Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Summer 2019: Miraculous Marigolds

Miraculous Marigolds

Among my Christmas presents seven months ago was a small envelope from my brother and sister-in-law, Tony and Peggy.   They sent me and my siblings, too, each some seeds from a marigold plant that miraculously appeared in their 2018 summer yard.    I decided to get my hands dirty and here is a record of their gift....miraculous I would say.  Thousands of more seeds.

April 7

April 20

May 25

May 25

June 21

July 1

July 31


Summer 2019: the Butterfly Garden

Summer 2019: The Butterfly Garden

 I have let the summer go be without a single post.    Fortunately there were plenty of things for me to note personally.   But for this record just a few photos.   ( If I can find a paragraph or two of an interesting sermon I will post it!  ) 

Friends of the Spiritual Center who are naturalists with a keen interest in butterflies and their habitats have found our property to be an ideal site for a garden attractive and helpful to monarchs and other butterflies.  Since an early summer installation, the flowering plants in the garden, including milkweed have flourished.    And the butterflies were quick to find this stopping place.

These butterflies (called Red-Spotted Purples) were sunning themselves not in the garden but along a park walk not far away!

The more prolific flying creatures on the property are the spotted lantern flies.   Thousands of them appeared on a set of young maples.  Fortunately our pest control company dealt with them.   But the pests are keeping that company busy!

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Tom Prior receives Alumnus Award from Saint Joseph's Prep

  Tom Prior receives Prep alumnus award in May 2019 at the annual gathering of the Golden Agers, men graduated more than fifty years ago.  Tom is pictured here with Fr. John Swope, S.J., president, and Kevin Ryan, Director of Alumni

I had the privilege of celebrating the Mass before the Award Luncheon

Homily for "Golden Agers" at St. Joseph's Prep   MAY 31, 2019    VISITATION FEAST
Very often fiction and poetry writers have a particular image or event that they choose as the center of their story.    I recently read a novel in which the ending is very startling and upsetting.   It seems totally improbable sitting there by itself.   But it is at the end of the novel and the author, I believe, first of all imagined this startling event  before he knew anything about the characters and their stories.   So he wrote the story to prepare the reader to accept the senselessness of the startling act, all along hinting at what that act might be without giving the ending away.
I bring this up because on this feast day designated by the Church, the Feast of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, both of them pregnant, we experience the evangelist Luke doing something of the same thing.   Luke and the earliest Christian community already know the story of the lives of the two children who will be born to these women, John the Baptist and Jesus.    In particular the Spirit inspired the first Christian community to help it understand that Jesus is risen from the dead.   And the community experienced this conviction in the most Jewish of ways as an experience of Jesus returning to them in his risen body.   He encourages them with his greetings of peace and his commission to let the world know of God’s compassion and mercy.          
Luke’s gospel writing about Jesus’ life and the life of his cousin John records events looking back from the viewpoint of Jesus’ resurrection.     Thus Luke adds world-shattering language to the greetings and prayers that Jesus’ Mother Mary and cousin Elizabeth exchange when they meet each other to share their hopes for their children.    Mary is a young  Jewish girl without any special pedigree but she speaks the poetry of gratitude and excitement indicating even in the first months of pregnancy that she already recognizes the salvific nature of the life of her child.   Mary can only hint at what happens at the end of the Jesus’ life, the particulars still unknown to her.  But she has faith in the recognition of her blessedness.   She magnifies the Lord and her spirit leapt for joy.  She hints, too, at her child’s role in the fulfillment of God’s promises to the Jewish people: “He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy.”
You can see where we can go with this.   Here we are at an age when we are coming to the end of our lives.   We today have come together and remember with gratitude our experiences at St. Joseph’s Prep over fifty years ago.   Like Luke knows Jesus, we know about our lives and we can look back at our high school years from this vantage point today and put into our seventeen year old mouth some language related to the successes and failures, joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams in all our experiences up until today. These words will certainly have something to do with the characteristics that were taught to us, even imposed on us.                                                  
I look back now and I try to remember or paraphrase the words of my seventeen-year-old mouth or even rewrite them.   I don’t recall magnifying the Lord and leaping for joy the way Luke expresses Mary’s youthful excitement.    Well, we did celebrate when we beat Roman!    The football team paved the way for others since then.  And the Jesuits taught us to be confident that there are good choices ahead.   And they insisted that we develop the desire for the good.    
Like a good fiction writer now enjoying a return to a place of high school formation and now reflecting on all that has happened over fifty and more years, I encourage each of you to find that sentence or two that you might have voiced when seventeen that foreshadows the positive feelings of returning here this day.
I can hear some of our sentences.   “That son-of-a-gun is trying to teach me a lesson…well he can just go fly a kite--(my language is controlled here!).    Or, “I know I need to get up in front of everybody and give a speech but I think I am going to lose my breakfast.”    Or, “I’m working my butt off; what makes you think I can do better?”    Or “I’m tired of working on muscle memory; I just want to go out and play.”   We spoke such sentences.   And we can rewrite them now realizing that they penetrated our characters without breaking our spirits and we grew with them.
Those Jesuits.  They challenged us and opened new paths for us.    This was the work of God calling us to lives filled with love and the deeds of love.    And the best thing about today is not so much us but that this work of building character continues right here day-in and day-out.   And over the last 50 years some 10,000 men have been added to our number.  “Loving, religious, intellectually competent, open to growth and committed to doing justice.”

