Friday, September 22, 2017

24th Friday in Ordinary Time

1 Tim 6:2c-12
Ps 49

One hears the most well-known verse from the first reading misquoted most of the time.  Contrary to popular belief, money is not the root of all evil. The letter to Timothy reads:  "For the love of money is the root of all evils."  The distinction is crucial.

At worst, money as money, money as currency, is neutral.  Human attachment to it and the desire for more and more of it, however, is not neutral.  It can be abnormal to the point of pathology.  The love of money is the root of all the evils that one can name and a few evils that have yet to be discovered.  The reading notes: "those who want to be rich" fall into temptation, they give in to many foolish and harmful desires that lead to ruin, destruction and loss of faith. Many lotto winners have learned this through very painful experience.

Money is not intrinsically evil.  But, when love of money, when an insane desire for more and more of it, when obsession with amassing more than anyone else, becomes life's goal, one is lost.  One is lost to God.  One is lost to family and friends.  One is lost to oneself.  Consider the headlines from past years and local stories that never quite made the headlines, though they might have had a quick mention in the Metro section. 

The nationally sensational stories and the stories of merely local interest, share the same common denominator, they share the same dynamicof love of money as the driving force behind sin. 

Bernie Madoff. No need to elaborate on the evil the man perpetrated as the result of greed. Sixty-four billion dollars scammed.  The lives of many changed and ruined.

The woman who steals from the volunteer fire company.  No need to elaborate.  Same greed and desire for money.  A few thousand dollars stolen.  A lesser number of lives changed and ruined, but lives changed and ruined nonetheless.

The sins differ only in the amount of money taken and the degree of news coverage.  The sinful desires, the obsession, and the selfish disregard for others are identical.  It is merely a matter of scale and amount.  Mr. Madoff is in prison on a 150-year sentence.  Both sons are dead, one from cancer and the other from suicide.  His wife is a pariah.  The woman in prison for embezzlement is separated from her children for a few years.  The kids must live with the stigma of mother who is a felon.   And she too will be a pariah when released.

I would make a small edit to the Letter to Timothy involving just three letters and swapping prepositions. Instead of " . . . the love of money is the root of all evils" substitute " . . . the lust for money is the root of all evils." It is a more accurate description of the blind drive to sin.

Heed the psalmist's warning,
"For when he dies, he shall take none of it;
his wealth shall not follow him down. . .
He shall join the circle of his forebears
who shall never more see light."

No weekend Mass scheduled, a distinct rarity.  Much to be done and I am grateful for the free time.  I will probably celebrate a private Mass and then attack the list of things to do, a list that includes watching Penn State-Iowa tomorrow night.  

The reading from 1 Timothy has fascinated me for a long time.  It is a good illustration how a misquote as explained in the homily, can change meaning and allow one to use the misquoted line as a club with which to beat others into submission to one's agenda.  

The photos are from September 2013 and taken in a eight-day span that ended on 29 September.  I was on my final vow retreat.  It was a spectacular time to be doing it as the leaves were changing on a day-by-day basis.  

The monastic cemetery is just outside the cloister walk.  

The road extends for close to a mile.  There is another of about the same length extending in the other direction.  One is the north road and the other the south.  Given my extreme directional impairment I have no idea which is which.

A detail of the glass in a library door.

Sometimes the play of light on the most mundane of things, in this case a storage area in a small hall can result in a lovely image.   Rule of photography:  pay attention to small details that would otherwise be missed.

Busy as a bee.  

This combination of shape, color, and texture fits with my definition of autumn. 

Sunrise looking toward the general direction of the town of Spencer.  I left for Weston a few hours later on 29 September.  Pronounced final vows on 1 October.  

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Memorial of Sts. Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang, and Companions

Andrew Kim Taegon (1821-1846) and Paul Chong Hasang (1795-1839) probably never met.   But they, along with 92 other Korean martyrs and a handful of foreign missionaries, became “Canonization Classmates”  when they were canonized by John Paul II during a visit to Korea 1984. Their stories merit contemplation.

Andrew was the son of Blessed Ignatius Kim a convert who was martyred when Andrew was 18.  Baptized at the age of 15  Andrew traveled 6000 miles to Macao where he entered the seminary.  Following ordination six years later he returned to Korea.  Part of his mission was to help other missionaries enter Korea via the water-route and thus avoid border guards.  He was tortured and then beheaded at the age of 25, two years after ordination. 

Paul was a married lay-missioner.  He traveled to China often as a servant in the Korean diplomatic corps.  He contacted bishops in China to plead for more priests.  He went so far as to contact Pope Gregory X with the result that the Korean diocese was declared valid.  His brief biography notes that he reunited scattered Christians following persecutions and encouraged them to keep and live their faith.  One of the great founders of the Korean Church, he died during a persecution in 1839.

