Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Holy Spirit and the Scope of Friendship

The Lenten and Easter Seasons of 2020 have been unlike any that we have ever experienced.

For laypeople, the inability to participate by a fully bodily personal presence in the liturgical life of the Church has been peculiar, challenging, and often frustrating. We felt the lack of many of the customary elements of the seasons, and above all we felt "distanced" from the Eucharist at the very heart of the liturgical year.

We also missed the immediate company of one another as a living community accustomed to regular gatherings and collaboration in so many worthwhile activities.

There was much grace in this experience, nevertheless. We had to trust in Christ's love, in the confidence that the Mass was still being offered for us every day by our bishops and priests.

And we were able to engage with some level of "connection" and to share intentionally in those Masses that were livestreamed. In this way it was also possible to experience, with particular intensity and focus, the vitality of encountering Jesus in the Eucharist "by desire," by what is called "spiritual communion."

Moreover, though we were separated physically from one another and quarantined in our own homes, we remained united in Christ's body. And we found ways to "be together," to pray together, help one another, encourage one another in difficulties, and grow together. Many of us were assisted in this by audiovisual interactive media and social networks. Though this is not the same as being in the same room, it was overall something we were glad we could do. Now we have a little more freedom to interact "directly" (sometimes only from behind a mask) with our friends, and also to attend Mass and receive the sacrament of the Eucharist.

A more restricted situation may yet return, or some worse calamity may befall us. But we now know from experience something of the interior strength of the bond that keeps us together in the Church. We know it is deeper than the limitations and hindrances of any circumstance. We have been able to reaffirm that, indeed, God is good, all the time. Perhaps we have also learned something about the strength and value of friendship.

Today is Pentecost Sunday. We ask the Holy Spirit to come and draw us more deeply into the communion of life we share in Christ and with one another.

The Holy Spirit sustains friendships in Jesus Christ and the Church. He makes it real that we are brothers and sisters. He is the true, original, and enduring “social network” that brings us all together and gives us a concrete perception of our common hope and common mission. Friendship, like all human realities, is elevated and transfigured by the grace of the Spirit. If we live in faith, we will find many signs of God's hand at work in this important aspect of our lives.

This includes, of course, the blessing and gift of the awareness of the ultimate significance of those deep, cultivated human friendships built upon decades of interaction and mutual trust. I am long past the age where a person realizes that no one has many friends of this kind. The very human richness of such friendships entails also their particularity, which is defined by places and time, personality types, qualities, rapport, common experiences, and many other circumstances that allow a friendship to be sustained and to grow over a lifetime.

Nevertheless, it's true even on a purely natural level that people have a wider circle of cordial relationships where the bond of friendship is also expressed and lived in varying degress and approximations. Here you do find some people who have "many friends," and — for most of us — it's possible and worthwhile to "make new friends" within this sphere.

In God's plan, however, the human capacity for friendship is transformed and acquires a special stature.

While respecting and making use of all the natural distinctions in human relationships, the Risen Christ wants to generate in us by His Spirit a new kind of affection for the human person, a new capacity for empathy, a more powerful perseverance in active love, a space for hospitality within our hearts (and therefore also within our communities) that is so much larger than anything human nature could accomplish on its own.

Thus the Spirit builds up Christ's body, His Church, through friendships that bloom and thrive — sometimes in unexpected places, and with a variety of people — and prove remarkably tenacious even in the face of many human tensions, disagreements, and conflict.

The great strength of such friendships is Jesus Christ Himself, to whom we belong (together) with all our hearts, with whom we are brothers and sisters, children of the Father, co-heirs to the Kingdom.

Still, the reality is that we fight all the time, and we hurt one another. Some of this follows from our fraternal closeness: siblings fight all the time, but (in healthy situations) they work things out within the context of the stability of family life. Unfortunately, it is too often the case that our conflicts express something other than the squabbling of siblings. Too often, we fight against one another and do violence to one another because we have forgotten who we are.

We have forgotten our responsibility toward one another in Christ. We have forgotten the grace of the Holy Spirit, the love of God poured out into our hearts that is also a love for our brothers and sisters, a love that "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Cor 13:7).

We have forgotten the reality of God's concrete presence in our lives. That is why we hate one another. "The one who says, 'I love God' but hates his brother is a liar" (1 John 4:20).

Misunderstandings cause tension. Diverse tastes and disagreements cause tension. The need, at times, to help one another to remember uncomfortable truths causes tension. The many stupid things we do to one another because we are still sinners cause tension. Many circumstances and things cause tension. These real human tensions, fractures, and wounds may require time and some "distancing" in order to heal, so that there can be real reconciliation.

Christians are not called to pretend that there is nothing wrong, ever, in their relationships, or that everything is always "great" (this pretense is a form of pride, because it evades the real character of the Spirit's gift, of His ways of transforming our humanity, in favor of a self-generated, artificial and inevitably inhuman facade the covers over our ongoing need for God's grace and forgiveness).

Christians are not called simply to be nice to one another and always appear to get along. Rather, they are called to remember that they are brothers and sisters. In Christ they belong to one another.

Openness to the Holy Spirit, in fact, will bring healing grace and the joy of the Lord to our lives and our relationships. We will love one another more, and within that mutual love God creates the "space" that welcomes others into this communion of friendship.

Every human person belongs to Christ, and is on a path (sometimes a very long and winding and mysterious path) toward Christ in the Father's plan. Our own contributions to evangelization intersect with and can shape (as God wills) the paths of persons in search of the meaning of life. These persons are also our brothers and sisters, journeying with their many traditions and the wisdom found in them, and according to the working of the Holy Spirit secretly in their own hearts, drawing them toward the embrace of Christ.

We are called to bear confident and patient witness to the Gospel, to point to Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of all that is good and true in the histories and traditions of their peoples and in the promptings of their own consciences and the longing of their hearts. Here too, friendships are born.

Every human person is created in the image and likeness of God, called to the embrace of Jesus Christ and the freedom of redemption in Him, and prompted by the Holy Spirit who leads them to long for and seek out the fullness of truth. Every person is our brother or our sister.

