Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Mars and the Moon over Jesuit Center June 15, 9:20 PM

My camera identifies the moon as nearly full.   Not quite the truth! But Mars will look as bright to us as it does here at the time of the full moon in a few days.

Sunday, June 12, 2016


The gospel reading today is a dinner table story.    Such stories resonate with us because of our familiarity with such settings.  For families the dinner table is at least a semi-formal place where certain kinds of behavior are expected.   My brother who was raising three sons set some minimum standards.    Forbidden at the table were motor noises; forbidden were sweeping gestures delivering food to the mouth like airplanes.   At least there was a minimum of formality. 

(After Mass today in a nearby parish the three brothers who served Mass told me that they were not allowed to express their impatience at table if the food was not there when they arrived.   Forbidden were chants such as “We want food, we want food.”)

In today’s reading Jesus takes his place among other guests invited to the dinner table of a Pharisee named Simon.  ….. Simon knows that Jesus is no ordinary traveling rabbi.  Simon has heard stories of his healing miracles and stories of crowds gathering around him to listen to his preaching.  Simon will be paying attention to what Jesus has to say.   It is likely that there would be conversation about religion and scripture...   

(Once as a guest myself, a Jesuit priest at an unfamiliar table, I was teased with the story about the three things that God does not know: how many rosaries the Dominicans have said; how many orders of Franciscans there are and thirdly what the Jesuits are thinking.   I did not feel as free to speak my mind knowing that my host might think that God had not helped me form my opinion.)

……A woman who has heard Jesus preach about God’s love is 
inspired to approach him and enters the dining room. She has guts and she quickly places herself at his feet.  He looks back at her and allows her to wash and anoint his feet.    The conversation stops; Simon, the host, and the other guests are embarrassed that Jesus lets this woman touch his feet, in fact bathe them with her tears and anoint them.  Simon knows she is a sinner and Jesus knows this, too, whether through some special insight or because he has seen her before.

 Jesus uses the incident to talk about how the woman has been forgiven.  Jesus apparently already has told her about God’s mercy and God’s love for her.  Yes, her sins are many but she has found forgiveness and the sign of her love for God is expressed by her tears and her anointing of Jesus’ feet.   Jesus implies that this woman known as a sinner, now loves God more than others like Simon who is known as a righteous person.  “So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love.  But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

Dinner is over.  Everyone has gone home and prepares for a night’s rest:   for his part Simon is puzzled about Jesus who on his own claims to have a mission from God to forgive sins.   For her part the sinful woman rejoices that God loves her and forgives her and Jesus, as he does each evening, gives thanks to his Father: this evening for the good food and conversation, for the washing and anointing of his feet but most of all for the mission given him by his Father to show the sinful woman and us as well how much we are loved and freed from our sins.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Corpus Christi at Chartres

Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres

The north transept rose window in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres
This is my photo of June 26, 2011.   The weather was perfect.
(the north transept runs to the left in the picture)
The feast of Corpus Christi holds some memories for me: it was on this feast in 1972 that I was the principal celebrant and preached at my first Mass.   On another memorable feast of Corpus Christi I found myself at the Sunday morning Mass in the Cathedral of Our Lady in Chartres, one of the great Gothic cathedrals in France.   Chartres has been a sacred religious site for millennia, a place where a pre-Christian people prayed for a healthy harvest and for safe childbirth.  Now the huge Cathedral of Our Lady dominates the town,  a structure of beauty commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ in the flesh through the body of the Virgin Mother Mary.   The Mass was just starting when I entered the nave of priceless stained glass, of soaring stone and organ music.  It overwhelmed me.
Of course, the Body of Christ at Mass might find a home in places of natural beauty, too; there are natural spaces in so many locales in which one feels close to God. I am sure that people have celebrated Mass, for example, overlooking the Grand Canyon to great consolation.    Jesus could well enjoy the beauties of God’s creative powers.  
But I suspect that Jesus welcomes more the celebration of Mass in churches fashioned by the creative hands of the human spirit.   In the Cathedral at Chartres, for example, artists refined the natural beauty of stone and glass to make a palatial home for Mary and her Child.  
Jesus finds himself welcome there because the builders created not simply a memorial to their God-given skills, skills like those developed by Jesus in his own life.    But more to the point, the builders created a fitting place for Mary and Jesus to be present to the faithful, a place, too, in which we can be at home with them.   Such are the medieval Cathedrals, refuges from war and plague, from hunger and illness.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


