Sunday, June 23, 2024

Our Lives are a “History” that is Mysterious and Meaningful

We did have a very happy anniversary in a simple way, full of so many memories—indeed, it was a different world in 1996. Our personal "world," in particular, has changed a lot. A local Janaro family picture on our wedding day was quite different from the most recent local family picture (from Anna’s baptism last December). I have posted the latter picture more than once recently. On the other hand, this 1996 picture—which dates from the pre-social-media era—is seldom seen unless we get out the “photo album” from our wedding (I have begun to scan these old pictures, but there are lots of them). One thing that strikes me this year is that my Dad was 61 years old and my Mom was 57 when we got married. And now, I am 61 and Eileen is 57.

The generations have shifted. Our “history” is moving forward.

So many people who were at our wedding have passed on. I miss those friends (including one of my groomsmen), most of the older generation of relatives that I knew since childhood, and especially my dear father and mother. They have completed the journey of this life, and have entered into the final and definitive encounter with the Mystery of God. 

We no longer see them in this world and we miss them; sorrow is a profound part of being human. And yet, slowly with time, our sorrow begins to be changed, to open up beyond itself, to be turned into something like peace that even has hints of the flavor of joy. 

Human life is historical, which means it changes. But we know that God has come to dwell with us, and He fills all history and our own lives, all the changes and losses (even those that are painful and overwhelming). He fills all of life with His promise, and He asks us to trust in Him.

Jesus is God-with-us, the center of the cosmos and of history. He stays with us in our own “histories of our lives,” takes our sins and sorrows and bears them Himself, and gives meaning to everything.

So we have a great hope that grows mysteriously (sometimes, it seems, “strangely”) with the passage of the years. We miss our loved ones, but we know that they remain in our lives—and not in a merely vague and hazy manner generated by our own mythopoetic reconstruction of our memories of the past. We remain together with them in Jesus Christ crucified and risen, glorified at the Father’s right hand, sending the Holy Spirit to transform us—Jesus present in His Church, present in a powerful way through the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage that marked our wedding day, 28 years ago, and that remains to this day as a fountain of grace that sustains our lives and our marriage. 

Dear Jesus, thank You for everything. Grant that we may always remember You and adhere to You. Carry us both, in Your Mercy, to the fulfillment of Your eternal embrace, together with those who have gone before us, with those who are with us now (children and grandchildren), and with those yet to come—the generations of the future.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Our Anniversary: 28 Years!

Here’s what I “said” to my wife today…on my social media platforms, because I don’t mind if the whole world hears it. I am full of awe and gratitude.

Here on the blog, I’m also posting the original, higher resolution photos that I used in the composition of this “virtual card.” 

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Summer 2024 is Here

The Summer Solstice has arrived for 2024. Over the next week we'll have our longest days of the year, with nearly 15 hours from sunrise to sunset.

And, although I'm not at the beach as I was "dreaming" in my last post, there is much to be said for living in a place that looks like our Shenandoah Valley in June (above).

Happy Summertime!

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

I Would Love to Smell the Sea Air Again

I virtually dabbled my way from a photograph of a local meadow and ordinary foliage to this scene of breezy palms and gathering clouds on a quiet coast. Seawater and salty air, warm but with gentle wind currents... perhaps a subconscious longing led my imagination in the direction of a place I would really like to be right now. I love water. Especially, I have always found that being near the ocean rejuvenates me. Unfortunately I haven't been to the beach in eight years. I'm glad that my beloved "Happy Creek" flows through our neighborhood, and the legendary Shenandoah River is just a few miles away. My memories are enriched by many experiences of many waters in my younger days, boating, fishing, swimming, or just strolling on the edges of shorelines and the shallows of riverbanks. The movement of water stirs up my soul.

There is cool water in the bottle at my bedside. Overall, I'm having a harder time doing simple things. On "good days" I can walk in the long evening daylight and even spend some time in the main room of the house with Eileen, Jojo, and various adult children or grandchildren who may also be here.

On "bad days" I have lots of pain and spend most of the day in bed. I have access to all kinds of media and, of course, books to read (if my aching fingers can manage to keep them open in my lap or on my chest). And there's always music. Above all, people pop in to keep me company for a bit.

I’m always happy and grateful to see people. Certain “little people,” of course, can really make my day.

It's been a tough period of time for me, but also it's been a time for beautiful surprises. Still, I'm struggling.

We are all enduring many trials. Let us remember to pray for one another.

Monday, June 17, 2024

A Fatherhood Collage

I just put these few pictures together in honor of Fathers’ Day. It is amazing that my son, who was once a baby in my arms, and then a growing boy, is now a fully grown man and a father himself.

