Sunday, July 31, 2022

Stuff, Stuff, and More Stuff

I have so much stuff! Everywhere. Too much stuff!

Maybe my stuff is not what one would call “riches” in the ordinary sense of the term. A lot of it is broken, useless, or outdated junk. Then there are books, in great stacks on shelves, on desks, on tables, on the ground (such as the piles represented in this artistic-ish illustration). And then there are… more books.

Too much stuff. How shall I ever enter the Kingdom of God?

But really, none of these things compares to the riches that hinder me most: the riches I carry about in my mind. Here there are a few real jewels, in addition to much that is of lesser value, and lots of internal clutter. The jewels are entrusted to me for the benefit of others. I don’t know why I’m so slow to share them.

I am anxious and concerned about many things. But only “one thing” is of need to me.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

“The Truth” is NOT an Ideology

As Christians, we propose the Gospel in the world. 

We witness to the truth about Jesus Christ, and the truth of the dignity of every human person created in His image, redeemed by His death and resurrection, and called to share His glory. Christian witness to the presence of Jesus as the meaning and fulfillment of our lives, of history, of all creation cannot help manifesting itself as a definitive and all-encompassing proposal, as the truth that shapes all of reality. At the same time, “Christianity” must always respect the full measure of human freedom. It must never be reduced to the coercive imposition of “our” ideology; rather it must always constitute an invitation to a relationship of love with the One to whom our hearts belong.

The truth is not the same thing as ideology. Ideology (in the sense I use it here) refers to a systematic, humanly-conceived “program” to organize the world, or some portion of it. It prioritizes its own successful establishment, to the point of imposing itself on others by human forces and human power. Underlying ideology is a stubborn self-willed adherence to something we make up on our own, a contrived scheme that we think will fix the world if we can sell it to enough people or force them to accept it. 

Ideologies can be very impressive, inspiring, brilliant, seemingly visionary. Yet human experience has shown the perils of the ideological mindset. The "tl;dr" of twentieth century history should at least drive home this point: "The imposition of ideology does not work. Even if it begins with noble aspirations, it ends badly: with concentration camps, gulags, killing fields, starvation, war..." If only we could just learn this, even a little bit.

Ideology is destructive. It exalts its own success to the detriment of the dignity and freedom of human persons. In sharing this basic characteristic, it makes no difference whether the ideology is fascism or communism, imperialism or socialism, religious fundamentalism or restorationism - including the ideologized myth of a nationalist “spiritual destiny” to establish the “Third Rome” from the Moskva River to the Black Sea and beyond (a delusion that has no small influence on the present war that continues to impose terrible suffering on the people of Ukraine).

We must resist the temptation to forget that we belong to Christ, and reduce our witness to our own ecclesiastical schemes or illusions of our “Christian projects” attaining worldly recognition and success. This “forgetting of Christ” is the radical source of the divisions, the abuses carried out by the Church’s ministers and members, the scandals that have traumatized and alienated people in recent times (and throughout history). We must beg God’s mercy to overcome the “petty ideologies” that we so easily construct or connive in every day.

Let’s remember that the real truth is not like ideology. It's not about grasping for power and manipulating or suppressing other human persons. The real truth makes us free.

Ideology only makes us partisans of a program, and we become narrow and contentious and blind to our own flaws. We have to be careful not to give in to pride, which could lead us to turn even our faith in Jesus Christ into an ideology. Certainly Jesus opens up to us an astonishing, beautiful (but also mysterious) perspective on all of reality. Through the Holy Spirit, the Lord leads us to see the world in particular ways, but they are His ways. He is the truth. He opens us up to reality, to the adventure of really living and the risk of really loving.

Jesus is the Truth in Person, the Truth who has given Himself for the salvation and transfiguration of the world. And we know that everyone in the world lives by seeking Him (whether they know it or not). We who are Christians, who have been entrusted—by the grace of faith in its objective fullness—with the knowledge of Him and His presence in the life of His Church, are called to share Him and to continue to seek to know Him more.

Because He is Infinite Love, we must never think we have "enough" with Him, or that we have anything more than the beginning, the foretaste, the first fruits that should just deepen our desire to seek more and to love more. If we walk the roads of the world with hearts burning for God, He will draw the hearts of others to the shape of this flame according to His plan for their lives; His Spirit will awaken, enkindle, and foster the fire of their own desire for the fullness of truth, for the vocation to love that constitutes their freedom. 