Monday, May 27, 2019

Prayer for Courage

And allowing others to do the same!

Prayer for Courage  May 2, 2019 

Good God, your creation speaks to us directly about your own courage.   You, while knowing the risks, created us human beings in freedom.   We humans so often are not like loving children who make their parents proud.    And yet your courage in creating us as free persons allows the very possibility of heroic courage among us. 

We learn about courage from your son Jesus Christ and from your prophetic men and women down to our own day.    Their courage is like your courage.   They assert what is right and just.   They are not impulsive but carefully discern what must be done.   They will not let the possibilities of failure stand in the way of difficult missions.   

Your life, good God, is also humble in that you offer even to us all that is good in order to raise us up to you who are not only exalted but one who shares your strength with us.   Help us be like you, God, who is courageous enough to give yourself away to us so that we might share in your life.

So, God, we pray for the ability to act with your practical courage.   Protect us from the dangers of pride.  Help us read the signs of the times and discern with others what is your good.   Help us on our journey of life to be like you and take the risk of giving away our own strengths and opportunities in order to build up others and give them a greater share in the good you have shared with us

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Gesu School Philadelphia 25 Years

GESU SCHOOL  1993-2018

On May 9, 2019 500 people gathered at a reception and dinner to give thanks for the mission of Gesu School's first 25 years.  It was reborn in 1993 when its supporting congregation closed its doors.    It had been a parish school since about 1875.    We took the occasion to give a much-deserved honor to Win Churchill who chaired the first independent board and rallied the help of scores of benefactors, thus enabling the school not only to survive but also to flourish.

Prayer of Thanks for Twenty-Five Years

“Blessed are you, Lord Our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who has granted a mission to Gesu School, sustained it’s staff and faculty, its children and their families, and invited us here to celebrate this occasion, Gesu School now 25 Years as a school reborn after its supporting congregation closed its doors in 1993.

How can we thank you for every day of these 25 years?!!   Every day people like Immaculate Heart Sister Ellen and Jesuit Father Neil bring to Gesu’s children and their families their love and skillful experience.   But these years started in uncertainty.   A school would have died without the neighborhood grandparents and parents who encouraged us to trust in the Spirit.  It would have died  without the love, the hope and the energy of our honoree this evening, Win Churchill.  Blessed are we to know him and blessed are we to experience his personal encouragement, his creative energy and his support down to this day.   Blessed are all those persons, many with us tonight, from both Christian and Jewish faith traditions who joined with Win to sustain the life of Gesu School.

Whenever we at Gesu thank Your Spirit, O God, we praise you for revealing to us the sacredness of Gesu’s children. While we take pride in offering a comprehensive, innovative education, the children inspire us in their joyful desire to transcend every form of poverty.   We learn from them as they respond to ignorance and prejudice with child-like wisdom and welcoming.   We learn from them as they share with one another and with us a legacy primarily of their African-American spiritual and personal resources.

Now on this occasion, O God, bless our companionship and our breaking of bread together as one community.   Finally, we ask you, Lord, to bless us and teach us as we serve all those in need.  May God’s Spirit continue to lead us to mend our broken world.   I ask us all now to repeat after me these two words.  Alleluia, Amen



Fr. Neil Ver'Schneider with some of Gesu's students.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Riot of the Shrinking Violets

The Riot of the Shrinking Violets

Surely we never planted a single violet anywhere on our extensive lawns here at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville.  But this season they are everywhere popping up amid the grasses and sometimes in riotous clusters.   There are surely more than a million of them and they all bloom at once.    It happened during this last week.   No shrinking violets around this spring season!  They celebrate the abundant gifts of Easter.

THE PHRASE FINDER offers this as the origin of "shrinking violet."

"In a poetry magazine called The Indicator, the poet and essayist Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) drew attention to the modest wood violet:

'There was the buttercup, struggling from a white to a dirty yellow; and a faint-coloured poppy; and here and there by the thorny underwood a shrinking violet.'"

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Notre Dame Paris

Notre Dame, Paris

Reading about the catastrophic fire at Notre Dame and seeing the heart-rending photos of the place in flame, I recall the blessing I had on June 27, 2011.   I entered the Cathedral and immediately heard choral strains.  Even an American melody: "My Lord, What a Morning."!   A choir of college-age Californians were practicing in the rear of the Cathedral preparing for their concert that evening.

What a wonderful place to perform.   Of course I took just a few photos to seal my memory:

Early reports indicate that these windows are intact.  Praise God!