Thursday, February 11, 2016

MR. BELL (from the archives)

I could not find a picture of Mr. Bell but here is one of a downtown H and H cafeteria where he might have worked.   When this photo is taken Mr. Bell would be toward the end of his employment life.

Mr. Bell (1896-1989) who lived in Lower North Philly
“Christ emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of humanity.”  (Phil 2.7)
I visited Bell at his apartment in the first years that I served at Church of the Gesu.   He was a simple, lovely man who seemed alone without any friends or family, his wife having died.  He had grown up in the Carolinas and certainly his grandparents would have been born as slaves.  He came to Philadelphia when he was a young man and worked at one of the Horn and Hardart Automats downtown.   He would take the trolley car there and still when I met him at about age ninety he missed being able to work.  During each visit he would relate short tales about his life and often used the phrase “everything is nice.”

On a Christmas Day, he said, in Smithfield
He threw a ball over the roof of his uncle’s house.
The dog ran all the way around behind that house
And brought that ball back.

In Philadelphia he cut apple pies
And set them in the glass cupboards in the automat,
The faces of the hungry seen only in pieces
Through the many windowed wall.

“Everything is nice,” he always said
Except that funny pain in the back
Felt when waiting for the car at the corner of 21st Street.
He and the pain were precise.

He used to get up at night and soak his feet;
His wife would call in the dark from the bedroom.
“Bell, what are you doin’ in the kitchen?”
She didn’t like him soakin’ his feet.

At last he put aside the cares of life
He heard the mystic chant that “all is well.”
But still I hear his dying aspirations
"Everything is nice!" for Mr. Bell

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Nacio (IGNATIUS LOYOLA?) comes to the Jesuit Center

More snow pictures?   Yes, a  storm with a Jesuit name!

Nacio (Ignatius) has been a friendly storm so far but he may cause some headaches in this area of Pennsylvania because the temperature just dropped below freezing.  

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Senior Jesuits at Jesuit Center, Wernersville

Senior Jesuits missioned to Prayer for the Society of Jesus
and residing in the Jesuit Center at Wernersville
(name and year of entrance into the Society)

George Aschenbrenner (1954), William Dawson (1946), James Lemon (1954),
John Martinez (1949), John McCaslin (1955), Edwin Sanders (1946)

LUKE 5: 1-11 (Gospel reading for Sunday, February 7, 2016)

…. Jesus sees two boats on the shore.  He distinguishes one from the other though each is suitable and he picks the boat belonging to Peter.  “Why me?   Why my boat?” The answer for us:  Jesus wanted us for particular service.   Besides he wanted us as companions.   As Peter, James and John left their former way of life, we parted from friends and the usual patterns of life that they followed.

Peter, it is written, knows himself unworthy.  He doubts his capacity for courage, loyalty, integrity.  Jesus does not argue with him but as always, the call is bolstered by a promise.  "Do not be afraid, I will make you a fisher of people."

Today The miraculous draught of fish becomes for us: the sum total of spiritual conversations; the Spirit that still enlivens our sacraments; our prayers in so many public places; the multitude of parishioners, students and others who passed before us.

The first call came to us when we were young.   But the call now is no less genuine, loving and urgent.    Genuine because Jesus has come to depend on us, loving because we have shown our love for him by our deeds and urgent because we and he together know more now about the threats to faith and justice than we knew as young men.

Today there are limits to our capacity to serve.   We serve one another in community, we serve others both in person and by means of communications, and we serve all those in need according to our prayer and our own witness to God’s love and mercy.   Perhaps the miraculous draught of fish lives more in memory than present action but still Jesus invites us:  “Do not be afraid, you have been, are and will be fishers of people.   I behold it all and I offer it to you for your consolation.”

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Kairos 148 St. Joseph's Prep at Jesuit Center Wernersville

Jim, John, Chuck, Buddy (standing left to right) and Andrew, Seamus and Hank

These seven St. Joseph's Prep senior leaders welcomed some 45 Prep juniors in the class of 2017 to their retreat at the Jesuit Center. Their retreat leadership was essential to the success of  Prep Kairos 148. These seven young men represent an outstanding Prep class of 2016.   

Monday, February 01, 2016

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee

Rembrandt:   Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee

A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him,
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He woke up,
rebuked the wind, 
and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?”
They were filled with great awe and said to one another,
“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

      In writings about Jesus and his disciples the uses and importance of water take a prominent place……We have heard about a miraculous catch of fish and a washing of the feet.   But today we read not about the blessings of water but about water whipped up by a storm and putting lives in danger.

….Jesus chooses to protect his disciples and himself, too, from the storm that they encounter on the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus as the first born of all creation is also present in every part of creation sustaining, redeeming and bringing it to fulfillment.   But as the storm rages around them, none of this is apparent to the disciples.   As the winds and waves threaten to sink the boat, they awaken Jesus with shouts:  “We know you are tired but how can you sleep with this deluge breaking over us?”   The disciples want an extra hand to help bale or help with the rigging.
       But Jesus knows better: they don’t need an extra hand.  “Why are you terrified?   Do you not yet have faith?”   And he stills the wind and the waves with his words: “Quiet!   Be still!”    Jesus, here and even often, accuses the disciples of lack of faith.   Nevertheless he keeps coaxing them along. 
In fact the disciples earlier in this very gospel account distinguished themselves from those who are disbelievers and perhaps cynical to boot.    These hearts are hardened; they want miracles and have no interest in answering Jesus’ call.   But among the disciples there is, to be sure, some modicum of faith.    The faith shows when they recognize that the stilling of the storm is not simply an accident.  The disciples’ belief in the power expressed in Jesus’ words becomes sheer amazement in the person of Jesus: “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

    It might have crossed Jesus’ mind simply to drown with his best friends at his side.   (Could this moment be the one in the painting?)   This would be easier than going through what he expects lies ahead.  But filled with courage Jesus makes sure that both he and his disciples survive and continue to answer the call.  Survival gives the disciples the space and time they need to grow into a stronger faith.  Without this growth Jesus’ whole enterprise fails……