Friday, November 17, 2017

Morning Star Nov 17, 2017

I was ten or fifteen minutes late to get a good picture of Venus in the morning sky.  But there she is midsky.    And I don't know what happened to Jupiter which is also rising just about twenty minutes later.   But the glow may wash out its presence.

Monday, October 30, 2017



Our saints of the day, Simon and Jude, barely make the list of those invited to be among the twelve apostles.  They are at the bottom of the list but for the last named, Judas Iscariot.   The list is in rank order.   The first of the names is Peter, the first Pope.  The last of the names is Judas Iscariot, the betrayer.   And about Simon and Jude there is hardly any other sure historic testimony.

Jesus, himself is basically a public nobody, just like Simon and Jude.  His name does not make it on any contemporary lists of great worldly leaders.  A few historical records compiled by historians of the Roman Empire mention him.   But such records focus on the tensions in the empire created by the presence of Christians.

In time the Father of Jesus and the Spirit of Jesus overcome such historical obscurity.  The Spirit inspires the testimonies of Scripture and the Church’s evangelical energy proclaims the place of the Risen Jesus in salvation.   Within that inspiration these bench players, Simon and Jude, too, by their identity within the twelve gain an honored place in the Church.

So the Church first acknowledged the sainthood of the likes of Peter because of his sure missionary journey and martyrdom.  The Church, then, though absent any sure historic record, praises Simon and Jude as saints, too, with missionary journeys and martyrdom.   These last two shall take part with the first sainted apostle, Peter. 
Jesuits like me take some solace from the recognition of these obscure men.   I made no missionary journeys, there is little likelihood of my martyrdom or official sainthood and yet, even those of us listed near last get a share in the glory of the first.   I experienced something like this when Francis became Pope.  Something new in history, a Pope who taught in a Jesuit high school just like I did!  

Let all of us bench players be so consoled.   By our baptism our names are written in the book of the sisters and brothers of Jesus.   We share in the great deeds of Jesus and the saints.  

Monday, October 16, 2017


There is always something to see on a walk around the property here.    Today this.   Should our soldiers try to mask their presence with such camouflage, they might find themselves targets as did this creature in the camera's eye.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Our Lady of the Rosary October 7



Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.  This feast dates from the 16th Century.   The Church encouraged the prayer of the rosary to petition Our Lady’s assistance at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, a naval battle between the Ottoman Empire and a league of Christian states in Europe.   After the European victory the Church in thanksgiving declared October 7 as the date for her feast.
I take out my rosary beads from time to time but often instead of the Hail Mary I count out the beads repeating antiphons that are among my favorites: thanks to God, invocations to the Spirit and the like.  I had occasion to visit an elderly woman some years ago and she discussed the prayer of the Rosary.  I told her that I sometimes finger through the beads with prayers different from the Hail Mary.   And she said to me, “The Blessed Mother isn’t going to like that.”    This made me smile and maybe brought a smile to Mary’s face, too.  (This story appears elsewhere on these pages.)
In the rosary, during our decades of Hail Marys we are encouraged to remember the mysteries of Christ’s life, the sorrows of Our Lady, and the gifts of the risen Christ.   In recent years the Luminous Mysteries were added to the traditional list.
I build on this tradition by remembering the mysteries of the mothers and other women in my life who have died and are now joined with Our Lady.  For me, then, the five decades become a decade for my mother, two decades, one for each of my grandmothers, a decade for my godmother and a decade for my sister.
I set aside in this way the traditional mysteries of the rosary, but since I stick to the Hail Mary, my friend will not find it necessary to suggest that I am neglecting the Blessed Mother.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Solar Eclipse, Aug 21, 2017

The Image of the Eclipsed Sun Projected by a pinhole!    
Chalfont, Pennsylvania, August 21, 2017   2:44 PM

Below: Appreciation of the event presented on Public Radio by Jesuit Brother and Scientist, Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J.   He calls this phenomenon a "lovely trick of the Universe."