There is no place for hatred in our way of regarding or approaching any human person. We are called even to love our enemies... in the hope that they might become our friends.

The gift of the Spirit deepens and widens our capacity for friendship, not in the sense that we can have everybody as a "bosom buddy" (as I said, if we have a few of these over the course of a lifetime, it is a blessing), but so that we can walk together and help one another as companions on the journey towards our destiny, as brothers and sisters going home to our Father.

It is Christ our brother, the Lord of all creation and history, who leads us on this journey. Friendship is only a foretaste of the communion of love we will share with the Triune God and one another for all eternity when we finally arrive at the journey's end.

Come, Holy Spirit! Sustain our hope that we might persevere until we reach the fullness of life for which we have been created.

In the glory of the Father's house, we will dwell forever with God, seeing Him as He is. What does this mean for human friendship? Very much, because we are all called to be friends, to be brothers and sisters, to be together forever!

It should not be surprising that our growing in God's grace in Christ in this present life makes for enduring and faithful and forgiving friendships. There is no greater foundation!

Veni Sancte Spiritus!🔥 Thank you, Lord, for everything. Jesus, I trust in you.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Conversion of Saint Camillus

My column in this month's MAGNIFICAT magazine appears immediately preceding the prayers for May 30th (or as a link on the May 30th page, if you're using the app or reading online). I decided to share it here as well.

The "origin story" of Saint Camillus is timely, because his apostolate of mercy lived out through many years of caring for the sick is one of the foundations of nursing and health care work in its modern form. His persistent devotion to the human person in need was Christ-centered and eminently practical, and he can inspire frontline workers in the current pandemic and all those who care for the sick poor.

Note that Magnificat remains available online for FREE during this period of various health restrictions, in both its USA and U.K./Ireland editions. Check that out if you haven't already done so.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Saint Paul VI: Joy in the Midst of Tribulation

Today we celebrate Saint Paul VI, the Pope of my childhood, the Pope of the Second Vatican Council and the tremendous struggles that followed immediately upon it for the Church and the world.

May 29th is now the memorial of this profoundly holy man, who taught courageously, suffered greatly, and loved Jesus Christ and the Church with all his heart. Also, this is the 100th anniversary of his ordination.

Near the end of his papacy, on May 9, 1975, the frail and apparently beleaguered Pope — whose fidelity to the gospel and his own particular mission as Successor of Saint Peter were so often misunderstood, bitterly criticized, or dismissed by the various factions of the post-conciliar crisis — published the beautiful and wise reflection Gaudete in Domino, on joy in the Lord. The whole text is worth reading, having lost none of its insight, vigor, or relevance after 45 years.

Here I quote (in bold type) a few passages that resonate with these days as we prepare to celebrate Pentecost, as we find ourselves once again so very much aware of our need for renewal in the Holy Spirit:

"John XXIII...envisaged a kind of new Pentecost as a fruit of the Council. We too have wished to place ourself in the same perspective and in the same attitude of expectation. Not that Pentecost has ever ceased to be an actuality during the whole history of the Church, but so great are the needs and the perils of the present age, so vast the horizon of mankind drawn towards world coexistence and powerless to achieve it, that there is no salvation for it except in a new outpouring of the gift of God. Let Him then come, the Creating Spirit, to renew the face of the earth!" (Gaudete in Domino VII:2)

In the present world "the joy of the kingdom brought to realization [in the risen and glorified Jesus] can only spring from the simultaneous celebration of the death and resurrection of the Lord. This is the paradox of the Christian condition which sheds particular light on that of the human condition: neither trials nor sufferings have been eliminated from this world, but they take on a new meaning in the certainty of sharing in the redemption wrought by the Lord and of sharing in His glory.

"This is why the Christian, though subject to the difficulties of human life, is not reduced to groping for the way; nor does he see in death the end of his hopes. As in fact the prophet foretold: 'The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. You have made their gladness greater, you have made their joy increase....' (Isaiah 9:2) The Easter Exultet sings of a mystery accomplished beyond the hopes of the prophets: in the joyful announcement of the resurrection, even man's suffering finds itself transformed, while the fullness of joy springs from the victory of the Crucified, from His pierced heart and His glorified body. This victory enlightens the darker souls. 'Et nox illuminatio mea in deliciis meis' [from Easter Vigil liturgy].

"Paschal joy is not just that of a possible transfiguration: it is the joy of the new presence of the Risen Christ dispensing to His own the Holy Spirit, so that He may dwell with them." (Gaudete in Domino III:9-10)

Finally, there is this one passage from Gaudete in Domino V:6, which I highlighted in a box and shared on social media. These words struck me as profound and timely regarding some of the trials our family has been called to endure over the past couple of years, with the illness and death of my Dad ("Papa" to his grandchildren) and the ongoing disability of my Mom ("Grandma"). Something of this "paradox" is hidden deep down in the experience of grief, and it expresses the mysterious working of the grace of the Holy Spirit "within" many kinds of suffering:

Thursday, May 28, 2020

"Blue Ridge Mountain Spring" and "Rose Study no. 11"

Here are a couple of pieces of digital art that I recently completed and circulated on other media platforms. The first one portrays the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains as they appear this time of year in various shades of blue and green:

Then I continue my "Rose Study" series with "Rose Study, no. 11," based on a photo of a clipping from those multi-seasonal blooming rose bushes down the road. They are blooming now.🌹

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

An Ongoing Epidemic: Lyme Disease Awareness Month

The last thing people want to think about these days is another strange widely-spread disease.

The good news is that you cannot catch this disease from other people. The bad news is that the insects carrying this infection are probably in your front yard. We are talking, of course, about the peculiar tick that carries the bacteria and other microbial co-infections commonly referred to as Lyme Disease.

Oh yeah, you're used to being worried about that one.

