Sunday, May 28, 2023

Pentecost 2023: “Holy Spirit, Heal Our Wounds…”

Sequence of Pentecost:
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

The Gift is Ever Greater…

If we sacrifice the gifts that have been given to us—if we “give away” all we have and all we are, for the love of God—it can sometimes feel like we are leaping into the abyss of the Mystery, beyond anything we can comprehend. The faith that assures us, the hope that guides us, the love that impels us sometimes seem so faint and small. We feel that we are on the verge of being overwhelmed.

But we are never abandoned. The signs of the Lord’s steadfast love renew themselves on the journey of our lives. Even in this world, we catch glimpses of the miracle of endurance of God’s love, and the fruitfulness of our participation in His giving. Sometimes we see this through recognizing the simple ways that goodness grows within history through our sacrifices. In the measure God knows we need to persevere on the path toward our destiny in Him, He allows us to experience along the way something of the human richness of this truth that “in giving we shall receive”—that His gift is ever greater.

I am grateful for being blessed—as I grow older—to see anew the wonder of all existence through the eyes of a child. 


What a total, unique, gratuitous miracle she is! I could never “fabricate” through my own power, through all the efforts of my mind to control reality, anything like this new little person

Now she is nearly two years old. She is learning new words every day (and she loves to chatter). She knows the different colors of the crayons. She can recite her “ABCs” and count to at least twelve (or at least she knows the letters and numbers, more or less). And so many other things….

Holy Spirit, come. Open my eyes every day to the wonder of your ever-greater gifts, to confidence that the Risen Jesus is renewing all things, and that every pain and struggle and sorrow will bear fruit beyond all measure.

Friday, May 26, 2023

“They Grow Up Fast”—Family Life (& All of Life) is “Sacrifice”

This is from a Facebook post on May 26, 2009. If you are as old as I am, you think “2009 … wow, that was fourteen YEARS ago?!” But, in fact, a lot has changed since 2009. These faces have certainly changed!!

They have changed, and we have changed. The noise level in the house has changed into a kind of “silence” that Eileen and I are still trying to “get used to.” Four of these kids are adults now (and two of them are already married!), and each one of them has a unique personality and vocation. Each one also has the fragility of the human condition. Each has their own problems and sufferings too. Life is hard

Don’t envy the people with smiling pictures of their smiling families on social media. Everyone is suffering, everyone is wounded. And human parents who love their children still “worry” about them and suffer-with them, no matter where they are.

The Lord gives us gifts, so that we in turn can give them. We journey toward our destiny through sacrifice, by which the gifts we have been given mature and realize themselves. And along the course of our journey—especially as it approaches its end—we must give everything, or else learn to give by the mysterious process of being divested of everything. Every person is utterly poor at the moment of death. 

It is only through sacrifice that we can “store up treasure in the Kingdom of God” — the ultimate fulfillment that is hard for us to picture to ourselves in this present life. We know “in part” (an often obscure “part”) through faith, hope, and love for the One who has already begun His reign in His Father’s Kingdom, who gives us His Spirit to keep the light of joy and trust burning even in the “darkness” of this giving-everything-away, this losing-ourselves-in-order-to-find-ourselves — in our journey toward that ultimate, transfigured fulfillment of our true selves and of everyone and everything in the unveiled glory of the Mystery who is Infinite Gift and Infinite Love. 

We glimpse all of this now through faith in the testimony that has been handed down to us and the Spirit who dwells in us, who reminds us that sacrifice is not despair, or alienation, or nihilism; sacrifice is love that abandons everything into the embrace of the One who has loved us first. Thus, sacrifice holds fast to hope in the promise of the ultimate meaning and fulfillment of our poor human lives. We know that sacrifice is vindicated, because we follow a Man who is Risen from the dead!

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

A Dim Yellow Sun in the Evening Sky

There were lots of what appeared to be thin clouds and haze on the horizon this evening. This is a photograph of THE SUN over the tree line at 7:48 PM (some 40 minutes before sunset). I know, it’s not good to stare at the sun even when you “can,” so mostly I took snaps on my phone. But even these glimpses struck me as very unusual.

Later I learned the surprising explanation. Wildfires in Western Canada have been going on for several weeks. Changing weather conditions drew the smoke down through the USA, all the way to the East Coast today (May 24, 2023).

The world is intrinsically interconnected, indeed.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

“The One Who Fills All Things”

What we believe in, hope for, pray for, is a mighty thing. Because we are distracted, and because it is not the kind of “might” that fits the pattern of power as we conceive of it in this life, we easily forget about the transcendent and all-present omnipotence of Infinite Love who creates and redeems us. It is a mysterious “power,” which is beyond our comprehension—even though we yearn for it, and are made for it.