Thus we contribute, each in our turn, to building human history, generation after generation, parents to children, father to son, then son to his children in turn.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Lord Gives Us Time….

The source of so much of my frustration is my lack of patience. I must ask for the grace to be patient, and to resist the temptation to become discouraged. I suppose this is a problem we all have. May God have mercy on us all.

Pope Francis reminded me about “patience” in his Angelus message for June 16. The selection below is worth quoting:

The Lord places in us the seeds of His word and His grace, good seeds, abundant seeds, and then, without ever ceasing to accompany us, He waits patiently. The Lord continues to take care of us, with the confidence of a Father, but He gives us time – the Lord is patient – so that the seeds open, grow and develop to the point of bearing the fruits of good works. And this is because He wants nothing in His field to be lost, that everything should reach full maturity; He wants us all to be able to grow like ears of grain.

Not only this. By doing so, the Lord gives us an example: He teaches us too to sow the Gospel confidently wherever we are, and then to wait for the seed that has been sown to grow and bear fruit in us and in others, without becoming discouraged and without ceasing to support and help each other even where, despite our efforts, we do not seem to see immediate results. In fact, often even among us, beyond appearances, the miracle is already underway, and in due course it will bear abundant fruit!”

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Some Reflections on "Offering Everything" to God

When we wake up in the morning, it is good to pray a "Morning Offering" in which we remember Jesus and offer everything that awaits us each day in union with the all-embracing sacrifice that His love has accomplished on the Cross for our redemption. There are many versions of this prayer, or we can use our own words. .

We might say something like: "O Heart of Jesus, we offer You all our thoughts, words, and actions, our joys, sorrows, and sufferings of this day. We offer You everything." Through Jesus, we are able to live in an inexhaustible and super-abundant way the "vitality" that is at the foundation of all created things—their relation (and ours) to the Mystery of God.

What is it that we do (or at least desire to do, however forgetful we may be afterward) when we "offer" our day to God? "Offering" involves a fundamental recognition; it entails the affirmation of the reality of things according to that inner secret that constitutes their being and goodness: the fact that they belong-to-Another

Beings in this world attract us, fascinate us, engage the interest of our minds and draw forth love and enthusiasm from our heartsthey give us a "taste" and suggest a "promise" that educates of hope of our lives and gives impetus to our journey along the path of space and time that opens before us.

The realities of this life are promises of the ultimate meaning and fulfillment of the universe, all things, and ourselves. But they cannotwhile we engage them on the roads of this worldgive us the ultimate fulfillment; they point towards a goal and educate us through their reflection of many facets of its promise that we too are are "made for" this goal that draws all things into unity. 

At the same time, the promise of total goodness and unity that shines all through reality and attracts us every day is also mysterious. It transcends everything with a radical originality and the overflowing free gift of a unity and love that "correspond" to the hope for fulfillment that has been awakened within us while also surpassing it in ways beyond our imagining.

All things belong to the Mystery that is their Source, sustenance, and fulfillmentthe "Infinite" Mystery beyond all things, who fashions all things, who freely gives all things to themselves and one another according to a mysterious wisdom.

And so we cannot possess things by dominating them and reducing them to our own finite and ultimately reductive, constraining measure. Our life becomes "offering" when we use and possess and love things in a way that takes them completely seriously, because things are a hymn of rejoicing to the One who makes them be, and the only way to truly love them is to join in that hymn.

The ecstasy of the beauty of things is their abandoning-of-themselves to the One who sustains them and calls them to their own fruition. We offer our day when we join in with the "giving" of things, when we allow their song of rejoicing to enter into our awareness, when our engagement of reality becomes a prayer, a "blessing of the Lord" that gives voice to the hymn of creation: Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord. Praise and exalt Him above all forever!

How does this "offering" extend to love for another person? The greatest gift, the greatest beauty in all of creation is the other person. There is much to be said about this. For now, I can only reflect that in loving other persons I am loving others who, like me, are called to the joys of eternal life. This is where the true identity of every person is found. Every person is created in the image of God and called to share in the likeness of God and the life of God. This unique, sacred, personal vocation to belong to God as His child (and heir) in Jesus Christ their Redeemer and brother is at the heart of who each person really is.

When I engage in a relationship with another person, I "offer" that relationship through the recognition that this someone is not primarily a source of satisfaction or utility for me, but someone who has a vocation, a fulfillment corresponding to their own freedom, a personal destiny—they are a someone who is "for Another." To offer to God my love for another person means also to love that person for who they truly are, that is, to love them for the sake of that Other and their relationship with that Other. It is to love their destiny.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

More Digital Art by JJ, with a nod to Saint Anthony

Here is some of the latest artwork from JJStudios!