In the Father’s plan, the light of this flame is destined to shine, for everyone, on the face of Christ.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

“Summer Heat 2022”

JJ Digital Studios presents this original artwork “inspired” by the heat of this season, penetrating even the rich canopy of trees that ordinarily give some shade and protection to large houses in our small towns around here.

It’s called “Summer Heat 2022,” which is not an elegant title, but is simple and direct:

Sunday, July 24, 2022

“Bestow in Abundance Your Mercy Upon Us”

We are at the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time on the Roman liturgical calendar. These weeks of Summer and Autumn that follow Pentecost continue to help us to remember the gift of the Holy Spirit that empowers us to live in Christ, already in “newness of life” even as we journey toward the fullness of eternal life.

In this week’s Collect Prayer, we profess once again our total dependence on God our Father - indeed the dependence of all things on His sustenance. We ask Him to “grant that…we may use the good things that pass” according to His wisdom, so that through them we may hold fast “even now” to that which endures, which brings the true fulfillment of every circumstance and aspiration of our hearts.

We ask the Lord to give us the wise use of the things of this world and the holding fast to our destiny, to draw forth, empower, and sustain our adherence to Him in that very freedom which is also His gift. All we are, all we hope for, is founded upon and cries out continually for His presence, His goodness, His love - for the “bestow[al] in abundance” of “[His] mercy upon us.”

Friday, July 22, 2022

Mary Magdalen, “Apostle to the Apostles”

Today we celebrate the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, called ἰσαπόστολος in the Byzantine tradition ("Equal-to-the-Apostles") and “apostle to the Apostles” in the West (see the text from the Preface below the picture). As John’s Gospel indicates, she was the original witness to Jesus's resurrection, and was “sent” to the others to testify to Him:

Jesus said to her, "go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord'" (John 20:17-18).

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Baby At The Pool!☺️

We went with Maria and her mommy to the pool. Obviously we spent most of the time at the kiddie pool. She seems to love the water.

She probably thinks Papa looks silly wearing her hat!😉

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Martha’s “Need” … and Ours

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing” (Luke 10:42). The Gospel reading for this Sunday was a subject for meditation at the 2022 International Spiritual Exercises of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, presented by Abbot Mauro-Giuseppe Lepori (currently Abbot General of the Cistercian Order). Abbot Mauro reflected on this decisive exchange between Jesus and Martha, and what He means in saying that “there is need of only one thing”:

“This is the word that Jesus wanted to penetrate into her heart so that she might meditate on it and assimilate it, so that it could do her good, do good in her life, heal it, save it, unify it from its fragmentation. The meaning of this message is not a bit of psychological or spiritual hygiene, or an invitation to commit herself to bringing order into her life, starting by getting her bad character under control. The meaning of this word is Christ Himself, the meaning of Christ for Martha, the gift of Christ for Martha, which is already a shared gift even before Martha becomes aware of it. 

“The meaning of this message is that only Jesus responds to the fundamental desire of the heart and of life: the desire for unity, the desire to find a meaning that holds everything together, that keeps us all together, that saves communion, a unity that embraces everything and everyone, in which we feel embraced by everything and everyone, embraced by the everything in everything and everyone that is God, that is the Father, that is Christ, Christ who is the incarnation of the mercy of the Father and thus the incarnation of the embrace of the good Father, the one who welcomes back with infinite joy the prodigal son who returns to Him. 

“Only one thing is necessary, ‘There is need of only one thing.’ 

“Jesus offered Martha this word that puts everything back together again in the one thing needed, which is Jesus Himself, as a gift already present and shared, as a gift that He gives to everyone.”

Friday, July 15, 2022

Bonaventure Seeks God With “Sighs of Prayer”

“A person should turn his full attention [to Christ],

“to this throne of mercy,
and should gaze at Him hanging on the cross,
full of faith, hope and charity,
devoted, full of wonder and joy,
marked by gratitude,
and open to praise and jubilation.