The tragic and dramatic events regarding COVID-19 that we are living through right now have probably taken precedence on your worry list over many other things. You may have even forgotten that May is "Lyme Disease Awareness Month." I almost forgot about it myself (the "month," that is). We have all been preoccupied with the present struggle against a highly contagious ("human-to-human") virus. But for those little ticks (much smaller than the image in the creepy picture above), their blood-sucking life goes on as usual. And the bacteria and microbes they carry can cause big problems.

I have been on a crazy-nuts odyssey with Lyme Disease since 1988 (well, on and off, or somewhat on and somewhat off... more or less "manageable" right now). It has contributed to my "interesting" and wacky life, limited me in certain external ways, and has had low points which were just not fun at all.

Now, "in the time of Coronavirus," I have to remember that I don't have the world's best immune system. I'm used to staying-at-home and working from home and having a lot of virtual connections anyway. Strange illnesses are not new to me. But the whole world having to deal with a strange, capricious illness and its consequences? That is new to me.

Nevertheless, Lyme Disease is also still around. I have written about it plenty of times in this blog. A good overall source of information is the Global Lyme Alliance. I do not mean to increase anyone's anxiety here, but it's just good to have information on hand. Another page that is useful for navigating to a variety of resources (if you don't mind the Sk8r Girl, Rock Chick design) is my "Lyme Sister" Avril Lavigne's charitable Foundation which, among other things, helps people who are suffering from this disease which kept the famous Canadian singer-songwriter off her feet for two years.

COVID-19 is a very different thing from Lyme Disease, pathologically speaking.

Though, ironically, it may be true that many people get Lyme but never have any symptoms. But they cannot pass it on to others (unless they bite someone😉). Lyme a weird disease, and a serious public health problem that doesn't get the attention it deserves. But there are some options available for treating Lyme, and it appears to be the case that not many people get really sick. There has been progress since 1988.

Those of us who do get "really sick" have a perplexing range of symptoms, some of which resist all kinds of treatment, or else go into remission and then flare up periodically. Though Lyme can be a dangerous illness, it is often a long drawn out affliction, and not many deaths are statistically attributed to it. For people like me, it is a chronic infirmity. I have reached the point where I have gotten about as much help as I can get for it (and the help has been significant). People who are dealing with Lyme Disease should not get discouraged. There are many treatments and therapies, and long term remission is possible (check the links I posted above for more information and useful contacts).

The current coronavirus pandemic has made us all ponder the dangers of disease. I have lived with some of those dangers, and I can assure you I'm not looking for any more. I know I need to be especially careful, and I hope I can combine this particular responsibility with common sense and whatever manner of accessibility I can offer to others.

In any case, illness teaches you that being human is a vulnerable thing, that every day is a gift and a mystery and a possibility for love (in whatever circumstances). Still, no one likes being sick. We want healing. I salute doctors and health professionals who dedicate themselves to healing, who continue to deal with all kinds of illnesses and all kinds of people.

Here's Avril Lavigne's inspiring song, written as a cry to God, asking him to keep her Head Above Water when she felt like Lyme Disease was "drowning" her. It's an encouraging song for any time we feel overwhelmed:

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

"Apocalypse in Slow Motion" - Thoughts (Part I)

The elementary school teacher said, "This is a special new year, children. Do you know why? Because it's the beginning of a new decade."

One particularly bright and imaginative student, a kid who had just turned 7 years old, was suddenly struck by what a wonderful and mysterious thing this was, and before she could explain further he said out loud, "That's right. It's 1970!" 

He felt like the universe was open at his feet, full of possibilities.


As the sky faded into twilight, two boys were walking back to their apartment building from the local deli, with paper bags filled with hot kosher frankfurters and fresh buns and sauerkraut. The air was cold, but the bags were warm and they smelled wonderful.

The smell was even better than the taste, and the taste was like nothing else on this earth. The boys were bringing home dinner.


Soon a hamburger restaurant opened a few doors down from the deli. The hamburgers weren't that good, but they were cheap. And they had something else too: an official representative who dressed up as a clown! Not only that; this clown was in TV commercials for hamburger restaurants all over the country.

He was on TV. He was important.

Soon the kids heard that the clown was going to make a special visit to their restaurant, and for some reason (no one really remembers why anymore) this was a wildly exciting event, more exciting than if the President of the United States were coming. Kids thought they would get to meet the clown, and even get his autograph. That would give them a "share" in his mysterious, superior mode of existence constituted by his being-a-television-star.

They went to the restaurant. It was a hot day. Kids were everywhere. Parents were there too, acting just like the kids. The clown drove through on the back of a truck and everybody was screaming and running. One particular group of kids waited for hours but got nowhere near the clown. But they got a discount on burgers that day.

It was...disappointing.

Several years later, when they were older, the kids came to the cynical realization that there was not just one clown. There were lots of costumes, and many actors could play the part simultaneously at every restaurant in every neighborhood.

The kids realized that "things are not always as they seem..."


The boy wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up. We were conquering Space, after all. Starting with the moon. Rockets were going to the moon a lot at the beginning of "the new decade."

The boy liked to study his moon map in the living room. Sometimes the TV News was on; his Dad would watch it. There was a sound that the boy always associated with the News. It was a sound he was totally used to hearing; one of those sounds that was clearly just part of life.

"Rattattatt! Rattattatt! Rattattatt!! BOOM! Tetetetet
Rattattatt! Rattattatt! Rattattatt!! Rattattatt!! BOOM!!
Rattattatt! Rattattatt! Rattattatt!! BOOM! Pup pup..
Rattattatt! Rattattatt! Rattattatt!! Rattattatt!!
Rattattatt! Rattattatt! Rattattatt!! BOOM! Tetetetet
Rattattatt! Rattattatt! Rattattatt!! Puppuppup!! BOOM! Rattattattatt! Rattattattattatt!! Tetetetetet! Pup...
Rattattatt! Rattattatt! Rattattatt!! Rattattatt!!
Rattattattatt! Rattattattatt! Rattattattatt!! BOOM!"

It was probably only a few seconds every night, but the boy's head was full of those noises coming out of the television.

