Saturday, June 25, 2022

The World Changes Through Mary’s Heart

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

Friday, June 24, 2022

Saint John the Baptist AND Sacred Heart Feasts

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

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

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

Rejoice in these beautiful days of celebration!



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

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Celebrating 26 Years of Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Sunday, June 19, 2022

I Am A “Happy Father”!πŸ™‚

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 18, 2022

My Parents in “Living Color” on Their Wedding Day

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Papa Reads To Maria, the New “Bookmonster”

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

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

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


Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Nixon in Our Living Room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, June 14, 2022

I Ask… I Seek… To Live…

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

Monday, June 13, 2022

Saint Anthony's "Brilliant Sparks of Light"

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

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

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

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

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

~Saint Anthony of Padua

Sunday, June 12, 2022

The Trinity and Our Vocation to Interpersonal Communion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 10, 2022

Christina Grimmie After Six Years

I don’t need words today.

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

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

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

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

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




Thursday, June 9, 2022

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

A Blog About Nothing!

Writing. I hate it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 6, 2022

A Living Relationship…

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

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Pentecost: The Spirit Intercedes With Inexpressible Groanings

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

We must offer our “groaning within ourselves” in solidarity with those who search for light in the darkness - a search that the Spirit mysteriously stirs in the depths of their hearts. Thus we can share our hope for salvation, knowing that the same Spirit who works with us is calling and drawing every person. In the Spirit, our patience, our endurance, our sufferings will bear fruit in Jesus Christ, according to the wisdom and love of God.

We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.

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

~Romans 8:22-27

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Never Forget Tiananmen Square 1989


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ten years ago this day

dawn, a bloody shirt

sun, a torn calendar 

all eyes upon

this single page

the world a single outraged stare

time tolerates no naΓ―vetΓ© 

the dead rage and howl

till the earth’s throat

grows hoarse.”

~Liu Xiaobo

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

Friday, June 3, 2022

The Martyrs of Uganda: Discovering Their Heroic Witness

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

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

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

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

He is a patron saint of politicians.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

John Paul Turns 25 Years Old

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

Wait, WHAT??

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

I’m so confused.

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

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

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

Happy Birthday John Paul!





Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Is it “Worthwhile” to Look at the Flowers?

May is coming to an end.

As you know, I am fond of things that grow. I often post pictures of flowers and fields and streams, although I know very little about the facts and specifications associated with them. I could learn more about them, and perhaps I will in the future. But over the past decade I have preferred to appreciate them with a quiet discursive mind, allowing greater scope for simply seeing them every year, doing a little photography and/or art inspired by them, and sharing their annual images.

I spend almost all my other waking time studying, reading, writing, doing creative work, thinking - all of which, in recent months, have become more difficult for reasons I don’t know but which I hope are temporary. As I have mentioned elsewhere, the unprecedented events of the past two years - jarring for humans even for this perpetually tumultuous emerging epoch that we live in - have brought many of us to the brink of a psychological and emotional exhaustion that we can’t afford to admit to ourselves. We are keenly aware, still (even if only in the back of our minds) that we have not arrived at anything like a decisive resolution to the global crisis that began more than two years ago. Twitter feeds and clickbait headlines preserve their determination to remain fickle and easily diverted. We must not allow them to remake us into fickle, easily diverted people. Many human challenges and catastrophes that we were introduced to in 2020 (and 2022) remain very much on center stage.

So it may seem that flowers, and the appreciation of their surprising yet tenuous beauty, provide an opportunity to escape from the seriousness (an often unwelcome) business of engaging the controversies of our time. That is not true. Flowers are very serious indeed. But we waste too much time, in any case, living the pretense that every problem depends on our securing the correct opinion, doing “something” about it, and defeating the opinions of our adversaries (who are, of course, wrong). Certainly we all have tasks, responsibilities, reflections to contribute, and also convictions about reality where we must take a stand. And when we do take a stand, it is more often a matter of endurance and fidelity - a matter of patience, sacrifice, suffering, witness [even martyrdom] rather than “winning” or success in seizing power with too much presumption that we will be different, that we will use it for the good.

The flowers give us a chance to “rest” from the burdens we so often impose upon ourselves.

They bloom every season for a few weeks, and then give place to the verdant leaves of Summer. There is nothing to argue about here: perhaps many people are already bored of them before they disappear. Can they really be worth our attention? Flowers are nice. They are sentimental. They seem to be the opposite of “provocative,” and they don’t move or challenge (or threaten) anyone, except perhaps poets and lovers. Some flowers are edible, or decorative, or useful in other ways, but otherwise what concern are they to us? When we need to pour the concrete for the sake of building new edifices of human convenience or diversion, who thinks of the flowers?

Don’t misunderstand me. There are things we must build. But we must build carefully, with greater simplicity and attention, because one of the foundations of “sustainable human development” is recognition of gratuitous beauty.