But our hope is not in the power of an ideology that we have to draw from within ourselves and measure by our own thoughts. The “power” we depend upon is a Person, a person we encounter, a person we love, because He has come to be one of us, to share our life and death that we may share the fullness of His resurrection. We are “His body,” united with Him, and—let us never forget—“members” of one another in Him. We belong to Him who loved us first, and will love us to the end. This mystery reduces me to silence, and to an attention and gratitude I cannot express.

“May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way” (Ephesians 1:17-23).

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Saint Bernadine: The Love of Jesus for All

May 20 is the feast day of Saint Bernadine of Siena (1380-1444), a Franciscan born in the same year that his great compatriot—the Dominican Saint Catherine of Siena—died.

During one of the most openly corrupt and violent periods in the history of Western Christendom, Bernadine worked ardently and tirelessly to preach reform and reconciliation throughout the Italian peninsula. His witness brought many people to conversion, and restored harmony in places that had been dominated by seemingly implacable factions waging what amounted to civil wars that brought great hardship to the poor and powerless members of the population. 

His words resonate in our own time, in the darkness of so many vicious and combative places in the world, where God is ignored, love has grown cold, and the poor and defenseless suffer the consequences of so much human malice, negligence, and chaos which inevitably bring war and violence in their wake.

Bernadine reminds us today that it is through prayer that we become instruments of peace. Certainly, issues need to be addressed and justice needs to be done, but it is the "energy" of the humble love of those who beg for Christ, who surrender to God's love, that sustains all human efforts to seek healing, recompense, reconciliation, and lasting peace. The begging heart opens a "space" for the Lord to pour out all the glory of His unconquerable love, the gift of eternal life that we have all been created to receive.

"Prayer extends not to oneself alone but to the entire city. Let each one ask grace from God for the love of Jesus, notwithstanding that you are a sinner. And because we all have need of the grace of God, we must all ask it. Therefore I say that you should tell your sons and your daughters to recite five Our Fathers and five Hail Marys, to the end that the good God shall send unity and concord among all people, and that he may put into the hearts of all that which shall be above all to the glory of God and the salvation of their souls" (Saint Bernadine of Siena).

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

In the Silence, I Can Hear the Rain…

These are still silent moments for me. I feel like I am accompanying some tremendous grief that weighs upon another person or a group of people somewhere. They may be near or far (or both), but I do not know their pain or it source. I only sense that there is something more important for me right now—some combination of vigilance and powerlessness—that has placed a “hold” on my writing about so many things that I wish to write about.

Often there is rain in May around here. The other day, I took shelter under a tree during a shower. The silence in me was attuned to all the sounds of birds and raindrops and found them consoling for reasons I didn’t fully understand.

Spring and the vitality of the birds. We are usually suffocated by the noise we make or choose to be immersed in. Here are a few gratuitous sounds that silence invites us to listen to, reminding us of the time of the day, the season, the world that surrounds us, the remarkable gift of our own breathing:

Monday, May 15, 2023

More “Shenandoah Spring 2023” By JJStudios

Mid-May seems a good time to update the digital art portfolio. Still wet, with some warmer temperatures that have drawn out our “Asian transplant” flowers that have long been common in Virginia gardens and woodlands. The trees are fresh and vibrant hues of green.

Some works in various “styles”: (1) “Waxing Moon in May;” (2) “Bright Breaks Through the Haze” on one of the bends of the river; (3) “Rhododendrons in Bloom;” (4) “Peony.”

Thursday, May 11, 2023

“Stand By Your Gifts”

I am grateful that the Easter Season continues, and that we continue to be instructed, enlightened, and sustained by the presence of the Risen Christ celebrated in the liturgy of these days. How powerful and beautiful is this humble prayer that God—who has redeemed us and lifted us up in Jesus Christ—might “stand by his works,” indeed “stand by his gifts” by bringing them to fulfillment. Which, of course, our infinitely good, loving, and merciful Father will do for us if we remain with him, through the Risen Jesus, in the Holy Spirit. 

We pray here, in a sense, that we might persevere in our adherence to the God who has loved us in Jesus, enduring in that most firm hope that he will give us what we need in every circumstance of life, confident that he will never abandon us.

[Collect Prayer for the Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter.]

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Christina Grimmie: Only Love Conquers Violence

As we mark six years and eleven months since Christina Grimmie was taken from this world, we find ourselves especially in need of remembering the precious gift of her life. In the midst of the many sorrows of our times, we can look to her luminous joy—to the way she embraced every day with gratitude and expectation, and extended love and compassion to the people entrusted to her, both near and far.

We know these things because Christina used her musical talent, her splendid singing voice, and her pioneering presence on YouTube to share her joy, gratitude, and love with us. Her legacy remains for us as proof that her value as a person is immeasurably greater than all the reckless and destructive forces of this world, and thus she encourages us to recognize the ineradicable dignity and unique value of every human person.

