Sunday, January 19, 2020

Go West Young Man (and Woman) !

AM  JAN 9, 2020  Vapor Trails   GO WEST YOUNG MAN (and WOMAN)

Three trails getting an edge on the morning, all going west!    But at least we will have warm sun right here in the East.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

First photogenic snow of the season Jan 6, 2020

JANUARY 8, 2020


Tuesday, December 24, 2019

What about Joseph?


Today about Joseph, the steady and quiet Joseph.  A dream moves Joseph to take care of Mary and become the legal father of her child Jesus.  He is told quite distinctly in the dream that this child is to save the Jewish people from their sins. 

Pope Francis keeps in his own bedroom a statue of St. Joseph reclining in sleep as a reminder that the Spirit of God sometimes speaks with us in the quiet solitude of our rest or our prayer.

I dream every night.   Once in a dream a few years ago, Pope John Paul ll appeared to my mother and me in her kitchen and we were supposed to provide him with breakfast.   We were totally unprepared.  (To be clear, no other recognized saint ever appeared to me in a dream.)

(From the Brady Collection at Wernersville, artist unknown,  Dated likely in the 1920's)

Notably Matthew depicts Joseph as silent even when he is not asleep.   He has none of his own lines in this drama of Jesus’ birth and growth.   He comes on stage and does his duty fully and generously.   But we never hear him say a single word.  In fact after the young family settles in Nazareth, there is only a brief mention of him, years later, when the townspeople refer to Jesus as the carpenter’s son.

But think of the possibilities.   Jesus’ Mother Mary is the one who finally voices the possible and asks Jesus to do the extraordinary at the Wedding Feast of Cana where she pushes the adult Jesus to change the water into wine.  

But what was Joseph thinking all those years before in his carpenter shop?  Typically a son like Jesus would have helped in the shop and would have been a student at a school in the town synagogue.   But Joseph kept it a secret that his son was destined to save his people from their sins.   Joseph accepted patiently the role he was given.   The father in heaven asked him to live an ordinary life with an extraordinary son.   He did not use this relationship to boost his own standing in the community.  He must have been happy to have his son recognized as a good student and a young man with excellent social skills.   But he himself stays in the background.   There is no evidence that Joseph even lives to see their son as a recognized religious leader.

I think of Joseph as a patron saint of shall-we-say ordinary fatherhood if we can even think of fatherhood as ordinary.  He protected his wife and child.    He accepted the gift of his wife and loved her.   He taught his child the skills that he knew, even the social skills at which Jesus excelled.  And his patient love helped to build a world best defined by his son, the gift of God with us.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

What place Mary in our saving Hope?

What place Mary in our saving Hope?

Nativity image from the Brady art collection at the Jesuit Center in

It fits the season of Advent to pepper the daily readings and feasts during these four weeks before Christmas with references to the Mother of God, Mary.    And we celebrate in this season both the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and that of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.   As a memory of popular devotion to Mary, I recall celebrating Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, built where it is said that the Mother of God appeared to an Aztec native, Juan Diego.   Even as we celebrated Mass on the main altar at an early hour young couples approached prayerfully at a side altar to present their new-born children before the same image of Our Lady that Juan is said to have found imprinted on his cloak.

There is such an outpouring of affection among the faithful for Mary that Protestants sometimes accuse us of worshiping her or praying only to her as if she were the Incarnate God.   

We know that we do not worship her but look to her as a saint in heaven, indeed as a disciple of her Son, a mother who can help us grow in the graces of discipleship ourselves.   Our love for her, however, does raise the question about why indeed she herself could not have come to us as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.    So I ask God why Mary is not our Incarnate God instead of Jesus.   God in Three Persons could certainly have arranged for that.   And any child that Mary, as our Incarnate God and Savior, might have conceived could have been born to be a disciple to her rather than the other way around.

We cannot question the freedom of God to arrange our salvation in any way God desires.   We know that the Second Person of the Trinity comes as Jesus.  This has been revealed to us.  There are, indeed, some cultural reasons why God might come to us as a man instead of a woman.    One of them, I conjecture, is that women were far less likely to be crucified in the Roman Empire.    And God in the crucifixion of Jesus wanted us to know the greatness of divine love for us.     Jesus showed us such great love by subjecting himself to the worst possible humiliation and suffering that the so-called civilized world has devised: Crucifixion.

Mary as the Incarnate God could have suffered the same fate but women were almost always protected from crucifixion.  We have in the history of lynchings in the United States something similar.   The victims of lynchings were sometimes women but this was exceptional.   Crucifixions and lynchings, public shows of power, are used to humiliate, intimidate and eliminate opposition and they typically fall on men.   Women within the cultures that tolerate crucifixion and lynching suffer humiliations and abuse in other ways and Mary suffered at the foot of Jesus’ cross to represent them.

God chose to come as the man Jesus to take on this responsibility of sharing the worst effects of human sin that any one of us could suffer, humiliations and abuse of any kind.   Jesus wanted all of us and especially all those who suffered like pain and humiliation to be strengthened by the fact that God chose to suffer in the same way.  The sufferings of Jesus and the pierced heart of the Mother of God are 100% sufficient to strengthen and comfort men and women who have suffered atrocities of all kinds.    It is with this man Jesus and his Mother that we will be saved from our darkness.   So we celebrate in this season the beginning of our salvation in the birth of the Child and in the generous willingness of His Mother to follow him in hope.   They become our hope even as the world rejects them.

2019 Christmas Card by Sr. Mary Bur, IHM, one of an annual series!

Monday, November 25, 2019

November photos


Sunrise, November 7

States of Red and Blue

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Leisure and "Seeing"

We see this volunteer finding a crack in the stone cloister walk!

Short reflections on Leisure and “Seeing”  from

Josef Pieper’s Only the Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation.

Pieper argues that avoiding idolization of labor today cannot be achieved except by an objection based on some ultimate truth about human nature (which is therefore to be taken as of lasting relevance, he assumes). He notes how there are still vague notions about the seventh day of the week being special and about holidays and quitting time (in Germany), but that we are ignorant of how the accumulated wisdom of our Western cultural and existential tradition “as expressed, say, by Plato, and Aristotle, or the great teachers of Christianity” viewed leisure.

“The most important element in this teaching declares: the ultimate fulfillment, the absolutely meaningful activity, the most perfect expression of being alive, the deepest satisfaction, and the fullest achievement of human existence must needs happen in an instance of beholding, namely in the contemplating awareness of the world’s ultimate and intrinsic foundations.” P. 22. He asks the question what constitutes here and now an activity that is meaningful in itself, in contrast to an activity that is meaningful for what it produces, and he answers that it is whenever in contemplation we touch, however remotely, the core of all things. As Matthew Arnold once wrote, “The touch of truth is the touch of life.”

He says that in feast days (he glancingly mentions the Sabbath) man has traditionally expressed his being in harmony and awareness of being surrounded by such fundamental realities, in non-ordinary ways.

He says, indeed, that wherever there is lacking the attitude of heart and mind recognizing and seeking to live in harmony with this fundamental truth of human nature (“even if beheld through a veil of tears”), all endeavors to organize relaxation techniques turn hectic and, indeed, become an “outright desperate, form of work”.   

                                                                            See me Seeing you!   Artist:  Eileen Martin

In the second essay, “Learning How To See Again”, Pieper asks the excellent question “How can we be saved from becoming a totally passive consumer of mass-produced goods and a subservient follower beholden to every slogan the managers may proclaim? The question really is: How can man preserve and safeguard the foundation of his spiritual dimension and an uncorrupted relationship to reality? He suggests that more and more we tend to see with less detailed grasp, to hear with less detail (in contrast for example to the Indians) and to remember with less capacity.....(These weaknesses are related to the commercial and corrupting images with which materialism has flooded the world.)……
He says that fasting and abstention from the “noise” is a valuable first step but hardly sufficient. “A better and more immediately effective remedy is this: to be active oneself in artistic creation, producing shapes and forms for the eye to see.

Nobody (for example) has to observe and study the visible mystery of the human face more than the one who sets out to sculpt in a tangible medium. And this holds true not only for the manually formed medium.”

(From a blogger posting as “Infinite Resources”)

We see how the blue sky highlights this red tree entering the winter.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Indian Summer

October 21, 2019   A beautiful day in our neighborhood.

And at our pond, this aged turtle takes the sun!

And a hawk, probably the red-tailed,  puffs out his chest.  The hawk  would not pass muster with the Audubon Magazine photo editor (but I did see this hawk!).