preached vividly about how the mystery of the Trinitarian God reveals also the mystery of what it means for us to be persons, created in God’s image, created to love and to be loved. It is worthwhile to meditate on and live these profound and essential truths:

"Celebrating the Most Holy Trinity is not so much a theological exercise, but a revolution in our way of life. God, in whom each Person lives for the other in a continual relationship, in continual rapport, not for himself, provokes us to live with others and for others. Open.

"Today we can ask ourselves if our life reflects the God we believe in: do I, who profess faith in God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, truly believe that I need others in order to live, I need to give myself to others, I need to serve others? Do I affirm this in words or do I affirm it with my life?

"The One and Triune God, dear brothers and sisters, must be manifested in this way – with deeds rather than words. God, who is the author of life, is transmitted not so much through books as through witness of life. He who, as the evangelist John writes, 'is love' (1 John 4:16), reveals himself through love.

"Think about the good, generous, gentle people we have met; recalling their way of thinking and acting, we can have a small reflection of God-Love.

"And what does it mean to love? Not only to wish them well and to be good to them, but first and foremost, at the root, to welcome others, to be open to others, to make room for others, to make space to others. This is what it means to love, at the root.

"To understand this better, let us think of the names of the divine Persons, which we pronounce every time we make the Sign of the Cross: each name contains the presence of the other. The Father, for example, would not be such without the Son; likewise, the Son cannot be considered alone, but always as the Son of the Father. And the Holy Spirit, in turn, is the Spirit of the Father and the Son. In short, the Trinity teaches us that one can never be without the other.

"We are not islands, we are in the world to live in God’s image: open, in need of others and in need of helping others. And so, let us ask ourselves this last question: in everyday life, am I too a reflection of the Trinity? Is the sign of the cross I make every day – the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit – that Sign of the Cross we make every day, a gesture for its own sake, or does it inspire my way of speaking, of encountering, of responding, of judging, of forgiving?"

~Pope Francis (from Angelus, June 12, 2022)

Friday, June 10, 2022

Christina Grimmie After Six Years

I don’t need words today.

Here is a human face. She needs no commentary from me. Six years after her death, I still see this face every day. New “fan [frand] accounts” keep appearing on Instagram and other platforms all the time, and graphics technology continues to open up new ways to see the clarity of her face, and new possibilities for creativity with video and artistic representations that draw on the legacy of all the love and all the music she gave us.

Christina Grimmie’s presence on the Internet remains unique among all the things I have seen online over the past 15 years. Indeed, she remains unique and special in comparison to all that is good and bad and ugly in pop music and pop culture today.

In fact, I have never found anyone else like her in my more than five decades of experience with music, media, or… anything.

Amidst so many forces that try to drag us down and debase us in our society and in the entertainment world, Christina does the opposite. She brings healing, she edifies, she allows our hearts to open and be free and aspire to adhere to reality courageously.

I have only become more grateful as the years pass for Christina Grimmie, for her person, her brief life, and her enduring witness that continues to “vivify” all the images and music and even my own poor artistic efforts.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

A Blog About Nothing!

Writing. I hate it!

I am supposed to be “good at it,” but lately I don’t feel like I’m good at much of anything. I can write this and that on the blog, but every project I’m working on right now is STUCK. That includes the article that was due… yesterday… hmmph….

Writing is hard, even when one thinks one knows what to say.

So, this famous writer’s block - I have endeavored to “picture it” (first of all, to myself) in this cartoon.

Sorry, I am staring at the screen trying to think of more things to write in this blog post. Surely I can “pad this” with some fluff. I have written so much fluff over the years, it should be easy to churn out more words.

I’ll churn out my article, because it’s needed by people, and I’m the only person - here and now - who can write it. But the “fluff” of words that I used to be so be so proud of? It’s vanity. It’s just a waste of time. 

When you’re young, you can do so many things without even realizing the effort and energy they require. And you end up wasting effort and energy on things that are not worth it, and worrying about things that are not important or are not within your power to control. Young people today can even “burn out,” but then they usually recover quickly. They easily forget whatever lessons they might have learned.

I guess I was forced to learn sooner than many, because of the limitations of chronic illness. I used to have buckets of energy, and I carelessly poured them out on the ground. But I know that - if I were rejuvenated now with all that energy - I would soon forget what endurance and patience have begun to teach me, and I’d run out and be stupid all over again.

It isn’t so bad to have to face limitations, or to endure frustration and weakness. It is one of the paths by which we learn patience, and patience is a long lesson. A long, hard lesson.