Christina’s sense of wonder in front of the mystery of reality and her confidence in the ultimate victory of goodness and love—rooted in her faith in Jesus Christ—help us to stand in front of these present days with courage and hope even as the dark clouds of violence seem to grow more ominous all around us. Her compassion, her open arms, remind us to open our hearts in compassion to one another and to so many who are suffering right now.

Many people from many places all around the world live with this violence every day. The wars, the bombs, the atrocities, the executions, the mass-graves, the refugees driven from homes that no longer exist, the migrants fleeing from poverty, chaos, and oppression in their native lands. From Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Central and East Asia, and—of course—Ukraine, the cries of the innocent are heard every day.

And here in Christina’s home country—the United States—we heard the cries again, five days ago, at a shopping mall in Allen, Texas.

Cries and gunshots.

Eight people died and six more were hospitalized with bullet wounds. Hundreds more were traumatized in moments of terror and helplessness that they will remember for the rest of their lives, before police finally took down the shooter and ended his killing rampage.

“Why does this keep happening?”—people in the U.S.A. ask themselves. This country, my country, is a good country, but something is going terribly wrong in our society. Many things are wrong with the ways we relate to one another. And it seems like it’s just getting worse.

But our first thoughts must be for the real human beings who are suffering because of this most recent catastrophe. We must weep and mourn for the victims (three of whom were children), and we must not let their families suffer alone. Here especially, Christina Grimmie’s awareness of the needs of human persons and her willingness to accompany them “with love” has an ongoing significance in the work begun by her family and friends: the Christina Grimmie Foundation , which is dedicated to providing material and personal support to the families of the victims of gun violence. See the website for ways to participate in supporting people in the distress that remains for them long after the news reports move on.

Christina Grimmie inspires us to the conviction that only love can overcome violence. This victory will one day be made manifest to the whole world and all of history. Yet even now, it is not entirely hidden. It shows glimpses of its light whenever we begin to love one another as brothers and sisters, when we forgive one another, when we reach out in works of mercy to people who are suffering—in love and solidarity with them as persons and attention to meeting their concrete needs.

Love conquers violence. Christina’s whole life witnesses to this, and her legacy perpetuates this witness in many ways, significantly in the Christina Grimmie Foundation, where it is a light passed from person to person in the gathering darkness—a small light, it may seem, yet it burns trusting in the promise that the darkness will end finally with the dawn of an unending day.

Monday, May 8, 2023

Sometimes It Is Good to be Silent

I am finding it difficult to write at the present time. I am feeling more tired and achy than usual. But it’s not just that. I’m still learning many things—but as my awareness grows, I also have to face the fact that I have passed most of my life in immaturity and ignorance. I feel like I need to be quiet (or quiet-er) right now.

I am 60 years old, but still more perplexed than wise. Death may be around the corner, or it may be 20 or more years away. I have seen so much in this life and pondered it, and I think I still have something to offer on the path of history. But nothing seems clear at the moment.

In the past five years I have been through a lot of changes, some of them very difficult. On the one hand, I’m more firmly convinced that “change” is essential to life. Yet sometimes change seems more terrifying than ever. We are all immersed in gigantic and rapid change all over the world, and many people experience it through the sudden ruptures caused by violence. But we all learn—each in our own personal way—that the endurance of changes “beyond our control” lies at the heart of every human drama.

It was really hard to watch my parents die during these recent years. They had all the helps and comforts of modern medicine. They were not in physical agony. But after 80+ years of living—years that were not lacking in sufferings of many kinds—they were brought down, finally, to a level of powerlessness in the end that I had never imagined I would ever see. Well, I can’t explain what I mean, but I have realized in a far more intimate manner than ever before how fragile the whole of life really is. Ultimately, we all must face this utter powerlessness… and we know not the day nor the hour.

If the death and resurrection of Jesus is not something more than a metaphor or a therapeutic trick, then it won’t mean anything in front of this powerlessness. I believe in His death and resurrection as a saving event that is greater than death. But my faith remains weak and immature, and I have nothing in myself that can sustain it. I can only live in Him, adhering to Him, hoping in Him, loving Him.

And to live this way is a mystery. My words cannot possibly measure up to it. Notwithstanding my vocation to discourse and communication, sometimes I need more silence.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Winter in May?!

I had to do a VLOG about this. The weather has been unusually cool for the beginning of May, but the weather forecasting has been downright bizarre.

What’s going on, Weather Channel People?😉

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

May 2: Athanasius “Taught us to Honor the Trinity”

“Blaring trumpet of the Lord and flute of the Spirit, O great Athanasius, O fiery mind, it is fitting to sing your praises with hymns; for you taught us to honor the Trinity of one essence” (Kontakion, Byzantine Liturgy for Feast of St. Athanasius).