That’s the thing about flowers: colors and formations and intricacies and such variety of inherent coherence in the flowers of Spring. They are beautiful. They are exquisitely “made”… but not by me, nor by anyone on this earth. We can make synthetic copies; we can cross breeds; we can cultivate them. Even if someone were to produce an organic flower entirely in a laboratory, they would still be copying something first encountered “gratuitously” in the world.

The flowers surprise us every Spring. It is good to encounter them and be stirred by the gift of their beauty. Then, in a few weeks, they are gone. But we still want to find the Beauty that resonated in those flowers, a Beauty that is beyond us, beyond all of its gratuitous abundance of gifts, an indestructible Beauty.

All of life is a search for this Beauty that never ends. The flowers cannot satisfy us, but they are signs that give us hope.




Friday, May 27, 2022

"Is Jesus Coming or Going?" A Meditation

Some years ago (while I was still active as a teacher professor) I was blessed to have as a "spiritual father" an old Cistercian monk at Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville. Father Edward (Memory Eternal, Rest in Peace) had been Abbot of the community during the challenging years of the 1960s and 70s, and within his profound disposition of joy, simplicity and humility you could glimpse the fruits of immense interior sufferings patiently endured.

I mention Father Edward not only in gratitude for all the help he gave me in my own difficulties, coming through the door of the cloister and meeting with me in the guest parlor (thank God for him!) - but also because the penance he always gave me after every confession was to read prayerfully chapters 14, 15, and 16 in the Gospel of John.

In these present days near the end of the Easter Season, as we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit, we ponder these texts in the liturgy. It's understandable if we feel as clueless as the disciples, and yet we listen because we know that He loves us and He will never abandon us. If He "goes," it is to draw us with Him through the Holy Spirit into the glory of the Father, to draw us into participation in the Eternal Love who is the Trinity, into a life that is our destiny but that has already begun even as we journey upon this earth.

The revelation of the Mystery of God through Jesus Christ can seem like a bunch of irreconcilable paradoxes if we receive it only as words that we measure by the limits of our own ways of thinking. But in fact, this revelation is addressed to us by a man with a human face, a man whose humanity has been taken by the Eternal Son of the Father to be His own, so that He can dwell with us, redeem us, give us eternal life. His is a human face that looks upon us with love.

Risen from the dead, Jesus has begun the transfiguration of all that is truly human, and all of creation. He "ascends" and yet remains with us because He has won the victory in this world. The world "belongs" to Him. The Holy Spirit will vivify the concrete center from which His victory extends through human history, bringing His disciples together as the Church that will endure through all time with real links to His humanity in the events by which He saves us (the apostolic succession, the teaching, the sacraments, the witness of the saints).

He goes to the Father, the man Jesus who is the Father's Son and our brother! He sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts, so that we might recognize that He is still "with" us, loving us, drawing us to the glory that has already conquered the world; so that together in the Church we might see His face in every circumstance and every human reality, wherein He looks upon us with love and asks us (begs us) as He did Peter after the resurrection along the Sea of Galilee: "Do you love me?"

How humbling and strange is it that He still wants my love. He is always appealing to me; He who is the One I have betrayed so often, the One I ignore most of the time, the One I close my heart to as I seek my own will and shrink to the measure of my momentary urges, desires, fears, covetousness, anger: the One I even regard as my enemy and meet with violence. He looks upon me with love and still asks, "Do you love me?"

At this moment, I could just look exclusively at myself: all the stumbling, bumbling, pompousness, self-indulgence, self-inflated egocentrism, hypocrisy, flabby mediocrity, all the "running away when things get tough" - I know too that I don't have any power from my own self that can guarantee that I will ever be anything more than this mess, this human wreckage. 

Yet, Lord, whenever you ask me, "Do you love me?" the Holy Spirit comes, stirring the depths of my heart. I know what I want to say, what I was born to say: "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you!

Yes, Lord. I don't know where this journey is taking me and I am often afraid and feel totally incompetent, but I believe in your love for me, and that you are with me, and that you will give me the strength to endure whatever comes (and joy too, far richer than any temporary thrills that we all try to conjure up without you, that always leave us disappointed). Yes, Lord, I love you and I trust in you. If I run off again, deny you, and do something stupid, please come find me! But, even better, never let me be separated from you, and grant that I might always love you.

And so, in these days, we hear the words of Jesus once again as He speaks to us in the Gospel of John:
"Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy. 
"When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. 
"On that day you will not question me about anything. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

“I have told you this in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father. On that day you will ask in my name, and I do not tell you that I will ask the Father for you. For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have come to believe that I came from God. 

"I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father."

His disciples said, "Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech. Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God." Jesus answered them, “Do you believe now? Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone. But I am not alone, because the Father is with me. 

"I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world."

~John 16:20-33

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

"Christ is the life of my life..."

Some words from what we have been reading recently in the School of Community, from a 1997 retreat by the incomparable Msgr Luigi Giussani:

"Christ, this is the name that indicates and defines a reality I have encountered in my life…. It is possible to grow up knowing the word Christ well, but for many people He is not encountered, He is not really experienced as being present. In my case Christ bumped into my life, my life bumped into Christ, precisely so that I should learn to understand that He is the central point of everything, of the whole of my life. Christ is the life of my life: in Him is summed up all that I would desire, all that I look for, all that I sacrifice, all that develops in me out of love for the persons with whom He has put me….

"Christ, life of my life, certainty of a good destiny, and companionship in everyday life, a familiar companionship that transforms things into good. This is His efficacy in my life."

Monday, May 23, 2022

Mental Illness: A “Crown of Thorns”

I guess I should say something for “ Mental Health Awareness Month.”

I heard somewhere that it was Mother Teresa who said that Jesus entered into special solidarity with the mentally ill when the crown of thorns was driven into His head.

In any case, I have been consoled by this “connection” - it helps me to remember that Jesus is present, that He is with me, accompanying me in my episodes of Major Depression and OCD. Indeed, He understands all the twists and turns of my overcharged, brilliant, strange, creative, wildly dreaming, fantastically overanxious, relentlessly driven, exhausted brain.

Medication has helped me (while also, no doubt, taking its physical toll on me over the course of decades). After years of trying many things (and still in conjunction with some of them) I have found that long-term treatment with regular medications is something I still need. They have been crucial for an overall stability that enables me to care for my loved ones and use the parts of my brain that do work pretty well.

I thought May was also supposed to be “Lyme Disease Awareness Month” but I haven’t seen much about it this time around. I suppose we all have “epidemic fatigue” from all the COVID vigilance. The tensions of the past couple of years have certainly worn me down. Nevertheless I continue to maintain my uneasy “truce” with Lyme, provided I pace myself slowly and diffuse stress as much as possible.

But mental pain in particular is sometimes like puncture wounds in the head. This is an analogy, of course, but modes of perception undergo distortion and constrain our capacities to see things in perspective within ourselves. It’s still very hard to convince many people - who occasionally “feel down” but manage to “pull themselves out of it” by thinking positively or changing a few activities - that mental illness is not like what they experience. Mental illness involves relentless afflictions that tear down the foundational psychological and emotional resources that help normal people resolve basic problems. It sucks the person into a downward spiral from which he or she cannot rescue his or herself without the intervention and support of mental health care practitioners, as well as loved ones and friends (insofar as possible).

It’s good to “be aware” of mental health. Whether or not you suffer in this way yourself, many of the people around you are “Christ” struggling on their way of the Cross while enduring the special blinding, burning, shattering pains of the particular “Crown of Thorns” that is mental illness.

Please, do not mock them. Do not let them fall to the ground and be crushed. Be compassionate and help them carry their burdens. Life is hard for all of us, and yet we are called to live it together, to live with understanding and love toward one another, caring for one another, sharing one another’s burdens. In this we follow Jesus, who is present with us, who is close to us in all our pains and disabilities, who frees us from the self-absorption of our sins - frees us to love and to let ourselves be loved - and carries all our burdens and our very selves because He wants to be with us forever; He wants us to be His brothers and sisters: divinely transformed in the Holy Spirit and humanly whole and free, dwelling in the House of the Father, which is our true home.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Giving Thanks to You!

…in faith and hope and in the love that Your love for me, and for everyone, awakens in my own small heart; in the midst of many joys and some tribulations, clarities and obscurities, health and sickness, laughter and tears and cries for Your mercy on my every breath, I give thanks to You.


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Papa Looks Forward to Summer

Papa is looking forward to the upcoming Summer season. Are you ready, Maria?…😊 

Well, the weather is certainly getting nice.☀🌿

Monday, May 16, 2022

Lucia Graduates From University. Next Comes "The Wedding"


My daughter Lucia and her COVID-surviving Class of 2022 just had a wonderful, one-hundred-percent live graduation ceremony at Christendom College (i.e. "University," as I prefer to specify for my readers who are not from the U.S.A., and may be from places where "College" is a term used for what we call "High School").

My gosh! Can you believe it was two years ago that schools and universities were closed, and this class was desperately struggling to finish the bizarre Spring semester of 2020 online? We had no idea what the future held in store for us back in those strange days....

I don't mean to imply that we know what "the future" has in store for us in the days to come. But we are grateful that things worked out for these kids to return to campus and finish on time.

Christendom remains my "academic residence" (even though I am no longer able to teach in the classroom). I remain Associate Professor Emeritus, and - although I rarely visit the campus in person - I value my ongoing connection for many reasons, not the least of which is that I have access to many resources for my research, which is helpful for my monthly articles in Magnificat as well as my ongoing projects.

Lucia is now the third of our kids to graduate from Christendom, and we are very proud of her. (And Teresa just finished her freshman year.) We have gone out of our way to not put "pressure" on any of the kids to attend "the local college" (which has also been, in a way, the family business for three generations of Janaros, at least in terms of contributing to building it). Perhaps it has been just as well that the kids have been able to experience the place as their own turf, without the oversized ego of their father casting his idiosyncratic shadow around as a teacher. That might have been awkward for them. As it is, all I do is participate with cap and gown in their graduations. This time, rain moved in and we didn't even get a picture with Lucia after the ceremony.

In any case, they have all grown in their faith, gotten an exceptionally thorough undergraduate education, and have made great friends. In the case of John Paul and Lucia, they found something more than friends...πŸ˜‰ 

John Paul met, dated, and eventually married (in August 2020) his wonderful classmate Emily Farabaugh. They are an outstanding couple as well as now the dedicated parents of Maria Janaro (I think you know who she is😊). 

Lucia has been together with Mike Rego for several years, and we have come to know him well and have enjoyed visits from his parents as well. Mike is a great guy, and is planning to get a Masters degree in the Psychology field and become a certified Counselor. They got engaged during their semester in Rome, and the wedding is on July 9 - which is less than two months away!

I'm going to be "Father of the Bride"!😳 Help!

Really, I'm just immensely grateful. We do not know what the future holds in store for us, our family, our poor world... but in all things I pray that we might continue to trust in God who is our Father, who loves us, and to grow in recognition of the closeness of Jesus Christ to every aspect of our lives. We pray to be servants of His immense mercy and love for every human person, with particular solidarity and compassion for all those He entrusts to us.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Remembering May 13, ... 1981

May 13th commemorates the first appearance of the Virgin Mary to the three children of Fatima, Portugal in the year 1917. 

May 13th is also a day that commemorates another event, an event undoubtedly linked to that other afternoon in 1917, which could conceivably be remembered with its own “optional memorial” at some point in the future: the memorial of Saint John Paul II’s Confession of Faith. On this day, forty-one years ago, he shed his blood in Saint Peter’s Square.

I remember very well May 13, 1981.

I was an 18 year old boy, a few weeks from graduation from public high school, walking through the noisy hallway. It was around lunchtime in America. More than two thousand kids were in motion in the halls of that school. Not many of them were Catholic. I was going to my "home room" classroom. I can still see the door in my mind. I can see the hallway. I was almost ready to reach for the door. It’s something I had done hundreds of time; it was almost automatic....

A girl from class came up to me; she was also Catholic, a nice girl, though I didn’t know her very well... But I could see she was in shock. Here face was pale, so pale....

She said, "The Pope has been shot!" Forty-one years later, the astonishment of that moment hasn’t left me.

My memories of what happened the rest of the school day, however, are fragmented. Still, I have vivid images from that afternoon, and the time that followed. At some point, we were all in our various classrooms watching the news reports. The routine of the school day was utterly broken. The potheads and the jocks, the smart kids, the nerds, the heavy metal kids, the tough kids, girls and boys, all kinds of ethnic backgrounds, kids with all kinds of beliefs and ideologies and adolescent confusion, students and teachers too: we all watched the television and we were all united by the shock that had jolted our common humanity.

It was a moment when we realized that we were just people, just frail people holding onto our own lives by the thinnest of threads.

On television, the newscasters (themselves visibly disturbed) described with diagrams the surgery that was to take place. All over the world people prayed. I felt numb, with people I had known for the last four years without ever really knowing them, in a high school classroom watching the TV that was on in the room. Did I pray?

My Jewish friends wept and hugged me, as if the Pope were my own father (which, of course, he was - in a sense that I had scarcely begun to understand). Kids who called themselves atheists sat with their heads in their hands. It was like everyone's heart was trying to pray, somehow. Everyone was suffering.

It was like the whole human race was attacked on May 13, 1981. Somewhere in their depths, people knew it. They felt it.

History was riding a bullet fired at close range into a man's abdomen by a professional assassin who knew what he was doing, who never missed. And on that day, he didn't miss.

But “It was a mother's hand that guided the bullet's path,” the Pope said later.

Can you possibly imagine what the world would be like now if that bullet had not been “guided by a mother's hand” forty-one years ago, on this day? Many things would have been different, and - as awful and dangerous as many of the events are in today's news - I think life might have been much worse if John Paul II had died in 1981. In any case, there is much to be grateful for: the Pope’s survival, his sacrifice, and his courage and endurance for 24 more years, were tremendous graces for the Church and the world.

Our Lady of Fatima, thank you for saving the life of Saint John Paul II!