There is consolation, however, in remembering that patience has resources that can sustain it. Because we are not alone. And patience creates the “space” within us for listening and - ultimately - responding. Patience is the school of love.

Monday, June 6, 2022

A Living Relationship…

Pope Francis reminds us that the Holy Spirit leads us to “a convinced, joyful relationship with the Lord…, to personal knowledge of Jesus, who enters the heart.”

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Pentecost: The Spirit Intercedes With Inexpressible Groanings

This year, at Pentecost, I find much to dwell upon in this passage from Romans, chapter 8. There is much here that resonates with my own personal struggles, as well as with the sufferings in our world so full of desperation and violence and yet so immensely loved by God. I find hope here in the midst of the inexplicable cries of my own soul, and the often-confused, obscure, sometimes hesitant, sometimes ardent longings of people all over the world who seek the truth, who seek healing.

We must offer our “groaning within ourselves” in solidarity with those who search for light in the darkness - a search that the Spirit mysteriously stirs in the depths of their hearts. Thus we can share our hope for salvation, knowing that the same Spirit who works with us is calling and drawing every person. In the Spirit, our patience, our endurance, our sufferings will bear fruit in Jesus Christ, according to the wisdom and love 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 first-fruits 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 is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.

In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit ­himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.

~Romans 8:22-27

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Never Forget Tiananmen Square 1989

From the night of June 3rd to the morning of June 4th 1989, the Chinese Communist PartyState deployed the overwhelming force of the “People’s Liberation Army” for an aggressive offensive invasion of a city.

How strange that they thought it necessary to wage war against their own capital city, Beijing. The forces they sought to overcome were… their own people who lived in the city! 

The people had succeeded in preventing armed units from entering Beijing after the May 20th declaration of martial law; they made their stand in solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of students who had occupied Tiananmen Square in peaceful protests over the previous seven weeks. Under the broad category of “Democracy,” the students were calling for the freedom to ask the fundamental questions of human existence, to express the ineradicable desires of the human heart.

These young people were not satisfied with the bread and circuses of the previous decade’s “Reform and Opening” engineered by the PartyState. Many didn’t have a clear idea of what they actually wanted. But they wanted the freedom to search for it. And their desire spread like fire in the Spring of 1989.

This was enough to mark them as enemies of the State power that had arrogated to itself the right to define, and ultimately remake, human beings according to its own suffocating ideology.

But countless citizens of Beijing - ordinary people, workers, vendors, bus drivers, restaurants, even the local media - stood with the students. Finally, the 27th Division of the PLA was ordered to force its way into the city and “clear the Square” of the protestors.

The full story of that horrible night remains in part obscure, but only because the repression was so inhuman, so brutal, and so thorough in “clearing” Tiananmen Square of the protestors and the evidence that they had ever been there. First the army took the city itself by indiscriminate force in its streets, with tanks and Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) shooting down civilians frequently and at random.

Then the 27th Division, known for their efficiency and unquestioning obedience, headed for the Square, where the student protestors maintained their non-violent resistance surrounded by guards (not carrying lethal arms) of the Shenyang Military Region. What happened next? Many voices with diverse agendas give different accounts. The Chinese Communist PartyState, not surprisingly, praised the 27th Division for quelling “counterrevolutionary riots” on that night, and put the death toll at about 200. The general consensus is that “thousands” died in the city and in Tiananmen Square on June 3-4, the vast majority of whom were unarmed civilians and students. Their may have been some success, at some point, by mediating faculty members - including the at-that-time young professor Liu Xiaobo (for whom Tiananmen was a decisive turning point in his becoming a radical public dissident) - to open up “corridors of evacuation” for some of the students to escape with their lives.

But there were no iPhones in 1989 (or even video cameras small enough to escape confiscation) or Twitter live feeds to record and/or broadcast the carnage in the Square, and no possibility of a “body count” before  the PLA’s 27th had finished their grim assignment. If the citation below is accurate, we are not likely to find “mass graves” anywhere. Not that an atrocity of this magnitude depends for its universal condemnation on how many people were murdered. Yet the Chinese government forbids all discussion of the Tiananmen Square Massacre and vigilantly roots out any mention of it in the educational and social communications of its 1.5 billion people.

There is one report, only recently made known, that deserves our attention. Documents declassified by the British government in 2017 include a secret diplomatic cable from Britain’s ambassador to China in 1989, Sir Alan Donald. Information was relayed to him by a consistently reliable intelligence asset who received it directly from a member of the highest organ of central government, the State Council.