There were also grave sounding reporters and occasional words on the screen. The boy remembers seeing the word "chaos" a lot. He didn't know what it meant, and he thought it was pronounced "chow-s." A reasonable phonetic mistake.

The grave voices of the reporters always spoke about the same strange places, and these place names bounced through the boy's imagination right along with the "Rattattattatt! Rattattattattatt!!" noise: "Saigon, Hanoi, Saigon, Saigon, Cambodia, Phnom Phen, Laos [aha! maybe "Chaos" was another place, like Laos], Saigon [mostly Saigon from the reporters], bombing, Phnom Phen, enemy territory, Viet-Cong... Rattattattattattattattattatt!! Rattattattattattattattattatt!! BOOM! Rattattattattattattattattatt!!"

Where were these places? They weren't on his moon map.


The boy had yet to hear the crisp sound of a single shot from a hunting rifle in the woods. 

But as he gazed at the moon and dreamed of going there, he was so used to the sounds of machine gun and AK47 bursts coming from the TV that he barely noticed them.

In the jumble of serious reporter words, another strange one came out from time to time: Quagmire.

Monday, May 25, 2020

"Everything You Say Goes to Everybody"

May 25 marks the 11th "anniversary" of my first post on Facebook. We were still using a dialup modem, so we were behind the times (although it was rural Virginia).

"So how does this work? Everything you say goes to everybody?" Yup. That about sums it up!😮

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Creativity of Love: Music Helps Lead the Way

I don’t know HOW the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra did THIS gorgeous online musical collaboration, but listen to it (in the link below), then stand up and👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏!!!

Wow. Wow. Wow!!🎵🎵🎵

In fact, YouTube, Instagram, and other platforms right now are full of classical soloists and ensembles of all kinds making great music during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are struggling to find ways to overcome the limits of staying-at-home and "social distancing" that people all over the world have been asked to observe at this time for the common good.

Of course, we would all rather be in the concert hall... but they’re doing what they can to share the gift of music, and at the same time creatively exploring the boundaries of communications technology.

Also, please, let’s not forget that these wonderful people need food to eat and roofs over their heads just like everyone else. Let's not forget them, their needs, their humanity. Let's not forget anybody. Let's remember the needs of persons, families, and communities everywhere.

This is not just about calculations, statistics, or pure mechanical efficiency. It's not about winners and losers. It's about persons-in-community, and due attention must be given to life, health, and safety, as well as how we live together in peace and equity, pursuing the many facets of the human vocation.

Human persons have minds and hearts to make this kind of music, and minds and hearts that are moved by this kind of music. What a wonder it is to be human!

And what a challenge! How strange, conflicted, and obscure we are, but also how persistent, innovative, adaptable, and courageous we can be. We are drawn by greatness, by the beauty that surprises us even in the most desperate circumstances. Our hearts are challenged by life to do whatever is possible, and beyond that our hearts even find the audacity to beg for the impossible.

We must continue to search and struggle, to ask and to offer ourselves in the circumstances of our lives. Even when we are overwhelmed, we cannot give up. We must ask for the inspiration that can carry us beyond our failures and limits.

We are called to find ways to address the present crisis and many other complex needs and responsibilities now and in the future, moving forward together in solidarity and respect for for the dignity and freedom of every person, supporting and helping one another, sharing our own gifts and opening our hearts to “the creativity of love.”

Listen to what this orchestra has achieved:

Friday, May 22, 2020

Dutch Clover in the Grass

This is “Dutch Clover” really close up (photo 1), and then a bit further back (photo 2). These bright blossoms are out all around in tall patches of grass.

Hooray for the wildflowers!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Latest Effort to Crush the People of Hong Kong

I hope no one has forgotten about Hong Kong.

The Communist PartyState in China probably planned to establish its newly presented "Hong Kong Security Law" — a pretext for redefining the city's pro-democracy demonstrations as "sedition" — before the pandemic delayed the formalities of its bureaucratic process.

Now, after a three month delay, the annual meeting has finally begun of the National Peoples Congress (the enormous pseudo-parliamentary "rubber stamp" wielded by the Party to legitimize its unchecked, unaccountable decisions). For more information about the new "law," read the article linked below the image.

Whatever happens, the Protest Movement of 2019 — vindicated by Hong Kong’s District Council elections last November — spoke truth to power with admirable eloquence. Power has been left with no option other than to impose itself. 

Nevertheless, no one knows what the future may hold... #IStandWithHongKong

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Continuity in Faith: Francis and John Paul II

Here are some words that Pope Francis spoke or published in connection with yesterday's 100th birthday of Saint John Paul II. Once again, it is very clear that Francis has a profound appreciation for and continuity with the faith and the Christian anthropology of his incomparable predecessor. Francis has brought a style and approach and insights of his own while also continuing the rich legacy of papal teaching since the Second Vatican Council.

For the opening of a new Center at the Angelicum University, Francis wrote that John Paul II "is at once both the inspiration behind this project and its first and most important architect. This is thanks to the rich and multifaceted heritage that he left to us, and even more so by the example of his open and contemplative spirit, his passion for God and man, for creation, history and art. The range of experiences that marked his life, especially the momentous historical events and the personal sufferings that he sought to interpret in the light of the Spirit, led Saint John Paul II to an even deeper reflection on man and his cultural roots as an essential reference point for every proclamation of the Gospel.

"Indeed, in his first Encyclical he wrote: 'We approach all cultures, all ideological concepts, all people of good will. We approach them with the esteem, respect and discernment that since the time of the Apostles has marked the missionary attitude, the attitude of the missionary. Suffice it to mention Saint Paul and, for instance, his address in the Areopagus at Athens. The missionary attitude always begins with a feeling of deep esteem for what is in man, for what man has himself worked out in the depths of his spirit concerning the most profound and important problems. It is a question of respecting everything that has been brought about in him by the Spirit, which blows where it wills (Encyclical Redemptor Hominis, 12; cf. Address to UNESCO, 2 June 1980). We need to keep this approach alive if we wish to be an outward-looking Church, not satisfied with preserving and administering what already exists but seeking to be faithful to our mission."

