Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sunny California

No ID needed

I spent my walk time walking through the Presidio Park instead of across this famous bridge.

Facade of St. Ignatius Church, San Francisco

These towers are not unlike some planning renditions for the towers on the 
Church of the Gesu in Philadelphia.   The upper story there was never built.

The Mission Church of Saint Clare of Assisi, Santa Clara University
Campus decor includes hundreds of rose bushes and very many older Fan Palms

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Flowers for the Living at Precious Blood Convent Shilington, PA

Sunday Altar at Precious Blood Convent 
(Nathan, the altar server, happy to pose!)

Years ago I said prayers at a church service for the funeral of an older woman whose husband flooded the church with a dozen banks of flowers like these.    But this one bank of flowers was created this weekend by sister sacristan.  She framed it beautifully for a sister celebrating her Jubilee.   The jubilarian, while sick and near death herself, got to enjoy this display in the company of her community.

Pink sky at night, retreatants' delight July 2, 2016

Looking Southwest

Looking Northeast

Friday, July 01, 2016

Say goodbye to the thunder clouds

Looking toward Reading from the east wing, July 1, 8 PM

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.