If you ask Guy Consolmagno, science and religion are two things that go together quite nicely. Brother Guy, as he’s known, is a Jesuit brother from Ohio. He’s also the director of the Vatican Observatory based in Rome.
How does something like this solar eclipse highlight for you the glory of God’s creation?
First of all, anyone can see it. You don’t have to have a PhD. You don’t have to have NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. And the fact is that a total solar eclipse is so surprising and so beautiful.
But, built into all of that, is also the science. We can predict this sort of thing. And during this eclipse, we can see a whole realm of solar activity in the corona that normally is blocked out, because the sun blinds us to it. Then there’s the fact that you can use this eclipses to test the theory of general relativity. So, it’s got everything! It’s got excitement, deep science, wonderful history, and anyone can enjoy it.
But how does a total solar eclipse fit into your theology?
Well, you have to be very careful. You cannot use scientific works to say, “ [...] and therefore, there is God.” God doesn’t come at the end of your science. God doesn’t come at the other end of the telescope. But if you already believe, if you’ve already accepted the reality of this universe and the fact that it can’t explain itself, and that there’s something outside of the universe, and we’ll call that God — if you accept that this is the God that we’ve encountered in the history of scripture, and you look at the universe already knowing that whatever is going on out there, that is indeed the expression of this God, then whatever you find out there is a way of finding out about God.
You get to know somebody by knowing the things they make, the choices they make. And the fact that this eclipse is so beautiful, the fact that it’s even possible! It’s a remarkable coincidence that the moon also happens to be in the sky almost exactly the same size at the sun appears in the sky, so that the one can completely block out the other, without blocking out too much or too little.

Is that proof of the existence of God? Of course not. It’s a coincidence. But maybe it’s a divine coincidence. It’s just one of those lovely tricks of the universe that has to make you smile.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Jesuit Vow Day, Syracuse NY August 12, 2017

Second Photo:  John (Jake) Braithwaite (2007, St. Joseph's Prep, Philadelphia) taking his first vows as a Jesuit, Syracuse, New York, August 12, 2017.  Joining him that day making first vows were six other men, including Brendan Coffey (2004, St. Joseph's Prep, Philadelphia).

First Photo:  Saint Ignatius Loyola taking his own first vows at Montmartre, Paris, August 15, 1534.   We Jesuits are happy to continue this vow posture 438 years later!   (My thanks to my friend Ellie Bothwell who took this photo while on a recent visit to Montmartre.)

AMDG.   May Jake and Brendan and their companions find God in all things and be consoled in their service of Jesus Christ.   

Sunday, August 06, 2017



(a summer cloud over Reading, Pa.)

 “You will do well to be attentive to the prophetic message
as to a lamp shining in a dark place.”  From the first letter of Peter.

With these words written well after the death and resurrection of Jesus Peter advises us to heed the prophetic message that he, James and John experienced on the mountain of the transfiguration.    They experienced not simply the sight of the transfigured Jesus with Moses and Elijah in conversation with him.    Also they experience Jesus with these words of  revelation by the Father:  “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”…… 

At the moment of the Transfiguration itself Peter reacts with enthusiasm.    His impulsive nature suggests an immediate limited response to the manifestations of Jesus’ glory with Moses and Elijah.   He wants to set up three tents one for each of them to capture this luminous moment.  Such tents remind us of the tent of the meeting where Moses experienced the presence of God.    In these tents Peter wants to capture the presence of the three at least for a time.   We remember his recent lack of enthusiasm, his anxiety and even opposition to allowing Jesus to continue on that challenging journey to Jerusalem.....  

If Peter and the other disciples thought the way we ordinary humans think they would start the Kingdom not with a dangerous challenge in Jerusalem but with other strategies to welcome the reign of God.   Think of strategies consistent with the preaching that Jesus has been doing in the towns and villages.    Maybe you think as I think:  as an alternative I support Peter building those tents and trying to convince Jesus of the usefulness of the tents.   The tents will help us carry out some of the directives of his preaching and teaching:   Let one tent be a center to study the tradition, a second a school to train leaders for village ministry, a third a place to welcome and care for lepers and other outcasts.   

Perhaps Jesus saw tents like this in the future but such alternative plans of action never seemed of immediate interest to Jesus.   In his love for all of us he wants to reach well beyond the countryside of Galilee.  He wants to reach us all with God’s love and Jerusalem is the best possible place to show this love......  

Such love amazes us.   Let us listen in the end to Jesus on the mountain finally speaking to the three disciples, after the voice of the Father cuts short any plan for tents.    The disciples themselves are speechless, afraid and without plans.   They have been overcome when in addition to the transfiguration they hear also the revelation of the Father.  “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”  Jesus knows that he himself is the tent of meeting and the tabernacle of sacrifice.    Jesus’ instruction then to Peter, James and John and to us is short, direct, and consistent with other instructions in the gospel.

Jesus came up and touched them.  “Stand up,” he said, “Do not be afraid.”  And when they raised their eyes they saw none but Jesus, now not luminous but still their guiding lamp.