~Pope Francis, "Establishment of John Paul II Cultural Center at the Angelicum" (May 18, 2020)


Francis also recorded a video message for the youth of the Archdiocese of Krakow, whom he also knows from his own visit in 2016. The message, in Italian, was subtitled in multiple languages including English:

"Dear young people, this year we celebrate 100 years since the birth of Saint John Paul II.

"It is a wonderful opportunity for me to address you, young people of Krakow, thinking about how much he loved young people, and remembering my presence among you for World Youth Day in 2016.

"Saint John Paul II was a gift of God to the Church and to Poland, your motherland. His earthly pilgrimage, which began on 18 May 1920 in Wadowice and ended 15 years ago in Rome, was marked by his passion for life and by a fascination with the mystery of God, of the world and of humankind.

"I remember him as a great man of mercy: I am thinking of his Encyclical Dives in Misericordia, of the canonization of Saint Faustina and of the establishment of Divine Mercy Sunday.

"In the light of God’s merciful love, he captured the specificity and beauty of the vocation of women and men, he understood the needs of children, of young people and of adults, also considering cultural and social conditioning...

"Today, you too can experience him, and know of his life and his teachings, which are available to everyone thanks to the internet. Each and every one of you, dear boys and girls, bears the imprint of your family, with its joys and sorrows.

"Love and care for the family is a characteristic feature of John Paul II. His teachings are a secure point of reference for finding concrete solutions to difficulties and to the challenges that modern-day families face.

"But personal and family problems are not an obstacle on the road to holiness and happiness. They weren’t for young Karol Wojtyła, either, who suffered the loss of his mother, brother, and father.

"As a student, he experienced the atrocities of Nazism, that took so many of his friends from him. After the war, as a priest and bishop, he was forced to face Atheistic Communism. Difficulties, even tough ones, are proof of maturity and of faith; a test which can only be passed based on the power of Christ, who died and rose again.

"John Paul II reminded the whole Church of this in his first Encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, where it says, 'The man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly must with his unrest, uncertainty, and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death draw near to Christ. He must, so to speak, enter into Him with all his own self.'

"Dear young people, this is what I hope for each and every one of you: to enter Christ with your whole life. And I hope that the celebrations of the centenary of the birth of Saint John Paul II will inspire within you the desire to walk bravely with Jesus, who is 'the Lord of risk, he is the Lord of the eternal more. As He did on Pentecost, the Lord wants to work one of the greatest miracles we can experience: He wants to turn your hands, my hands, our hands into signs of reconciliation, of communion, of creation. He wants your hands, boys and girls: He wants your hands to continue building the world of today.'

"I entrust you all to the intercession of Saint John Paul II and I bless you, wholeheartedly. And you, please, do not forget to pray for me.

"Thank you!"


Finally, there were the words Francis preached at the morning Mass, which he offered at John Paul II's tomb in Saint Peter's Basilica:

"Saint John Paul II was a man of God because he prayed. And he prayed a lot! How could a man who had so many things to do and so much work to lead the Church, how could he take so much time for prayer? He knew well that the first task of a bishop is to pray... And he taught us that when a bishop carries out an examination of conscience in the evening he must ask himself: how many hours have I prayed today? [He was a] man of prayer.

"Secondly, he was a man of proximity. He was not detached from the people, on the contrary he went out to find the people and traveled the whole world, finding his people, looking for his people, getting close. And closeness is one of the traits of God with His people. Remember what the Lord says to the people of Israel: 'Look, what people have had their gods as close as I am to you?' A closeness of God to the people which then is becomes even closer in Jesus, becomes stronger in Jesus. A shepherd who is not close to his people, is not a shepherd, he is a hierarch, he is an administrator, perhaps good but not a shepherd. Proximity to the people. And Saint John Paul II gave us the example of this closeness: he made himself close to elderly and the little ones, to the near and far, always close.

"Thirdly, love for justice. But full justice! A man who wanted justice, social justice, justice of peoples, justice that drives wars away. But full justice! This is why Saint John Paul II was the man of mercy because justice and mercy go together, they cannot be distinguished, they go together: justice is justice, mercy is mercy, but one is not found without the other. And speaking of the man of justice and mercy, let us think of what Saint John Paul II did to make people understand the mercy of God. Let us think of his devotion to Saint Faustina, whose liturgical memory is now extended to the whole the church. He felt that God's justice bore a face of mercy, an attitude of mercy" (Homily of Mass of May 18, 2020).

Monday, May 18, 2020

John Paul II Centennial (1920 - 2020)

Today we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Saint John Paul II.⭐️

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Rejoice at the Presence of the Lord

Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad,

let the sea and all within it thunder praise,

let the land and all it bears rejoice,

all the trees of the wood shout for joy

at the presence of the Lord for he comes,

he comes to rule the earth.

With justice he will rule the world,

he will judge the peoples with his truth.”

~Psalm 96:11-13

Saturday, May 16, 2020

We are Called to Live Forever with God

The mercy of God in Jesus Christ is where we find our roots. Where else can we hope to stand? 

Mercy is the creative, forgiving, regenerating, ultimately fulfilling love of God beyond all measure. Mercy is the love that gives us what we lack, that empowers us to accomplish what we can't do by ourselves.

In Jesus God gives Himself. He is the way and the truth and the life. He is our hope for healing and for attaining our destinyJesus gives Himself to save us from our sins, and also to give us a participation in the life of God. The life of God! Whoever even thinks about this? Whoever thinks about the fact that Jesus brings not only freedom from sin but also a radical elevation of life to the level of union with God?

We are struggling in these days just to survive, to keep from sinking beneath so many possibilities for anxiety: about our health, about our loved ones, about our schools and places of work, about whether "life-as-we-used-to-know-it" will ever return, about what lies ahead. We might sometimes feel like we're barely treading water in the ocean of our own sanity. 