Those named as companions were tortured and killed during various persecutions in the 19th century. The details of the tortures are nauseating to read about, even for a physician. 

Because he was a priest,  Andrew Kim was an anomaly in the Korean Church. Because he was a layman, Paul Chong was the norm.  As John Paul II put it in his canonization homily: “The Korean Church is unique because it was founded entirely by laypeople. This fledgling church, so young and yet so strong in faith, withstood wave after wave of fierce persecution. Thus, in less than a century, it could boast of 10,000 martyrs. The death of these many martyrs became the leaven of the Church and led to today’s splendid flowering of the Church in Korea.

Today their undying spirit sustains the Christians of the Church of Silence in the north of this tragically divided land.”  Despite inhumane persecution the lamp of the early Korean Church burned brightly on its lampstand.  The Korean martyrs, almost all of them laymen and women, never hid the gospel under a bushel basket.  They took up the cross and followed.  The result is a vibrant Church, bursting at the seams with vocations to the religious life and priesthood.

Today we pray for the Church in Korea.  And we pray that in time, the people of the North will be freed from the shackles of cruel dictatorship.

I haven't left the country, a serious temptation, but have been on the road a lot.  Upon returning from LJ I was given permission to purchase a new camera.  First non-used one I've gotten.  It took some time to get used to and learn.  More of a challenge was learning to use the new photo processing software needed to download the photos.  The old software, Aperture 3, does not recognize the RAW photos from the new camera.  And, as Apple has stopped updating Aperture, it won't recognize them.  After trying out multiple programs on free trials I settle on a fairly complex one.  The photo work is intuitive the storage process is not.  Way too much time yesterday working on learning it but it is coming.  By the end of the day I'd stopped swearing.  A good sign.  

One more road trip in the offing and then it is time to move to Boston College, about eight miles down Rt. 30 from here.  Perhaps not even that far.  Nonetheless, it will be a different milieu.  

One of the events here at Campion was remodeling and rededicating the daily Mass chapel.  The old chapel was not exactly ugly but it certainly wasn't pretty.  Everything was beige and light wood, the tabernacle was very poorly placed, and, well, I could go on at length.  The work was done in house.  It was also done beautifully.  

Our Lady of Montserrat to whom the chapel is dedicated.  

A straight ahead shot taken after dark.

Two angled views using wide-angle.  The lighting is much improved.  Floors were refinished and no longer squeak.   The tabernacle was moved from a corner to a place of greater prominence, as it should be. 

The empty tabernacle prior to blessing the chapel. 

I never noticed this Jesuit seal before despite it having been on the old tabernacle.  Everything in the chapel was beige or neutral wood.  The seal disappeared into it.  

The water in the pitchers was poured into the holy water font.  Every wall was sprinkled with water as part of the dedication.

Father Superior Walter Smith, SJ proceeding around the chapel while sprinkling the walls. 

The chrism used to anoint the altar. 

The back of the chapel.  This too was made much more attractive. 

Reception in the rotunda. 

Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A 20th Anniversary

August 23, 1997 was a Saturday.  I slept reasonably well.  Sunday August 24 dawned sunny but windy.  Very windy.   Finished packing the last few things, went to Mass, said a few goodbyes, and had a quick lunch.   Then it was off to the Avoca Airport for the flight to Boston.  That was where the wind was significant. 

Twenty years ago there was direct flight service between Avoca and Boston on small prop planes with one seat on either side of the aisle.  We took off on time for what was a white-knuckler all the way to Boston.  The turbulence was among the worst I've ever experienced in the air--before or since.   As we took off, bouncing, tilting, shaking and everything else, the thought went through my mind, "I'm gonna' die over Dupont and won't even make it on the front page of the Voice."  I think the pilot was also white knuckling.  The passengers applauded when we touched down in Boston.

My bags were the first ones on the belt.  Looking to the right there he was descending the escalator:  George B. Murray, SJ, MD.  My mouth went into velcro mode with the tongue firmly adherent to the roof.   "OK, it's real."  Thirty minutes later George and I pulled up at the repurposed convent on Creighton Street in Jamaica Plain whereupon I walked through the door of the  Jesuit novitiate. 

Twenty years.  Impossible to summarize in fewer than 400 pages.  Perhaps most relevant, and something it took years to truly appreciate, is the comment a Jesuit friend made as I was applying to enter.   "If you are accepted, enter, and stay your reasons for staying will be different from your reasons for entering."  The only way I can remember my reasons for entering is to reread the application.  My reasons for staying?  See the 400 page manuscript when it is published. 

I am grateful to family and friends who were supportive of my decision to heed the vocation the Society.  I am also grateful to the many Jesuits who guided me, listened when I was struggling, and have helped me move in directions I never expected, directions that always had only one purpose:  Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam, To the Greater Glory of God. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Saturday, August 12, 2017

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a
Ps 85
Rom 9:1-5
Mt 14:22-33

"Lord let us see your kindness
and grant us your salvation."