“He will experience,
as much as is possible for one who is still living,
what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ:
‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’

“This is a sacred mystical experience.
It cannot be comprehended by anyone
unless he surrenders himself to it;
nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it;
nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit,
whom Christ sent into the world,
should come and inflame his innermost soul.
Hence the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom
is revealed by the Holy Spirit.

“If you ask how such things can occur,
seek the answer in God’s grace, not in doctrine;
in the longing of the will, not in the understanding;
in the sighs of prayer, not in research;
seek the bridegroom not the teacher;
God and not man;
darkness not daylight;
and look not to the light but rather
to the raging fire that carries the soul to God
with intense fervor and glowing love.
The fire is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem,
fired by Christ in the ardor of His loving passion.
Only he understood this who said:
‘My soul chose hanging and my bones death.
Anyone who cherishes this kind of death can see God,
for it is certainly true that:
‘No man can look upon me and live.’

“Let us die, then, and enter into the darkness....
Let us pass over with the crucified Christ
from this world to the Father
so that, when the Father has shown himself to us,
we can say with Philip: ‘It is enough.’
We may hear with Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’
And we can rejoice with David, saying:
‘My flesh and my heart fail me,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my heritage for ever.’ 

~Saint Bonaventure (1217-1274)
from The Journey of the Mind to God, ch. 7

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Slowing Down For Summer

The “Big Event” for Summer 2022 has been accomplished. Lucia and Mike arrived in Spain today to begin their honeymoon. The hot, humid, overgrown, buggy days of late July and August are approaching.

I will have to slow down. I’m very tired. I shall continue to post here as much as I am able. I may need more time than usual to recuperate. These days have been intense and full of complicated emotions underlying the overwhelmingly predominant joy.

It has been a great gift to participate in these days.

Now, we move forward in life, with gratitude to the Lord for everything, following Jesus (or at least seeking to follow Him, wanting to follow Him even though we still so often get lost), calling on the Holy Spirit to be our strength.

Veni Sancte Spiritus / Veni Per Mariam.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Pictures From a Wedding

Introducing… the NEWLYWEDS:

The wedding of Lucia Janaro and Michael Rego was a wonderful event which we all enjoyed. With travel restrictions lifted everywhere this Summer, Eileen’s parents visited from California for a week, Mike’s extended family came from New Jersey, and friends from all around were in attendance.

Maria got a birthday cake at the reception, and then her own birthday party the next day. Lots of pictures were taken and shared, and I’m too exhausted from all of it to write anything now.

So it’s “picture time”!

Above is the most recent and most complete “Janaro-Family-Plus-Spouses-Plus-Granddaughter” photo. We are all here, and Maria looks like she’s enraptured by Aunt Lucia’s beautiful wedding dress.😉

Of course, a little princess also came to the ball…

Yay, Aunt Lucia! (No, you can’t have any beer.😉)

Maria's happy: "I have my own cake for my birthday!"

The “Elders” - Happy Uncle, Happy Dad.

Dad gives - believe it or not - a “brief” toast…

…and dances with the bride!

For the bride and groom, cake and kisses.😘 

May God give you many happy years!

Friday, July 8, 2022

Rehearsal Day

We had the rehearsal and the dinner, and everything is set to go.

At some point there will be wedding pictures, and a wedding blog post. It may take some time for me to get to it. Meanwhile, here is the picture from their engagement last year, during their semester in Rome. (Rome has been good for my kids, as it was for us a generation ago.) And some peeks from today.

Rehearsal is always fun. Butterflies will come tomorrow.😉

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Marriages, Funerals, Births, Marriages…

Ah, the “cycle of life”! It’s a vivid experience for us at this time of year.

If I am even more inaccessible than usual in the digital world, it is because we are full in these days of memories, sorrows, joys, events, celebrations, expectations, and longings.

You have seen on this blog (or other media) old wedding pictures, new tombstones, cute babies, young adults, and silver-bearded “elders” (or near enough - this is the state of life that I seem to be approaching). Our wedding anniversary (June 22), my mother’s death (July 3, 2021), and Maria’s FIRST birthday (coming up July 9) are among the markers of the Summer. Maria will have a birthday party, but it will be on July 10. On this July 9, we will celebrate a wedding.

Our third child and second daughter Lucia is getting married to Michael Rego this Saturday! We are very happy and grateful. We know Mike well; they have been dating through most of their time in university, and engaged since last year. Because Lucia lived at home most of this time, we have seen Mike a lot. They are a very sweet young couple, and well suited to each other. We have also enjoyed numerous gatherings already with Mike’s parents and family, who are wonderful people.