This excerpt from the asset’s report - as presented in the BBC news - speaks for itself. I should note that this text describes some very disturbing - frankly, just plain sick - behavior. Apparently, when the army arrived, a deceitful announcement was made:

“Students understood they were given one hour to leave square but after five minutes APCs attacked.

“Students linked arms but were mown down including soldiers. APCs then ran over bodies time and time again to make 'pie' and remains collected by bulldozer. Remains incinerated and then hosed down drains.

“Four wounded girl students begged for their lives but were bayoneted.”

Today, thirty three years later, the Chinese Communist PartyState has nothing to say about this crime against humanity, which not only crushed untold human lives, but also tried to crush the human heart’s aspiration for something beyond material prosperity, that deep and mysterious awakening of the core of the human personality that people seek to express when they use the word “freedom.”

Freedom can be distracted by false and superficial promises. It can be deluded, misdirected, discouraged, and even turn toward destructive behavior. Those of us who live in the “Free World” have demonstrated all this beyond any reasonable doubt.

But the fundamental impetus of freedom cannot be crushed. Its “crying-out” cannot be silenced.

By the time Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, he had spent 21 years in and out of prisons and labor camps in China, struggling for freedom, for recognition of the dignity of every human person. In part his efforts were sustained by a sense of obligation toward the students who died on June 4, 1989 in Tiananmen Square. His relentless testimony is eloquent, enduring, and in many ways shattering. Again and again he gives words to the indestructible cry of freedom, of the heart, of suffering - the question that begs for an answer.

“Ten years ago this day

dawn, a bloody shirt

sun, a torn calendar 

all eyes upon

this single page

the world a single outraged stare

time tolerates no naΓ―vetΓ© 

the dead rage and howl

till the earth’s throat

grows hoarse.”

~Liu Xiaobo

excerpt from the poem Standing Amid the   Execrations of Time (June 4, 1999)

Friday, June 3, 2022

The Martyrs of Uganda: Discovering Their Heroic Witness

The Uganda Martyrs are commemorated today, the anniversary of the burning-to-death of Saint Charles Lwanga and his fellow royal pages on June 3, 1886. There are also other martyrs during this period who are grouped into today's feast. Each one has an awesome story that was carefully recorded from eyewitness testimony for the Beatification proceedings in the 1920s. They are the heroes of the new Catholic churches and peoples of East Africa who have emerged within the past 150 years. If you want to read a vivid, “page-turner” narrative of these events - with deeply human portrayals of many of the 22 Catholic martyrs, who included not only the court pages, but also adults, husbands and fathers, pillars of the community - then read THIS BOOK which is on sale for Kindle for $2.99! 

The original 1962 print edition by Mill Hill Missionary Father John Faupel used to be difficult to find “in the olden days.” Cheers for electronic media, for making rare out-of-print books widely available. An inspiring account of inspiring witnesses to Christ!

The martyr pictured here (not a picture from the book) is Saint Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe. 

He was the King's personal attendant and head of the royal household. He was able to obtain religious freedom for Christians, and his teaching and example strengthened the faith of many converts. But he also fearlessly rebuked the King for his superstitious and immoral life and in particular for the execution of a Protestant missionary bishop. Joseph Mukasa was brutally executed for teaching the Christian faith and for his defense of Christians, November 15, 1885. 

He is a patron saint of politicians.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

John Paul Turns 25 Years Old

On Monday we were babysitting Maria, and - as I often do with babies - I was talking to her as if she could actually understand what I was saying. There I was, holding the “latest Janaro baby” and I heard myself saying, “Hey Maria, your brother is gonna be 25 years old in a couple of days…

Wait, WHAT??

… I mean your FATHER is going to be 25 ...

I’m so confused.

For years, I have been muddling the names of my four daughters. But I always got John Paul’s name on the first try. And he has always been the big brother among “the kids.” Until now.

It was such a “mental hiccup,” but then again, they were all “babies”… well,… recently! Life is full of this kind of humor. I know that eventually I will get used to being a grandfather, because it seems that I have gotten used to all the previous stages of life. Some have been easier than others, and we keep growing all along the way.

John Paul was a just little kid when this millennium began, which was “not that long ago” (see picture: left side, current; right side, from 2001). We are very grateful that he has grown up to be such a fine young man.

Happy Birthday John Paul!