And yet we are called to live forever with God. It's difficult even to begin to grasp what this means. Do we even want this, really? Yes, we have been created to want this, and the Spirit of God is already at work stirring our souls to make space for His gifts, blowing like the free air through our restless hearts. Yet we live on the surface of ourselves.

We must trust in God, and throw ourselves upon the mercy of God.

Friday, May 15, 2020

¡Feliz Cumpleaños LAURA! (Tanti Auguri alla Regina del Pop!)

This is a fine example of Laura and her band in a music collaboration from different locations, connected by media, that looks and sounds really good.
Recorded last week in Italian. Click
HERE to view video on Facebook.

My favorite Latin American popular singer is... Italian.

Wait, how does that work?

Laura Pausini is how that works. Never mind my opinion. Ask any of the 80 million people who have bought her records.

When I was living in Italy in 1993-1994, young Laura Pausini was just getting started as the celebrated winner of the San Remo Festival (though I didn't become a fan until much later). Now on May 16 she turns 46 years old, and is widely loved across three generations of Italians.

Tanti Auguri! Happy Birthday to the Queen of Italian "Pop," who toured (and sold out) stadiums in her native land as recently as this past year (2019).

Laura Pausini is also Italy's most successful international recording artist, having had the talent, drive, energy, multilingual capabilities, and largeness of personality to connect with much of Continental Europe while also becoming a mainstay in Latina music from Mexico to Brazil to Chile (i.e. throughout the Hispanic world) for over a quarter of a century.

I sometimes find myself forgetting she's Italian. In this hemisphere, Laura is the multi-Grammy-Award-winning Spanish language singer who covers a range from "pop melodico" to rock. She records an Italian version and a Spanish version of every album she releases (I actually prefer to listen to the Spanish). But she goes way beyond just singing in another language. Laura speaks fluent Spanish and Portuguese, and has "written her own chapter" of Latin American music history to the extent that Hispanics count her as one of their own.

¡Feliz Cumpleaños Laura!

She also speaks (and sings in) French, Catalan, and... oh yeah, English too. But English is like her fifth language. The Anglo music world in the USA and Britain knows her well and many of its musicians have worked with her. But, alas, in terms of fans, she is one of the "biggest-popular-music-artists-that-most-Anglophones-have-never-heard-of" (which, let's face it, is a misfortune for us! — well, not for me, because I love the musicality of Spanish even if I don't understand it very well😉).

In any case, Laura Pausini continues to make great contemporary music in various languages with her melodious, intense, and powerful voice ... even now, in quarantine from her home in Rome (see link above). Of course, everyone looks forward to the time when it will be possible for Laura to sing publicly and internationally, as she did in Spanish in this video from 2016:

Thursday, May 14, 2020

So Many Growing Things in the Middle of May

The Peonies are blooming in the neighborhood. These are bushes along my walk; there is nothing nearly so well-groomed on the property of Casa Janaro.

It's the time of year for Virginia's native Asian plants to show their colors. I'm always happy to see the unusual Rhododendron flowers burst out and our bushes that have remained patiently (even stubbornly) green all through the Winter.

Meanwhile our native North American Maple trees finally have full-grown leaves, just in time to give us plenty of shade from the long days and the high, bright, and suddenly warmer sun. Our house is somewhere back in those "woods"!😉

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Mother Mary Comes to Our Aid

May 13 commemorates two great interventions in 20th century history of the one who bore Jesus our Savior in her womb, our beloved ever Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. 

The Catholic Church observes the memorial of “Our Lady of Fatima” today, in honor of her first appearance to the shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal in 1917. Today is also the 39th anniversary of an event I remember very well, a moment of great drama, when a professional assassin (hired, ultimately, by the communist leadership of the Soviet Union) fired a perfect shot in St Peter’s Square, and what should have been a fatal bullet pierced the abdomen of the bishop of Rome. 

Saint John Paul II confessed his faith with his blood on May 13, 1981, but he didn’t die. Doctors were amazed that the bullet passed through him by unusual paths without lethal damage to any of his major organs. The Pope was convinced that Mary had saved his life. 

Indeed I think she did, for the sake of the Church and the world. 

No matter how bad things may be today, no matter how many problems we face, we are unimaginably better off than we would have been if Mother Mary had not come to our aid. Therefore, with confidence in her maternal love which flows from the victory of the Cross and Resurrection of her Son Jesus Christ our Lord, the Lord of the universe and of history, we will not be discouraged. Let’s pray the Rosary, live in hope... and don't worry!

Monday, May 11, 2020

Christina Grimmie's Legacy 47 Months Later

I have been counting months in honor of Christina Grimmie for ... a long time. Months and years too. (Not every single month but most of them.) It's a kind of vigil that I keep for a spectacular "rising star" in the world of popular music, a sister in Christ, and one of the "faithful departed" whom I entrust to the mercy of God.

Indeed, I recall the immense faithfulness of her life right up to the moment of her departure from this world. Her witness of love — grounded on her intention to live "for the glory of Christ" — has endured beyond the violence that ended her earthly life on June 10, 2016.

Since then our society has become more violent, more troubled, more incomprehensible to itself. The year of Christina’s death was marked, in the USA, not only by other high profile shootings in the ensuing months, but also by a strange plunge in the capacity for civil discourse and a deepening of interpersonal fissures that rendered dialogue and mutual understanding much more difficult. The ensuing years brought more irrational murders and further “weaponization“ of discourse. During this time we have been enduring a crisis of communication and increasing social fragmentation.

Now the year 2020 has brought new kinds of painful and distincly bewildering troubles. Presently we are experiencing a kind of powerlessness, frustration, and anxiety as we struggle through the coronavirus pandemic. We mourn the dead, have sorrow for those still suffering, and support their caregivers and all other essential workers. Also, we are all trying to stay sane during the quarantine, not knowing what changes in our lifestyle may yet come or how long they will last, and not being able to understand this bizarre virus — the different ways it impacts people, its dangers (known and unknown), and what needs to be done to treat it effectively and to deal with the ongoing socioeconomic “collateral damage.”