Psalm 85 brings the two readings and the Gospel together.  Each is a reading about faith fraying along the edges or faith that seemed to be lost.  Each of the speakers:  Elijah, Paul, and Peter could have easily uttered the psalm response from his position of desperation, discouragement, or fear.  We can identify with those feelings and add a few of our own. 

Things can't get worse for Elijah.  He is hiding in a cave to escape the wrath of the evil Jezebel who wanted him dead.  While in hiding an angel instructed him to eat and prepare for a journey.  All Elijah wanted was to die.  He had given up hope.  His faith was shaky.  He was despondent.  He ate only after the angel demanded that he do so.  Then, he began a journey of forty days. 

The Jewish Study Bible notes that a man could walk between 15 and 25 miles per day.  Multiplied by 40 days, Elijah walked from 600 and 1000 miles.  To put the distances into perspective, it is about 500 miles south from Boston to Washington, DC and 1000 miles west to Chicago.  What went through his mind during that arduous trek? What goes through our minds during the 40-day journeys we are forced to take during life, the journeys of chemotherapy, chronic pain, or the seemingly endless journey of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's?

Elijah's encounter with God in a whisper rather than an earth-shaking event is one of the remarkable images in the Old Testament.  Elijah had to be open and willing to hearing that whisper.  He had to be attuned to and ready for it.  Similarly, we have to be prepared and willing to hear the voice of God in a whisper, in the brief moment of quiet that interrupts the background noise that complicates our lives.  We can only say: 

"Lord let me see your kindness
and grant me your salvation."

One can feel Paul’s discouragement that his people rejected Jesus.  His distress was such that he would have been willing to have himself cut off from Christ if they would accept the great gift of salvation. We all know Paul’s frustration.  We know the pain when no one will listen to us.  We know the frustration of being met with opposition by everyone in our lives: family, friends, co-workers and so on.  We know that feeling of radical loneliness.  And thus can only say, or perhaps scream . . . .

"Lord let me see you kindness
and grant me your salvation." 

Today’s Gospel take place immediately after Jesus had fed the multitude with a few loaves and fishes.  The crowd had dispersed.  He dismissed his disciples and went up the mountain alone to pray.  While Jesus was praying the apostles were in a boat crossing the 4 1/2 mile wide Sea of Galilee.  They were a few miles off-shore and not in a position to swim if the boat capsized.  The fourth watch of the night was between 3:00 and 6:00 AM.  Thus they had been struggling to cross--and Jesus had been praying-- for a long time.  We can identify with their terror when they saw Jesus coming toward them on the water.  And then  Peter acted. “(he) got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.  But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened.”  For Peter, as for many of us, fear results in loss of faith.  We must thus ask, what is faith? 

Australian Trappist Fr. Michael Casey makes an important point:  “Faith has to grapple constantly with the doubts we may experience when we hear the words of the poet Robert Browning  ‘God is in his heaven—all’s right with the world.'  So often it doesn’t seem that way.”  Many times in our lives it doesn’t seem that God is in his heaven or that anything is right with the world.  Casey goes on to give a good definition of faith:  “Faith means letting go of our ambition to control, understand, or even cope with what happens. Faith means releasing our anxieties into God’s hands and seeing all that happens as coming from the hand of God. The fact that I cannot comprehend the logic of events means simply that my intellect is limited.  Our relationship with God is often undermined by fears about impending disaster” It is terrifying to be wheeled into an operating room.  It is panic-inducing to hear an unfavorable diagnosis after surgery. The emotions upon realizing our child will die cannot be described.  Our faith wavers and, like Peter, we begin to sink.  Our faith may waver when we realize the seriousness of our situation.  We may suddenly doubt as the river rises above flood stage in our lives. 

Faith does not mean that life will go smoothly.  Faith is not a shield against trauma or protection from pain. Faith is not a Berlin wall against the anguish of grieving the death of a spouse, a parent, or a child. Faith does not prevent illness and death.  Faith is an umbrella over us during these crises.  Peter’s faith was strong when he jumped out of the boat because he wasn't thinking about it too much.  When he began to intellectualize and pay attention to the storm he tried to take control.  For the moment his faith vanished.  And then he prayed; “Lord.  Save me!” 

We also try walk on the waters of a stormy lake at night. In those moments we can only plead with the psalmist:

"Lord let us see you kindness

and grant us your salvation."