It’s a joyful time! My emotions? Well, one of my “baby girls” is getting married. Wow! She is joining her life to a fine young man, and they will be united in Christ through the Sacrament of Matrimony, which I know (from experience) is a fountain of graces, of unity, of healing, of power that sustains couples through every trial and weakness. He will always be present for them, and will sustain them and deepen their relationship, inviting them to trust in Him, turn to Him, and remember Him every day.

Emotions can be like the weather, I am beginning to realize. They change a lot, they can be complicated, but there is beauty deep down in every sky, in every season. The storms even have beauty because Jesus is with us in the midst of them. In the sunny times, the joys, the wedding feasts, He is “the good wine” - the superabundance that brings tranquility and hope.

Our partings and comings and celebrations, our growing, our eating and drinking, living and dying, are in His Heart, for His glory, with the promise of His fullness.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Daisies of July

July brings these daisies, which I have attempted to render in digital art. So much happens, or is remembered in this month, it seems. So many breezes waft across the petals of the Daisies of Summer.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Happy Birthday, U.S.A.


⭐️ I hope for my country a ’renewal of the spirit of cooperation’ in which we ’resolve to support one another’ in our difficulties and responsibilities.
“To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject....The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another" (Pope Francis, to the U.S. Congress, Sept. 14, 2015).

Sunday, July 3, 2022

One Year Anniversary of My Mother’s Death

Sunday, July 3rd, marked one year since my Mom passed away. I have put together a collage in her honor, which shows glimpses of her (some with my Dad +2019) over the course of five decades. I’m working to restore the old photographs as best as I can, but it remains a work-in-progress. 

A group of us also went to the cemetery in Winchester. I saw the recently finished (and very basic) headstone, finally, with Mom’s name carved next to my Dad, who was her husband for nearly 60 years.

May the Lord grant them both eternal rest and glory with Jesus His Son. I miss them, and I think of them and pray for them every day.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Jesus is the One Answer to the Need of the Human Heart

Here are some words from the conferences of this year’s retreat for the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, which I attended “virtually” in April. We are currently working on the text of the retreat in the School of Community, which was given by Abbot Mauro-Giuseppe Lepori, O.C.S.O. 

I have come back to these words below again and again with a sense of ‘wonder and responsibility,’ recognizing myself to be “a debtor to all of humanity” because I have encountered the Word made flesh, God Incarnate, present in His Church, not only because of His love for me personally (far beyond anything I could ever have imagined, and which I certainly did not deserve) - not only for myself, but also so that He might reach others through me. We have been chosen as Christians to be instruments of His mercy, to witness to and “extend” the awareness of His saving love which He offers to everyone.

The meaning of this message is that only Jesus responds to the fundamental desire of the heart and of life: the desire for unity, the desire to find a meaning that holds everything together, that keeps us all together, that saves communion, a unity that embraces everything and everyone, and in which we feel embraced by everything and everyone, embraced by the Everything in everything and in everyone that is God, that is the Father, that is Christ, Christ who is the incarnation of the mercy of the Father and thus the incarnation of the embrace of the good Father, the one who welcomes back with infinite joy the prodigal son who returns to Him….

“When this word reaches us, when it reached us and continues to reach us always anew, always new, think of the immense people with whom we already share it. Two thousand years of Christianity, of saints and sinners, of sainted sinners. But it is not a question of numbers, it suffices just two or three people who discover they share that Christ is the one answer, total and universal to the need of the human heart to fill us with wonder, with wonder that this awareness happens to us, that it happens to each of us, to me!, to us who certainly do not deserve it more than billions of other people to whom it has not yet happened. 

“What wonder and responsibility! What gratefulness and contrition! Because if you find in your home, eating and drinking with you, sitting right there where you and your siblings sit to eat and chat every day, if you find in your home the one Reality, the one Presence that every human heart needs, that is needed in this precise moment by 8 billion hearts beating on this earth, how can you not feel a dizzying responsibility? In one way or another you become a debtor to all of humanity by the fact that you have been given freely what everyone, absolutely everyone! is awaiting expectantly.”