Through all of this we have seen some return of a sense of social solidarity, but it remains fragile and indeed is already breaking apart.

How did we get to this point, from the Long Hot Summer of 2016 to the Lockdown of 2020, in the past four years (less one month)?

Christina Grimmie, we miss you. We really need you!

Of course, as you know if you read these articles, I believe she’s not really so “distant” from us. Interpersonal relationships do not end with death, even though — obviously — they change, taking on a modality that for us is empirically obscure, mysterious, and beyond our power to “conjure” or control. Knowing that our loved ones live on as real persons (beyond our sight and with God) sustains our hope and is occasionally comforting for our emotions even if it’s not a substitute for the long journey through all the “stages“ and indeed the inexplicable whirlwind of grief. Death remains a deep mysterious wound, even if — ultimately — it is a wound of love, a sharing in the wounds that remain open in the One who died and rose and lives forever, the One whose wounds heal us and draw us to our fulfillment in that same unending life.

Though we can't help missing her, Christina is not so far away from us. And in a certain respect we can “see” this as we begin to perceive the growth, flowering, and fruition of the seeds she sowed during her temporal life, and that great seed sown deep in the earth which was her whole life given in love.

Her legacy is already at work in the world, for the good. Her contribution to the constructive forces of freedom and love that are working in history is a reality that continues to grow in collaboration with the work of others. There is much that is good in the world, and really we should give more of our attention and efforts to building up the good. It should not surprise us that in the midst of the problems of the present moment, we can also find new initiatives of goodness and a deeper awareness of the need for human relationships, especially in the realms of communications media and music.

During these 47 months, I have written much about Christina's commitment to her faith in Jesus, her beautiful personality, and her gifts for using communications media in a manner that I still believe — now more than ever — will continue to shape the ways these media platforms are used in the future, especially the ways artists relate and respond to their supporters in new kinds of creative environments.

The past couple of months have seen many artists take to live streaming — not only to promote their music and give their fans something (at least temporarily) to "fill in" for standard venue concerts, but also because the artists themselves are experiencing their own need for connection. Finding themselves “stuck at home” and less able to distract themselves from their own vulnerability, artists want to be with their fans and share music with them (and also to collaborate, "virtually," with one another) on a more personal level. This is a small phenomenon, not without its own ambiguous elements, and not guaranteed to last in its current form. But we have seen musicians spurred to be creative with a more "personal" openness, seeking to express their need (and everyone's need) for relationships and human community.

These days, perhaps, are leading us a little closer to the discovery that everything is personal, that relationships are the greatest treasures of life and that they are sustained by giving ourselves away.

Christina Grimmie had a spontaneous awareness of the possibilities and vitality of these virtual "new media" platforms ten years ago (when they were still "new"), and through them she built bonds with her frands and offered herself, making herself accessible to them in a special way. It was the very thing that set the intimate context for more direct one-on-one personal encounters after live concerts with people all over the world who felt "at home" with her.

She touched countless lives with this unique mode of "hospitality." And she held nothing back in giving herself, all the way to the last moment of her life.

Her giving-of-herself in this way has an ongoing “resonance,” I think, that reaches people today — and in this particular observation I am considering people who inhabit the deeply ambivalent realms of popular music and entertainment: realms so often dominated by greed, egoism, sexual abuse, psychological manipulation, and envy. Still, there is no doubt that God loves every single one of these people. The light that God shined, briefly, through Christina in those places, among so many people, was bright indeed (and they recognized it, as is clear from the tributes that poured in after her death). Even if many have since forgotten her, that light still shines and is passed on and is helping to enkindle new fires in the hearts of artists of the present and the future, and those who appreciate their work.

This is only one example of how Christina Grimmie's legacy continues to be important, and a small sign of the reality that she, herself, continues to accompany us and help us in these difficult times, four years later...

Sunday, May 10, 2020

My Wife: Teacher and Mom

During last night's online fundraiser for the John XXIII Montessori Children's Center, Mrs. Janaro demonstrated a science work with "student" Raggedy Ann.

Today she's having a lovely Mother's Day with her own grateful children and husband. Happy Mother's Day, Eileen!🌹 (...and Happy Teacher Appreciation Week, or is it "Month" -- it should be "Month"!⭐✏ )

Thursday, May 7, 2020

“Orange Horizon”

Wow, it's way after 8:00 PM in May, peeps. Far as I know, the big shiny thing will be back tomorrow! #Sun #DigitalArt

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

What's So "Super" About the Moon?

I saw the waxing moon in the sky Monday evening, which will be full by the end of the week. It is to be another instance of a full moon at a time when its peculiar orbit brings it closer to the earth than usual. We call this a super moon, not because it changes into something greater than itself, but because of the way it appears to us: larger in our sky, brighter, more fascinating.

Humans have traveled to the moon, walked on the moon, analyzed the composition of its elements, brought back samples we can see in museums. We know that it reflects the sun's light. We know many scientific facts about the moon, and we continue to research various scientific questions. There is much we could say about this important, interesting, and useful work.

But there is something else involved when, on a Spring evening, we see the moon in the sky and are captivated by its luminous figure.

We are suddenly struck: "what a beautiful moon!" It does indeed appear to be "super" at the moment, grander than all we know about it. We are surprised by beauty.

The heart lifts up. The heart cries out, "wonder-ful!" Where does this sense of wonder come from? Why can't we capture it, freeze it and hold onto it forever?

We want that, don't we? Beauty forever. Who would say "no" to that?

And yet it eludes us. The moon fades behind some clouds. The moment passes. We return to the house. Dinner is ready and it’s time to eat. Then it will be "time" for something else. 

The moon will move through its phases, the months and the seasons will change. Everything comes and goes with time. But the beauty of the moon on an evening like this reminds us that we are not satisfied with temporary things. The experience of life is always hinting "eternity"--it says to us, "this joy should last..." 

And our hearts respond, "I want forever." 

