Sunday, November 27, 2016

RALPH S. SAUL rip OCT 4, 2016


Memorial to Ralph S. Saul, November 25, 2016

Thank you, Jane and Bob, for giving me an opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation for Ralph and his Spirit that surrounds us this evening.   As the relationships developed that propelled the Gesu School’s successes, I marveled as they happened at the beautiful straight line of encouragement that started with a member of the Jesuit parish of Old St. Joseph’s,  ran then to Patricia and Gordon Cooney, then to our dear Ralph and Bette, then to John DiIulio and then on to the Symposium idea that still features so many regional and national figures, Tim Russert and Bill Bennett as examples. 

Patricia and Gordon Cooney introduced Ralph and Bette to Gesu School at the earliest of our fundraising events, one held at St. Joseph’s University.   It was 1992, I believe.   It was a dinner.  Ellen and I were nervous about the choir and about how everything would turn out.  We were seated at table with Ralph, Bette, Patricia and Gordon.   Patricia in her marvelous way made us all feel comfortable, a sign of the fruitful friendship already among the four guests and the encouragement that would flow out of those four hearts in the direction of Gesu’s children.   We enjoyed the evening.  

Then Ralph and Bette took so much initiative, visiting the school and encouraging us.  They perceived Gesu School as doing something unique.   In some troubled areas of Philadelphia this was an accurate perception.  From then on propelled by his and Bette’s kindness to the children and support for the teachers and administrators Ralph introduced the school to a far wider audience: John and Rosalie DiIulio and the honorable symposium guests.  There were strategy meetings at Ralph’s office with our first chair and great friend Win Churchill and others.   Ralph’s assistant, Mary Shields, always generous and kind.   There were tours of the school with persons whom Ralph was sure would help us.   

Encouraged by Ralph we grew at the school developing our own talents and becoming more ambitious to secure its future.   All of the elements of stability came together: the place of the school in the region, the financial resources, the talent devoted to the classroom. 

Ralph kept up to date with the marvelous work that Chris Beck and Bryan Carter brought to the office of president since 2003.  Right down to recent months.   Our current chair Gordon and, of course, Sister Ellen represent a marvelous continuity.    Today amazing things at Gesu:  for example, the students in the older grades all do their school work on tablets!   They had them operating even before the Prep introduced them as a requirement.

There is a beautiful hymn of worship with these words about the just man:   We proclaim the words in Ralph’s memory: “In your strength, O Lord God, the just man rejoices and in your victory he greatly exults.”   Thank you, Ralph, for drawing us into this spirit of praise for the God that blessed us, thousands of work colleagues, friends, the children at Gesu and, of course, your wonderful family with your gifts.

(See Ralph's obituary in the Inquirer  (October, 2016) with details of his  extraordinary life.)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Day TEN LEPERS


You might enjoy today opening the web page of the Wall Street Journal and seeing a review of President Obama’s humorous ways over the years of following the tradition of granting a turkey a pardon on this holiday.   The video shows the ten favorite turkey day clemency jokes.   For example just as the president is called POTUS, he refers to one forgiven turkey as TOTUS.   In another pardon ceremony the turkey has the name Popcorn.  This, President Barack Obama says, just proves that somebody with a silly name can make it to the White House.

So much for that.  Let’s move from turkeys to lepers.   I have an artistic representation of the miracle of the ten lepers which focuses on the attitudes that surround the miracle itself.  Here we see the ten lepers sticking together by necessity in the outskirts of some town.   We see them pleading with Jesus for help.  Material assistance may be their typical request but the intensity of their petition seems to indicate their knowledge of Jesus’ healing gifts.   At this moment Jesus is approaching them but his disciples hang back illustrating that they share their culture’s fear of associating with lepers…..

 “The Jesuit is called to travel –as Ignatius says—and make our life in whatever part of the world there is hope of greater service to God and help of souls.”

In our image we see the disciples traveling with the Lord but their traditions and customs are obstacles on the way prompting them to hold back.   Pope Francis says this (to us Jesuits) about the process of traveling: “Being on the road for Ignatius is more than just setting off and moving alone.   It indicates a state of being.  It’s all about drawing profit, progress, moving forward, doing things for others’ benefit."

In our image Jesus’ willingness to move closer to the lepers models this as the first step in the process of being of service to them.  In this image the only positive note of the disciples holding back is that they are sticking together and trying to understand.  Their isolation and their togetherness is in some sense a mirror image of the lepers.  In the process of healing the lepers Jesus is beginning also a process of healing the disciples of their fear of the unknown……

Let us even if we are reluctant like the disciples to participate in this scene pray for the spirit of joy and consolation that the lepers surely experienced.  And for that sense of gratitude that Jesus here and elsewhere names: “I thank thee, Father, that you have revealed to these little ones the mystery of your Kingdom.”……

And also ask for the attitude of the leper who returns to give thanks.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Prep Kairos 152 at Jesuit Center

These seven young men, seniors at St. Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia finish today their service to Kairos 152.  They led a group of Prep juniors during the three-day retreat.    They are left to right:  Matt Zito, Mike Leonard, Dave Molz, Jon Erdy, Ryan Breslin, Chris Coney and Charlie Nugent.