I’m not referring to the fifteenth-century image of Saint Anthony of Padua (Anonymous, from Cordoba, Spain) that you see here first. Rather, as Summer draws near, I wanted to present some of my own “Scenes of May and June” (below) on today’s feast of Saint Anthony, who is one of the beloved patron saints of my late father, Walter Anthony Janaro II. I miss Dad. He always appreciated my “nature posts” on this blog. I think about and pray for my Dad especially on Saint Anthony’s Day.

And, of course, Saint Anthony is important to his father before him (WAJ I, the grandfather I never met who died in 1944), and the still-very-much-alive Walter Anthony Janaro III—my older brother, who is generally known in these parts simply as “Walter” (just one name, like a rock star) or, around the family, “Uncle Walter.” It’s funny that I have gone into all this description of three generations of Janaro men, because this post was not supposed to be about them. It’s a “virtual exhibit” by JJStudios, but things, and relationships, and our work, and our plans are wider and more meaningful than we realize. Saint Anthony knew this, and he continues to help us to recognize and remember God’s love and mercy in the ordinary details of life.

Saint Anthony, pray for my grandfather, my father, and my brother. Pray for all of us.

And now, about these pictures—they are works that arise from meditations on the natural world and experiments in digital artistic techniques of different kinds. They usually originate from photographs that I have taken in my local environment. In the past—historically-speaking it was not too long ago—photography itself was considered a new and strange technological “trick” for capturing and presenting “realistic” images. It took some time for photographers to discover the proper artistic possibilities of their own medium. They had to work at it and take pictures, lots of pictures. 

Now we have new digital techniques for manipulating photographic images. There are more and more of them all the time. They seem like techniques for cheating, deceiving, and banalizing image-making. But we hope that they can also be used wisely, and in the service of beauty and creativity. We must discover the possibilities of digital and even so-called “AI” as complex tools, as further media that can be shaped by bodily persons whose ways of communicating always involve the use of “physical” media. It will take time and much attention to discover distinctive visual portrayals with these media that authentically convey the vision and labor of human personal creativity. But we have every reason to think that here too, beauty can shine through.

That is certainly my hope. This blog continues to be a place where I share my efforts and experiments and—mostly—failures as a digital media artist. 

I am not afraid of the failures (though, of course, I don’t aim to fail, and I certainly don’t like to fail). Mostly, I try to learn from failure. I learn the limits of these media, and become more focused on their real possibilities. I move forward in an education in craft, creativity, and finding beauty.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Feast of Saint Barnabas the Apostle

"The Church in Jerusalem... sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith. And a large number of people was added to the Lord. Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the Church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians" (Acts 11:22-26).

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Renewed Day By Day

"We who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh... Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.

"For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven... While we are in this tent we groan and are weighed down, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a first installment."

~2 Corinthians 4:11, 16-18; 5:1, 4-5

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Come Holy Spirit, Through Mary’s Heart

Prayer for the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary:

“O God, who prepared a fit dwelling place for the Holy Spirit in the Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, graciously grant that through her intercession we may be a worthy temple of your glory.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.”

Friday, June 7, 2024

The Heart of Jesus Says, “Come To Me…”

Jesus, God the Son, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity (the God who is “one but not solitary,” who is an eternal communion of ineffable love)… Jesus, our God, our Savior, Son of the Father… Jesus is a man. “The Word was made flesh…” (John 1:14).

Jesus is human. He understands us, longs for us, suffers for us in His human heart. Jesus says, “Come to me.”

We poor humans with our sorrows and heavy burdens—God is not far away. He is here. He is Jesus and He wants to stay with us. God has a human heart, and with that beating heart He loves each one of us and every human person. He loves us in a fully human way, and He wants us to love Him. We are His brothers and sisters.

We are also, therefore, brothers and sisters to one another. In the love of His Heart, Jesus longs for us to love one another.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Life as an Invalid Feels Like Prison?

It has been a hard year, a hard Spring, a hard last couple of weeks. I have been hurting a lot. Reading is harder, writing is harder, thinking is harder, remembering things is harder. But Depression isn’t too bad, and OCD is manageable… most of the time. All this stuff is familiar from the past 20+ years. It’s all related to the Lyme disease that went untreated and misdiagnosed for a very long time (read my 2010 book for details about that odyssey and other things too: here’s the LINK). We did everything we could back in ‘04 and ‘05 when I was finally diagnosed for Lyme that I may have first contracted in 1988. Success was only partial. Symptoms recur—call it “chronic Lyme” or “post-Lyme” or “long Lyme” (a new perspective for doctors who have had to deal with “long COVID”). I have had “ups and downs” frequently, and flare-ups of this or that for years. But lately I’m getting hit with a barrage of stuff at the same time.