Is it a lie, a trick, a tragedy, this life of ours with its aspiration for a "super"-wonderful experience, an enduring ecstatic fullness? No. Something must be true in all of this. 

Obviously, we can't "capture reality" and make time stand still. The whole point anyway is that we desire something that is beyond us. We can't make it from ourselves. But we can ask for it...

Never give up! We have been made to seek the Beauty that reality points to every day. So go ahead: ask for the moon.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Amy Lee Does it Again With New Evanescence Track

Yes! What better time than now for NEW EPIC MELODRAMATIC music from Amy Lee and EVANESCENCE? (You know I love it!😉🎵) 

This first single from their new album turned out (unintentionally) to be a perfect fit for “Life Under Quarantine.” 

The new video was shot independently by each band member on their iPhones from their homes, then mixed and produced into a brilliant presentation that manages to express “all-the-feels” of being stuck in the house while providing that surprising overall catharsis that Amy Lee and Evanescence consistently deliver. 

After touring the concert halls and opera houses of the world with a gorgeous symphonic reimagining and reconfiguring of the old catalogue, the band has returned to what at least one music writer has called a “traditional” hard rock sound.😜 German virtuoso rock guitarist Jen Majura (yes, she’s the other woman in the video) has been a great addition to the best ever Evanescence lineup. The music, as usual, is superb.🎶

Saturday, May 2, 2020

May 2020: "When There Were Trees and Poetry..."

Here we are, in the beginning of the month of May in the year 2020. The trees are gloriously alive. They ask no questions. They have no fear of what's coming... They are all innocence on May 2, 2020.
I feel like I'm dating these entries in a dramatic fashion, expecting that this blog might be found by some post-apocalyptic survivor living in a wild technobarbaric dystopian future world.

...Indeed, humanity passed through chaotic times in the twenty-first century. After the Pandemic came the Economic Meltdown followed by the War and... what the heck, we'll throw in a couple of asteroid collisions.

Things will have become pretty strange on planet earth by the time that kid-who-is-a-geek-with-ancient-tech somehow finds this "data," no doubt by rebelliously hacking into a restricted virtual storage vault. This information is "protected" by The Guides (that's what we'll call our spooky dictatorial oligarchy that rules the future).

Of course, my future illegal reader(!) wants details about the mythical global (or galactic?) catastrophe that began long ago, in the year 2020, when the first of the Great Plagues put earth into a quarantine. No one back then expected the terrors to come. But the reader will have to bear with me. These pages are early in the story.

It might be months or years before I desperately narrate the horrors: 'That laboratory was supposed to be shut down! What did they... Nooooo!! MUTANT EIGHT-HEADED SNAKES! They're COMING! Arrrghh!!!...' and then... nothing. The blog abruptly ends. But not yet. We're not even close to that part.

Today, I'm still naive. I know nothing of the dreadful things to come. Today is a beautiful Spring day. Today, I will wax poetic about trees. Trees? Future reader, do you still have trees?...
Gosh, that all sounds interesting. Maybe I should try writing science fiction. Or maybe I've just seen too many movies. But never mind all that. Right now, there's plenty to do in the beautiful outdoors, in our naturally socially distant neighborhood. I will gaze upon the trees, and listen to their poetry. Why not?

Those noble white kings of the forest, the sycamores and birch — the ones that stand luminous and majestic against the Winter sky — are not yet clothed with the leaves of Spring.

In a mix of woodland trees alive with blooming color and fresh vivid green, they tower like giants reaching for the clouds with bright bare branches, awakening more slowly to the Spring sun, among the last to be vested in the great green coats that spread long shadows of shade through the Summer.

Friday, May 1, 2020

"Mother of the Church...Embrace Our Nation"

On May 1, at 12:00 noon Pacific Time, in the cathedral church of Our Lady of the Angels, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles - current President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops - led the renewal of the consecration of the USA to Mary, especially under her title of "Mother of the Church," and asked her intercession in this time of pandemic. Bishops throughout the nation joined in this act of consecration in their own dioceses.

Thus the Church's ministers entrusted once again the people of this nation to Mary, just as Jesus from the Cross entrusted his beloved disciple John to her.

The image at the Los Angeles cathedral was a photo reproduction of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Here is the prayer used by Archbishop Gomez:

Most Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church,
you are the fairest fruit of God’s redeeming love;
you sing of the Father’s mercy
and accompany us with a mother’s love.
In this time of pandemic we come to you,
our sign of sure hope and comfort.
Today we renew the act of consecration and entrustment
carried out by those who have gone before us.

With the love of a Mother and Handmaid,
embrace our nation which we entrust and consecrate once again to you,
together with ourselves and our families.
In a special way we commend to you
those particularly in need of your maternal care.

Mary, Health of the Sick,
sign of health, of healing, and of divine hope for the sick,
we entrust to you all who are infected with the coronavirus.

Mary, Mother of Consolation,
who console with a mother’s love all who turn to you,
we entrust to you all those who have lost loved ones in the pandemic.

Mary, Help of Christians,
who come to our rescue in every trial,
we entrust to your loving protection all caregivers.

Mary, Queen and Mother of Mercy,
who embrace all those who call upon your help in their distress,
we entrust to you all who are suffering in any way from the pandemic.

Mary, Seat of Wisdom,
who were so wonderfully filled with the light of truth,
we entrust to you all who are working to find a cure to this pandemic.

Mary, Mother of Good Counsel,
who gave yourself wholeheartedly to God’s plan 
for the renewing of all things in Christ,
we entrust to you all leaders and policymakers.

Accept with the benevolence of a Mother
the act of consecration that we make today with confidence,
and help us to be your Son’s instruments
for the healing and salvation of our country and the world.

Mary, Mother of the Church,
you are enthroned as queen at your Son’s right hand:
we ask your intercession for the needs of our country,
that every desire for good may be blessed and strengthened,
that faith may be revived and nourished,
hope sustained and enlightened,
charity awakened and animated;
guide us, we pray, along the path of holiness.

Mary our Mother,
bring everyone under your protection
and entrust everyone to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.