Sunday, November 22, 2015

Today: Christ the King at Gallery Eleven One

When I stepped down from my work at St. Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia, I left a community supportive of the school's mission in so many ways, teachers, coaches, administrators, alumni, parents and others, too.   The sacrifices that parents make to send their sons to the Prep are considerable.   In addition, many of them reach out to share different facets of their own lives with faculty and staff.   

One couple, the Butlers, William and Ronja, parents of two students, Kaden and Carson, told me how the Spirit had led them to a ministry in Camden, New Jersey.  They opened an art studio and gallery, Gallery Eleven One, with the goal of sharing with the diverse and often under-served people of Camden the beauty of art.

The first time I met William and Ronja they came to the Prep with their sons in tow in the summer before their freshman year.   The boys were already, despite a summer morning, in full dress code. Surprised, I praised the careful way in which they had tied their ties, a skill that some boys fail to learn even through freshman year. Sheepishly they looked at me and told the truth: "Father, they're clip-ons."  Sometimes Father is clueless!

I visited  Gallery Eleven One on a June day to say goodbye to the family.   William's paintings fill the walls with every color and shape, pleasing to the eye and stirring to the spirit.    They gave me the gift pictured above, a print called "Sent."   The print is now hanging in my office and I use it to illustrate today's feast, Christ the King.   I thank all four of them for their kindness to me.  To be sure this piece of art is a reminder of  the promise that I experienced in their company.

Friday, November 20, 2015

St. Joseph's Prep Kairos Leadership Team

Thanks to these young student retreat leaders, over fifty of their St. Joseph's Prep classmates had a great experience at the Kairos Retreat this week.   We at the Jesuit Center are happy to welcome these Kairos groups from several different schools many times during each year.

More of the morning stars

The morning stars of Venus and Jupiter are still with us.   But Mars now sits between them.   Imagine this with a better photo: Mars appears dimly "on a line" about midway between Venus and Jupiter.    Get a look tomorrow at about 6 AM!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My Dad and Pope John XXIII

As long as I can remember my dad had an interest in the history of the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania.  He read all the books that he could find on the subject and enjoyed attending Mass at Old St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia and at Most Blessed Sacrament in Bally, the earliest sites of churches in the area.   We have notes that he took while he read and we always imagined that he was working on his own historical text.   

A quite different Catholic subject also commanded dad's attention: the papacy of John XXIII (1958-1963) and his call for the renewal of Vatican II.   In 1968 during Vatican II some years after the Pope’s death, an accomplished Philadelphia artist and sculptor by the name of Charles L. Madden drew a wonderful likeness of the Pope.  My father saw it years later, liked it so much and secured a copy of it from Mr. Madden in 1977.    

My parents were faithful Catholics who knew that the Church was ready for the “aggiornamento”, the spirit of change and open-mindedness of the Second Vatican Council that sparked especially the new liturgy and the Church’s outreach to the world.    They were excited when Pope John Paul II came to Philadelphia.   And I am sorry that they are not alive to see the day of Pope Francis.   But I am happy to have this portrait of John, a reminder of my dad's open-hearted faith, hanging in my office at the Jesuit Center.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

In many a recent winter these two trees would not be holding their color this late in November.  Today's clear sky brought out the best in them.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


My HTC phone camera has its limits but sometimes reality provides the proper stresses for a spectacle!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Eucharistic Chapel in Richard's hermitage.

I had an opportunity on Saturday to drive to Coatesville and to visit the only hermit whom I know,  Richard Withers (pictured here at the front door of his hermitage).   Joe Bradley (left), Francesco Zampetti and I enjoyed lunch with Richard.  

His hermitic life is different from those who live in an official religious community like the Carmelites.   That is, any bishop can officially accept a person as a "hermit" provided he or she fulfills certain criteria.  Richard is a hermit under the direction of the Archbishop of Philadelphia.

The criteria require Richard to sacrifice earning income, to live simply and to pray for the rest of us.   Richard has only a modest part-time job.  But there is more to his life than prayer.  He is very handy and has restored the modest house he lives in.  It had been destined for demolition.

Sometimes such individual hermits, while still living alone each in a separate dwelling, join together in a small group called a Laura.   Richard has a hope that at least one other hermit will take up residence in the duplex that is his dwelling.   But each of them will have his own small house with individual chapel and kitchen, etc.

Richard was an urban hermit for some years in a working class neighborhood in Philadelphia.   He found the small community that surrounds his present dwelling to offer opportunities for more quiet and prayer.  

Thank you, Richard, for giving us witness that God blesses your life and thank you for praying for us to give our own witness, too.