Andrei Rublev' s  "Icon of the Holy Trinity:  (1425)


When considering the Trinity, Saint Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises instructs us to view the triune God on the throne of Heaven.  See the Divine Persons looking at us human beings and at all of the sin and sadness that overwhelm us, hearing how we speak ugly words to one another and so on.   And likewise hear what the Divine Persons are saying, “Let us work the redemption of the human race.”    And see what the Divine Persons are doing, that is, working out the Most Holy Incarnation. 

Ignatius is clear in the Exercises that we should place ourselves in scenes like this not simply as journalists looking for a story. Rather here in this meditation each person should imagine that the scene of the Divine Persons takes place simply for him or her even if he or she were absolutely alone on this difficult earth.   I imagine that there are human beings of over-sized egos who wish to be first and consider themselves worthy of God’s undivided attention.  But even for the shy person such attention becomes welcome when understood as available to anyone in search of meaning.

An analogy:  If I thought, for example, that Google’s investment in talented personnel and billion-dollar infrastructure was made simply for the unlimited use of my own gmail account, I might be a little embarrassed and say something like “You really shouldn’t have gone to all this trouble.”  But there are 900 million of us with the same unlimited access to this investment.  You go, Google!

OK, God.  Look me over, save me, give me unlimited access.   I readily join with the love that you share with everyone in the human race.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Mars at Wernersville, 5/19 and 5/31 (update)



This photo taken on May 31 at about 9 PM.   No other planets or stars greeted the naked eye in this view over the east cloister.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Saint Joseph's University Graduation 2016

Saint Joseph's University Graduation 2016

Front:  Paul & Margaret Hondros, President Mark Reed, Jane Golden, Rev. Tmothy R. Lannon, S.J., Daniel J. Hilferty, III

President Reed and the Board of Trustees presented honorary degrees to the five people in this front row.

Paul and Margaret Hondros, founders of the SJU Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support.
Jane Golden, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program
Rev. Timothy R. Lannon, S.J., University President, 2003-2011
Daniel J. Hilferty, III, (SJU, 1978), President and Chief Executive Officer, Independence Blue Cross

Mr. Hilferty presented remarks to the students.   They included a reference to Pope Francis's question directed to all interested in his visit to Philadelphia, a visit that Hilferty helped arrange:

"What about you?  What are you going to do?"

Pope Francis was quoting an earlier Pope who addressed these questions personally to Katherine Drexel, the future saint,  encouraging her to give her life to the service of education of under-served Negroes and Native Americans.

Hilferty also encouraged us to "tear down walls", to "shatter glass ceilings" and to "reach across ideologies."  His were powerful remarks filled with references to his own Jesuit formation.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Gesu Gala 2016 honorees: Fr. Thorne and Peter Gould

President Bryan Carter, Robin Potter, Peter Gould, Fr. Stephen Thorne and Principal Sr. Ellen Convey

Father Thorne addresses the Gala about his work with the eighth grade boys of Gesu School.  His theme is always: "walk with the understanding that you have some place important to go."

The annual Gesu Gala on May 5 was a stunning success.   Peter Gould (joined by his wife Robin Potter) and Father Stephen Thorne received  Gesu Spirit medals.   Both gave wonderful, thankful presentations.   Father Thorne showed us the love that he brings each week to a class with the eighth grade boys.   Peter talked about the value of scholarships for young people in need.  He talked of his own mother whose desire for a college education was made possible by someone who was a stranger to her.