After talking it over with the provincial and superior it was apparent that I had to purchase a new camera body.  Unlike the old days of single-lens reflex cameras (SLRs) that lasted forever unless dropped into water etc. digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras do not have that kind of life expectancy nor do they have interchangeable technology.  I've used Olympus for the past ten years.  Unfortunately Olympus abandoned the DSLR market completely, camera bodies and lenses,  a few years ago.  They have become one of the premier makers of mirrorless cameras that are lighter and smaller than the clunky and heavy DSLRs.  While I like the DSLR I had no option.  To switch to Canon, Nikon, or Sony and acquire the same quality lenses as the Olympus ones, would cost about 10 grand.  Purchasing a new Olympus mirrorless (aka m4/3) body was very much less.  With the addition of an inexpensive adapter I can use the same terrific lenses as I used on the DSLR.  The camera body itself only does so much.  The quality of the lenses or "glass" as hip photographers refer to them, make much more of a difference.  It is better to have great lenses on an OK camera than poor lenses on a top-of-the-line body.  I will keep the E-5 as backup and for those situations, particularly action shots, that mirrorless is less effective at shooting.  Am still getting used to what the camera does and how to do it.  So far I've learned to ignore the electronic viewfinder (much prefer the old fashioned optical) when shooting.  As long as it is framed properly I'm content.  Results of some shots taken here at Campion are below.  Given a few weeks I will probably come to love the camera.  

Entrance to the Campion infirmary.   It is obvious that the building was constructed almost 100 years ago.

Two different views of the chapel.  The first from the second floor balcony.  There is a third floor balcony as well.  The second on the ground.  The light over the altar makes from complicated shooting

Two different approaches to the chandeliers.  I like these.  They are of a simple design.  Each set can be controlled individually.  

The small chapel on the third floor.  Besides the Chapel of the Holy Spirit there is a daily Mass chapel that has easier wheelchair accessibility, small chapels on the third and fourth floors of assisted living, a few "pocket" chapels that come off some stair landings and one or two in the retreat house.  The daily Mass chapel is currently undergoing badly needed renovation (it was truly ugly) while we use a temporary chapel on the second floor.  The temporary chapel is an improvement over the daily one as it was.

Some flowers to end.   Am much more content with the rendition of reds with this camera.  It was difficult to get things the way they looked with the E-5 without a lot of post-processing.  

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Homily on the Memorial of St. Edith Stein (Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, OCD)

The train pulled into the station on August 6, 1942.  Among the thousand or so passengers who disembarked after a long uncomfortable trip from Holland was a woman clad in the habit of a Discalced Carmelite nun. 

The station was Auschwitz. 

The Carmelite’s name was Sr. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, born Edith Stein on Oct 12, 1891 in Breslau, Poland.  She was the youngest of 11 children welcomed into a devoutly observant Jewish household.  Her academic brilliance was obvious at an early age.  She wrote that at 14 she,  “consciously and deliberately stopped praying” so as to rely exclusively on herself and to make all decisions about her life in freedom.   She received a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Freiborg summa cum laude.  Her dissertation was titled, “On the Problem of Empathy.”  She later worked with her mentor Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology.  She embraced Catholicism during her studies.

Two episodes stand out in her move from the perceived freedom of atheistic self-dependence to the radical freedom of those who live under the cross of Christ.  The first was when she visited with the young widow of a colleague and friend killed in World War I.  Though bereaved the widow’s faith was such that she consoled those who came to console her.  Recalling the incident later, Stein wrote, “It was my first encounter with the cross and the divine power that it bestows on those who carry it.  For the first time I was seeing with my own eyes the Church born from its redeemer’s sufferings triumphant over the sting of death.  That was the moment my unbelief collapsed and Christ shone forth—in the mystery of his cross.”  The second episode was her encounter with the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila.  Upon closing the book, which she read in one sitting she said, “This is the truth.” 

Her remaining years were marked by carrying and living under the shadow of the cross.  She had difficulty gaining admission to Carmel but was finally able to enter in Cologne in 1933.  The pain she caused her family by her conversion and entry into religious life is indescribable. 

Because of the increasing persecution of Jews in Germany she was secretly sent to the Carmel in Echt, Holland in 1938.  At Echt she wrote her last work, fittingly titled, The Science of the Cross.   She was taken from the Carmel on 2 August 1942 along with her sister Rosa who had become a Catholic though not a nun.  A few days earlier, when questions about possible rescue were raised Stein dismissed them. “Do not do it.  Why should I be spared?  Is it not right that I should gain no advantage from my Baptism?  If I cannot share the lot of my brothers and sisters; my life, in a certain sense, is destroyed.” 

Stein carried her cross to Calvary 75 years ago today.  She left behind 17 volumes of writings including difficult philosophical works, papers on educational theory, and a huge trove of letters to a diverse group of correspondents.  The letters are her most accessible writing. 

Released from the shackles of the illusory atheistic freedom she found radical freedom in the science and shadow of the cross. In the homily at her canonization Mass, St. Pope John Paul quoted Stein:

"Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love.
And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth!"
One without the other becomes a destructive lie.

Sometimes one stands in front of a history such as this and realizes that there is nothing more to say. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD