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.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Late July green, cloudless day

After several days of uneven and partly stormy weather, the rains left behind this rare perfect morning for midsummer: green, cloudless, 71 degrees and low humidity.   And last night the stars showed themselves, too!   Something good for rich and poor to enjoy.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Exercise, yes, but not indoors!


Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Parable of the Sower

Berks County farm fields yielding a hundred-fold.

July 16th   Fifteenth Sunday   Parable of the Sower  MT 13: 1-9
"A sower went out to sow the seed
 and birds came and ate some seed 
 the sun rose scorched other seed
 the thorns grew up and choked more seed
But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. 

Despite some of the unpredictable weather of the past spring, the corn and soybean crops are doing well out in Wernersville where I live and in other western parts of Berks County with its careful soil management.   The sixty thousand farms in Pennsylvania generate over $7 billion a year in annual sales.   So different from the basic subsistence farming in the time of Jesus! 

The one thing that the farmer cannot control is the weather.  Poor weather will stunt the crops and affect the yield.  Should Jesus want to tell the parable today, he would talk not about soil but about the weather......especially about the weather in Africa where drought abetted by conflicts has raised the specter of hunger and starvation for millions all across central Africa from parts of Nigeria to east and south  into Mozambique.

Still it is difficult for us who are not farmers and get our daily rations at the supermarket to have the same sense of concern that a farmer might have looking over his crops in fields that have been for him a source of great care and worry.   We city and suburban slickers must find that experience elsewhere.   In my own case I recall various experiences with nature.... 

These two fortunately in a favorable climate:  I reach back to my own childhood amazement at some of the simple things of nature; the blue eggs in a nest that I saw in the midst of some tree branches and the first fish one summer morning that I caught on my own.   It was a simple sunfish younger and more innocent than I at age nine.  (Photo provides an example!)  My family was visiting my aunt at a small cottage with a dock on Trout Lake in the nearby Poconos.    I carried the small fish right into the kitchen and insisted that I should eat it.    Perhaps I thought the fish ought to have the dignity of giving its life for some purpose.   My mother humored me, helped me dress the little creature, got out some butter and a frying pan and I had an early lunch.   I grew up in a land of plenty.

Please God, continue to help us provide for one another.    Rain down, rain down.....

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mid-June Rainbow

The sun seemed to high in the sky for much of a rainbow but then our house is on a hill that looks east and south.   We did not miss the brief opportunity.