I wish we were delivering a better world to these young men.  But I have confidence in their integrity.  Of course, as a people of hope we still count on miracles!   Let's encourage these guys to expect them.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

David Gross & Tim Gross Music in the Main Chapel

November 14, 2016
3:00 PM

Organ and alto (and tenor) Sax Concert

David Gross (organ) and Tim Gross (sax) filled this big space with sound!

They entertained us for about an hour with a variety of music composed and arranged for the two instruments.   There were soothing melodies (an organ Pastorale by Guilmant), a jarring piece for organ and tenor sax (Music for a Short Subject by DeBlasio), an amusing piece (Cat Suite by Bedard) and a setting of hymns (Hartley's My Shepherd's Sacred Throne).

Frank Fischer celebrates ninety years

Frank Fischer celebrates his ninetieth birthday!

Nephew Kevin Bur w his friend Vanessa gives him the big  9 0 

Frank's students from Loyola High School (circa '70) celebrate with him.

And so do I with my poetry!   How could we have a party for Frank and be without limericks?

Frank Fischer still keeps on the go.
He's with it win place or show.
How can that be
At the age of ninety?
It must be that glass of Merlot!

Frank treats us to cakes of crab!
He pays for our meals, plain or fab!
For this party galore,
For hundreds and more,
We won't let him pick up the tab!

And there was plenty of singing, too,   This pictures the serenade of "Old Man River."

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Only voting was never enough!


Politics only rarely finds a place on this blog.    The last entry with any political reference was back in March when I quoted in agreement the statement issued by some conservative Catholics, Robert George in particular.   He and others found Trump “manifestly unfit to be president.”   All the way through to election day, George did not waver one bit from this opinion even though he made it clear that Clinton had no place as president either.

In the waning days of the campaign (and why not before?), I found myself praying for all the candidates on the ballot that I would see on November 8.   I realized by then that the country was dangerously divided.  And I felt some of the shame and confusion that many commentators have expressed because they missed the pain that called out for change.   Let's pray, for example, that the cry for jobs will resonate.  Just rebuilding our infrastructure would create a wealth of jobs.   

It did not take the election to know that any leader would have great difficulty unifying the country around goals that would meet expectations…much less goals that addressed all the issues of the common good.

On the Sunday before the election I preached about our duties after the election.   If any of us had been somewhat uninvolved in the community, that time is now past.  

Despite the “manifest unfitness” of our new president, we Jesuits have an opportunity to heed a warning that Ignatius was moved to give to his companions in the earliest days of the Jesuits.   It happened that a man who had a strong dislike of the Jesuits became Pope.  Ignatius asked his companions not to speak ill of him and he himself made every effort to convince the new Pope of the value of the Jesuit mission.  (During his short reign, the Pope made many bad decisions.)   But the point that Ignatius made was well within his own practice: try to make the most generous judgment you can of those who carry opinions contrary to your own.   Respect of our political figures must be the first rule of our political advocacy.

We will do our best.  I think first of all of Jesuits and their colleagues who serve the needs of immigrants and refugees along the Mexican border, especially those in the Kino Border Initiative  in Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, two towns on the opposite sides of the border.   Immigration policies promoted by the Bishops of the United States stand little chance of being enacted by the new president.    But more to the point the Kino Border Initiative and others are not likely to stay silent should new deportation policies create situations like the break up of families.

We Catholics speak a great deal about abortion policy, too.  And most of us will welcome a new judge on the Supreme Court who wants to curb the extent of late-term abortion.   What else the Court might do regarding abortion with another one or two newly appointed figures on the Court is difficult to predict.    It is at the same time difficult to predict the commitment of the new president to any substantial shift in abortion policy.  But there is no question about our own need to expand our services to pregnant women who need help to bring their children to term.

Health care, climate change, religious tests for civic involvement,

Any one issue of many could bring some Catholics to engage in civil disobedience or even risk arrest.    In this present climate all kinds of policies benefiting the common good will come under fresh review.    Such reviews demand a broad range of eyes.   Maybe politics needs a broader place even here.

Friday, November 04, 2016

On a clear autumn day at the Jesuit Center

From the morning star until this later afternoon light, today was one of the clearest of days here at the Jesuit Center.   None of us who live here could do anything to merit this air.    Out of its freshness, however, we can work with others to fashion a world where all share the benefits of fresh air...and fresh water, too.