Is this like being in prison? Sometimes it feels that way. It feels like prison.

I’m frustrated. Stuck mostly in bed these days. I’m able to take a walk most evenings. Prisoners are allowed out for exercise for a half hour every day. Mass on Sunday. Otherwise I rely on technological gadgets, which have opened lots of avenues of wider engagement from home. And, of course, books. But lately, I’m so tired…

I have so many thoughts in my mind, so much I have studied and considered long and hard, but I worry because I can’t “get them out,” express them, share them. Sometimes I can’t even put them together in my own head. Over 30 years ago, Fr Giussani told me, “You will be a great teacher.” I am a sinner, but I think I have tried to follow the way he pointed out to me. When I got too sick to teach in the classroom any more, I kept studying. I have learned much in my years as an “invalid” (or, as I prefer to say, “semi-invalid”), and it’s not just academic stuff.

I’m lazy, proud, and disorganized, but I keep trying. Or I’m trying to try… I want to live, and even if I’m tied up, I want to look at the rope and learn about it, and I recognize that there is something more than its constraints. I know that the meaning of my life doesn’t depend on myself. I’m created and sustained and I belong to the Infinite Someone who moves me. I forget that too often, or sometimes I just cry out “Why? Where am I going?” 

I have been given so many possibilities to learn, to verify again and again that all of this life is a sign of the promise of meaning and fulfillment, and my total need for the One who brings them. With my academic training, I’m listening to the voices of the peoples of recent history, and the tremendous suffering that has been endured. Aspirations and achievements too—great and hopeful things, yes!—but so much suffering, failure, distortion, betrayal, so much crying out in the darkness, so many defenseless human persons being smashed—yet especially here, the image of God doesn’t disappear, and any spark of humanity left unquenched keeps looking for air to burn.

We continue to endure this monstrous storm, expanding our power and riding on the edges of chaos. Admirable achievements, but so much suffering and so much darkness. “Why, God? Where are we going?”

Eh, my “prison”? I’m certainly not alone here. This “place” is full of humanity, of persons. There is so much longing for life here. And of course, Jesus is here. He has come to stay with us, to suffer with us and for us, to suffer for the sake of love. What does that mean, God? What is this “love,” Jesus?

The Mystery dwells among us. Never mind “theology,” I’m too small to understand more than what is given to me. Many saints have reached great depths in the experience of this mysterious love. But millions and millions of people (as far as we can tell) have never really heard His name. The Mystery dwells among us in mysterious ways. Somehow, they encounter Him. But we want to share with them the awareness of Him that has been given to us. We want to share Him, share ourselves… and also we want to discover His love for others—encounter Him through them too. There are surprising “signs” among the poor and suffering peoples of this earth.

Perhaps what really matters for me right now is praying and suffering my incapacities, “offering” them in union with Jesus, especially for my beautiful family and for those who carry heavy burdens, that they might know the Lord’s mercy.

Meanwhile, I work as much as I am able, without trying to overdo it. I thank God for every day.

I read. I listen to audio when my eyes are too tired. I can still experiment with digital graphic art, which nevertheless sometimes stresses me out because the new possibilities are growing constantly and exponentially. It takes time to get used to new forms and capacities of media. You can see that I made a strange “self-portrait” above.

Please pray for me as I struggle with difficulties like these. We all suffer with pain that is beyond our understanding. I know that. Let us pray for one another.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

The Human Dignity of the Chinese People

Thirty-five years ago (June 4, 1989), the Chinese Communist Party mercilessly crushed thousands of people who had been gathering for over a month in Tiananmen Square to demonstrate peacefully, and to petition their rulers for basic human rights and recognition of human dignity. In Beijing, protesters were joined by people from all walks of life, including journalists from the PartyState-controlled media.

We must never forget the Chinese people or other peoples of the world whose fundamental dignity as human persons is neglected, repressed, or violated by the ideologies and weapons of unjust powers. If nothing else, we can listen to their stories, hold them in our hearts, and pray for them.

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Solemnity of Corpus Christi 2024

“It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, through Christ our Lord.

“For at the Last Supper with his Apostles, establishing for the ages to come the saving memorial of the Cross, he offered himself to you as the unblemished Lamb, the acceptable gift of perfect praise.

“Nourishing your faithful by this sacred mystery, you make them holy, so that the human race, bounded by one world, may be enlightened by one faith and united by one bond of charity.

“And so, we approach the table of this wondrous Sacrament, so that, bathed in the sweetness of your grace, we may pass over to the heavenly realities here foreshadowed.

“Therefore, all creatures of heaven and earth sing a new song in adoration.”

~from the Preface for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi