Sunday, December 31, 2017

The occasional smile of 2017


Our Jesuit astronomer, Guy Consolmagno, S.J., commented on the beauty and "coincidental" nature of a total eclipse back on August 21 calling it a "divine coincidence" that "brought a smile to his face."

I have been praying with that phrase as I look back on the year.  Yes, things like hurricanes and fires and terror attacks caused so much suffering this year.   And then the long-term prospects of the tax bill, the anxiety of DACA and the school-yard taunts of Trump vs. Kim Jong-un don't bring smiles to most faces.  (Besides all this I get more "pageviews" from Russia on this blog than I do from the United States!)   But still I turn to some personal events of this year:

1. The death of my niece, Lisa, after 23 years in a persistent vegetative state.   Fortunately she went to God ahead of her parents and was not subject to becoming an orphan on this earth.   During her funeral we smiled at her unique way of embracing her life with race horses during those wonderful years she had before her disability.

2.  The confessions of children always bring a smile to my face.  After his confession I questioned a nine or ten-year-old lad  about his life on a farm and his duties of feeding thirteen cats and two dogs...not to mention the pigs and goats that he and his siblings care for.  "Do cats go to heaven?"  I asked.  "Yes."   "Do dogs go to heaven?"   "Yes."   "What about pigs?"   "I don't know."   
Another lad spoke generally of his sisters:\.  I asked, "How many sisters do you have?"  "Six."   "How many brothers?"   His face fell and he joined  his thumb and first finger and held up a big zero!  

3.  I had occasion in recent years to at least be consoled if not register a sad smile when I thought of the two or three men I've known who died young and who also had the experience of a Kairos retreat while in high school.   Retreatants (like men and women from scores of high schools) during such a retreat receive letters from their parents and friends with expressions of pride in them and of love for them.   Such messages both for those who wrote them and for the one who read them provide a tiny strand of consoling memories even in a time of devastating tragedy.

4.  Generally thinking that "living in the now" is overrated, I pray most frequently about a memory or about a concern for the future.   But a retreat master with whom I spoke this year during my retreat strongly advised me to pray with God "in the now."  So I took a seat at the side of a nearby country stream.  Coincidentally God  sent two kingfishers to the site to entertain me while diving for fish and preening their feathers in a nearby tree.   The retreat master was not surprised.   The event brought smiles to both our faces.   Now I get up in the morning and look out the window.  Often just outside are the morning star and a rosy dawn.   (This morning both Jupiter and Mars and a rosy dawn, too!).   Later if I have time to be outdoors the sights very often engage me.   Even the atheist Barbara Ehrenreich had such experiences that led her to puzzle over this thought: amazed as I am perhaps God made me to be a witness of creation.

Monday, December 11, 2017





Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Super Moon


DECEMBER 3, 2017


Friday, November 17, 2017

Morning Star Nov 17 and Dec 7 2017

I was ten or fifteen minutes late to get a good picture of Jupiter in the morning sky.  But there it is midsky.    And I don't know what happened to Venus which is also rising just about twenty minutes later.   But the glow may wash out its presence.

In early December Jupiter stood outside my window in a commanding place.

Monday, October 30, 2017



Our saints of the day, Simon and Jude, barely make the list of those invited to be among the twelve apostles.  They are at the bottom of the list but for the last named, Judas Iscariot.   The list is in rank order.   The first of the names is Peter, the first Pope.  The last of the names is Judas Iscariot, the betrayer.   And about Simon and Jude there is hardly any other sure historic testimony.

Jesus, himself is basically a public nobody, just like Simon and Jude.  His name does not make it on any contemporary lists of great worldly leaders.  A few historical records compiled by historians of the Roman Empire mention him.   But such records focus on the tensions in the empire created by the presence of Christians.

In time the Father of Jesus and the Spirit of Jesus overcome such historical obscurity.  The Spirit inspires the testimonies of Scripture and the Church’s evangelical energy proclaims the place of the Risen Jesus in salvation.   Within that inspiration these bench players, Simon and Jude, too, by their identity within the twelve gain an honored place in the Church.

So the Church first acknowledged the sainthood of the likes of Peter because of his sure missionary journey and martyrdom.  The Church, then, though absent any sure historic record, praises Simon and Jude as saints, too, with missionary journeys and martyrdom.   These last two shall take part with the first sainted apostle, Peter. 
Jesuits like me take some solace from the recognition of these obscure men.   I made no missionary journeys, there is little likelihood of my martyrdom or official sainthood and yet, even those of us listed near last get a share in the glory of the first.   I experienced something like this when Francis became Pope.  Something new in history, a Pope who taught in a Jesuit high school just like I did!  

Let all of us bench players be so consoled.   By our baptism our names are written in the book of the sisters and brothers of Jesus.   We share in the great deeds of Jesus and the saints.  

Monday, October 16, 2017


There is always something to see on a walk around the property here.    Today this.   Should our soldiers try to mask their presence with such camouflage, they might find themselves targets as did this creature in the camera's eye.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Our Lady of the Rosary October 7



Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.  This feast dates from the 16th Century.   The Church encouraged the prayer of the rosary to petition Our Lady’s assistance at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, a naval battle between the Ottoman Empire and a league of Christian states in Europe.   After the European victory the Church in thanksgiving declared October 7 as the date for her feast.
I take out my rosary beads from time to time but often instead of the Hail Mary I count out the beads repeating antiphons that are among my favorites: thanks to God, invocations to the Spirit and the like.  I had occasion to visit an elderly woman some years ago and she discussed the prayer of the Rosary.  I told her that I sometimes finger through the beads with prayers different from the Hail Mary.   And she said to me, “The Blessed Mother isn’t going to like that.”    This made me smile and maybe brought a smile to Mary’s face, too.  (This story appears elsewhere on these pages.)
In the rosary, during our decades of Hail Marys we are encouraged to remember the mysteries of Christ’s life, the sorrows of Our Lady, and the gifts of the risen Christ.   In recent years the Luminous Mysteries were added to the traditional list.
I build on this tradition by remembering the mysteries of the mothers and other women in my life who have died and are now joined with Our Lady.  For me, then, the five decades become a decade for my mother, two decades, one for each of my grandmothers, a decade for my godmother and a decade for my sister.
I set aside in this way the traditional mysteries of the rosary, but since I stick to the Hail Mary, my friend will not find it necessary to suggest that I am neglecting the Blessed Mother.

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.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Bambi along a Jesuit Center walk

At the Jesuit Center we are used to seeing does and bucks fleeing us as we approach them in or along a hiking path.   This little one was left behind by the mother who fled my approach.  Bambi dutifully posed for a photo op.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

One Sunny Day in the middle of spring rains!

Sunday Morning, April 23, 2017
in the middle of a series of rainy dreary days:

Lilacs to smell!

Lilacs to touch!

Lilacs to see!

Views across the spring lawns!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Former Rectors Fathers Panuska and Currie

J. Allan Panuska, S.J.

(Both served as rectors of Jesuit Community in Wernersville)

   Joseph A. Currie, S.J.    

Rev. J. Allan Panuska, S.J.    Rev. Joseph A. Currie, S.J.

These two Jesuits shared the initials J.A., the one J. Allan, simply Al, the other Joseph A., simply Joe.   Born less than ten years apart, ordained eight years apart, Al before the Second Vatican Council and Joe in 1968 just a few years after the Council closed.   They died within days of one another, Al on Feb 28 and Joe on Mar 3.

As young priests, Al did serious research as a biologist and Joe was a missionary to India, each one following traditions of Jesuit excellence.   Only our best young Jesuits went off to India.   And Al joined one of the best Jesuit science departments at Georgetown University.  Later leadership in the Society and in education awaited Al.  I remember him as a young and generous Provincial, ’76 to ’82, supporting Province efforts to minister within the black community.  

And we remember Joe for the work he did in formation and retreat programs for young Asian Indian Catholics.  His brother Rob spoke at his funeral of his tireless efforts crisscrossing India to interact with youth and young Jesuits.  Rob said he knew every rail and bus station.  After 22 years in India, 15 of them as a priest, Joe returned to the United States to continue his chaplaincy work at various colleges, notably thirteen years at Fordham University as associate vice president for mission and ministry.

Al, after his service as Provincial devoted many years to college leadership, sixteen as president of Scranton University.  There he made himself so present to the students that they named him “Papa Bear”.   (A Fordham print article about Joe used a similar expression:  “Papa Joe”.)   Scranton University grew in both size and academic reputation over these years.   Al is known as a second founder.

These were men of uncommon devotion to youth and young adults.  While the Church into which they were born changed radically, they read the signs of the times and continued steadily to attract the young to Christian life and service, over a hundred years of ministry between them. 

Both had important roles to play at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville, Al as rector from 1998 until 2004 and Joe as rector from 2010 until 2015.   In every age, God has been our refuge and sends us men and women of outstanding character and commitment.   These two were models for our age and God will inspire those who follow them to build on their heritage.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Lisa Martin, 1959-2017

Lisa Martin 1959-2017
(In 1996 my niece was at Santa Anita Park enjoying her work showing off thoroughbreds to prospective buyers when she had a severe heart attack that left her in a persistent vegetative state for the last twenty-one years.   She loved horses from the time when she was a little girl and spent some twenty years caring for horses and working with some great trainers.  She was with some family members when her body quietly stopped functioning on April 2, 2017   All along we knew that God was taking care of her in ways that we cannot understand.)

(Homily at her Funeral Mass, April 6, 2017)
God’s Spirit was with Lisa all these twenty-one years that her body lingered with us.  I believe she came to know that she was completely in God’s hands but still she looked for release knowing that we who loved her were groaning and waiting.
She found herself in those states of heart and mind that Jesus aligns with God’s blessings: blessed are the meek, blessed are the poor, blessed the patiently single-hearted and more.  God prepared blessings for her: an inheritance, abundant consolations, and the sight of the divine.
We ask this morning that the Spirit help our hearts connect with the consoling images that Jesus presents of the heavenly kingdom.  The Spirit of God inspires Jesus to express our future presence with his Father by using images of what it will be like.   These images express the experience that the deceased among our loved ones have after death.  The heavenly kingdom is like a wedding feast, like sons and daughters finding their way home, like a threshing floor where the goodness in every human heart is preserved in the harvest.   Jesus speaks, too, of the chasms now existing that will endure in the world to come between the greedy and the poor.   But still God’s mercy rules even over these splits in the kingdom.   Jesus tells us all this and then in his death he goes to prepare a place for us.

Our mourning over Lisa has lasted twenty-one years.  She had wonderful care at Pine Run; she stayed there long enough to get upgrades in her accommodations.  Ron and Eileen were attentive to her care in every respect.    From her birth and then from the very moment of her heart attack, God surrounded Lisa with love, a love that will last in our eternity, that love now a sign of God’s transcendent love. 
Our gift of faith gives us this language but still we yearn to have Lisa tell us what it was like all those years.  Perhaps these long years were for her only a short journey to her new home.  Even among us from time to time our mourning was eased by the consolations that the Spirit encouraged among us, her family and friends.   Lisa shared in that same Spirit of God.  We can say for her that eternity itself replaced the manmade structure of time.  Lisa measured her experience with the memory of so many joys in family and friendships and with the memory of her career caring for her prized horses.   If she had dreams they always were leading to a place of discovery and peace even if in our eyes these dreams only got there on Saturday.
And wondering about the position of mind and body in which she found herself, Lisa might have heard some of the words that the biblical Job heard in his own distress, having lost his health and all his family and possessions to boot.  In the book of Job he hears God talk about some of the natural wonders of the world….He hears God’s voice talk with him about the part of God’s creation that Lisa knew through and through, the horse….   So God spoke to her in words like those that Job wrote down:
“Are you the one who gives the horse its strength
or clothes its neck with a flowing mane?
Do you make it leap like a locust,….
with its proud snorting?
The horse paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength,…
It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing.
God gradually convinces Job that God knows how to care for all creation and in due time will take care of Job himself answering all his questions.    Lisa found herself placed fully in the same love that created all of life, in the same love that saved Job.
While the rest of us pursued our futures in conventional classrooms and careers and styles of family life, Lisa always danced to a different tune.  Her love for the world of horses led her to find satisfaction in courageous things…living on her own in distant places, finding friendship not only in those surrounding the stables but also in the horses themselves.    Without a doubt some of those horses loved her.  Some rewarded her courage and her confidence in them.  They showed off just for her on those early mornings when they carried her at breakneck speeds around the practice track.  They always kept her safe.
We all have a prized memory and this is mine: I visited her in Saratoga in the summer of 1985.   I remember arriving with her at the stables just as the sun was coming up on a perfect setting of stately trees and brilliant light.  I peeked into the stables fit for the sport of kings; I watched her and her horse enjoy their exercise.   I sat quietly drinking my morning coffee in the peace and beauty of the place.   The truth was evident.   I and the rest of the family who visited there knew that Lisa had found a place that blessed her.   A place, yes, with the roar of the crowd at the track and the adrenalin of competition but it was surely the horses themselves that captured her focus, their welfare, their beauty, the wonder of their relationships with her and the others in their community.
Let us end with another Biblical image of horses, this one in the New Testament.  There are four horses in the visionary Book of Revelation.  In that vision the horses will gallop into our world announcing the Day of Judgment.   To us ordinary men and women the riders on these horses and even the horses themselves will appear frightening but riders and horses, too, will be performing the purposes of God.   God bless you, Lisa.   You are not afraid.  You now know all about the four horses of the apocalypse.  I imagine you now befriending them and keeping them healthy and content as they await their day of service.  That is what you loved to do.   Whisper to them, Lisa.  Whisper to them.  And put in a good word for us.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Spring with the Jesuits at Wernersville

Short walks from the house

A network of cherry blossoms

Parenting at Lake Goupil; a sharp caw and a stretch of the neck will keep him away from our nest.

One blue hue mimics the other.

And finally the sun is out and so are we!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Prodigal Son, Prodigal Daughter


Intro: Here is a picture of the Merciful Mother!   Below is the story of the return of her daughter Latrel.  (picture credit to Christine Beck who listened to Katie and compiled Katie's story in book form).

The Prodigal Son, The Merciful Father, The Angry Brother.  

Such a powerful story recalls our wounds and our hopes, if not personal ones, at least ones that we have seen in others with our own eyes.  Sometimes the story recalls hypocrisy, too, our own or that of others. Such stories were part of parish life when I served at the parish of the Church of the Gesu in North Philadelphia.   Surely such stories are part of parish life everywhere.   But during my ministry I got to know only this one parish, an African American congregation that had a series of wonderful lay and Jesuit leaders over the one hundred and twenty years before my pastorate.  The lay leaders were extraordinary men and women who exemplified mercy.   A few of the elders among them had been turned away when the parish was still all white.   Their African American Roman Catholic parish was not so far away and that’s where the Gesu ushers told them they belonged.   But the walk to Gesu was far easier.  They kept showing up and finally got some welcoming encouragement.  They integrated the parish and never harbored any bitterness.   I will return to the parish to tell its story of the prodigal daughter.   

But first for his insight on the story of the prodigal,   I consulted Jose Pagola’s book about Jesus subtitled “An Historical Appreciation”.  Pagola’s comments about the story of the prodigal son include an element that was new to me.  That is, the relationship of the father with his two sons takes place publicly within a community of broader blood and communal ties.   Pagola describes how the community reacted to this son who dishonors the family by carrying out his scheme.    His demand that the father surrender his share of the inheritance before the usual acceptable time certainly became known and condemned in their community.   No son should be allowed to abandon his family and claim his inheritance before the death of the father.   And no father should be so permissive.    But the father must have known something about this son of his.    Years later when the son returns he is waiting for him.   The community hears within hours of the father’s merciful welcome.   Indeed many of them attend the welcome home party organized by the father.  To this celebration the father invites everyone in the community so all can take a role in restoring the dignity of his son.    One imagines that some of these guests reject this role and are secretly thinking like the older son or the Pharisees to whom Jesus addresses the story.   How can this father forget the dishonor that this young man brought on him and his household?    

At the Gesu parish I saw some of the elements of this story repeated more than once.   In one series of events, the place of the merciful father was taken by Katie Robinson, mother and grandmother known to all in the neighborhood.   One of Katie’s daughters, Latrel, found herself trapped in drug abuse.   Latrel never went far from home over her long period of active drug use.  Over those years she bore children, all of them troubled by the lack of a mother’s love.   We in the parish got well acquainted with four of the children because Latrel gave over the care of these four to their grandmother, Katie.   Latrel would visit her mother and the children in her mother’s care from time to time.   Katie, a master of tough love, (I heard her, when speaking of her children paraphrase the Marine drill sergeant’s proclamation: “their souls belong to God but their behinds belong to me”) would not allow her daughter Latrel to stay in the house even overnight but would always allow her a visit.     Latrel could come in the backdoor anytime and enjoy a meal in the kitchen.  Latrel, spotted on the street coming and going, would always greet neighbors with a smile as if everything were alright.  

The return of the prodigal daughter begins at a North Philly rehab center.  By this time the children are teenagers.  Latrel’s time of staying clean extends into months and months.   She writes notes to her children expressing her sorrow at not being a mother to them.   Katie, Latrel’s children and her brothers and sister are all able to greet her in person during her time of rehab.   There are tears and hugs.   All are hopeful even after Latrel’s health deteriorates and she is admitted to the hospital.  But the years of abuse have so damaged her body that she grows weaker and dies.  

To celebrate the funeral Katie, her grieving mother, leads the whole family to the Church.   Friends, neighbors, parishioners, those whom Latrel greeted with a smile show up to mourn her.    This is more than a family event; the whole neighborhood joins in prayers for Latrel and her family.    Latrel’s sister gives the eulogy with tears of joy.   And her message is clear.  Amazed at God who saved her poor sister surviving so long without a home, the sister praised and thanked God with words like this.    “All these many years Latrel could have died alone and abandoned in the streets.   But God took pity on her.   Latrel in her trouble left us her family.  But she died surrounded and loved by us.   She was lost but she was found.  Latrel came back to us and now lives in her true home.”  Family and friends, neighbors and parishioners shared tears of joy in that congregation of mourners.  It was a funeral celebration unlike any I have ever attended.   At this return of the prodigal no one took the place of that older brother.  In that church there were no Pharisees.

Events like this at Gesu parish help us grasp the stories that Jesus tells us about God’s mercy.   Yes, the broader world might think of Latrel and her life as a great loss.  And her life surely had that element of talent wasted and love lost.   Not everything could be restored.   But we community members in the Church that day praised God, the God who confirmed our hope that Latrell
 went home to meet the divine face with that same smile she showed when meeting us on our streets.

Merciful Mother, Prodigal Daughter.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Wind Storm, Feb 25, 2017


Storm rumbles in from the west.

Over the years great care has been taken of the trees on the property.    Though there was a grove behind the house at its construction,  the building was basically set in a barren field forward and right to left    The property was a benefaction of the Bradys.   Mrs. Brady especially spent many years considering how to design, construct and furnish the building.   But once the structure was in place she also focused on the property. 
Mrs. Brady had many a tree planted to accommodate vistas and to complement the structure.  Over the years trees have been a constant interest of some Jesuits and others who have managed and maintained the grounds.   The stately elms have come and gone.   Many a tree has been lost to storms.   And many a tree replaced.   Still each year a number of dead or ailing trees are removed and replaced

On Saturday in a matter of about five minutes a wicked microburst of wind or a straight-line wind and rain storm landed right at the gate of the property, ripped across it southwest to north east and destroyed about thirty trees.  

The wind rushed up the main drive and ripped this 80-foot spruce out of the ground.  Several nearby trees were severely damaged.

On a hill overlooking the drive the wind ripped off half of this tree and exposed its heart.

This great tree was about 130 yards in front of the house.

This trunk was so twisted by the wind that it simply severed from its tap root.   No root ball at all.   This might have happened because the chapel wall faced the tree in the opposite direction from that in which it fell.   This could have trapped the wind and created a whirlwind.   Our tree surgeon was familiar with other examples of such a twisted severed trunk.

Fr. Jerry McAndrews w three of his students

February 26, 2017
Old St. Joseph's Church
Philadelphia, PA

I had the pleasure of enjoying some time with two of my classmates from Prep 1959, Al Chinappi (left) and Jesuit Ed Dougherty (right).   Next to Ed is one of our high school teachers, Jerry McAndrews.

I will always remember Mister McAndrews, S.J. one day after class calling a self-conscious 17-year-old to his desk in the front of the room and asking me why I wasn't doing better work in his class.   I thought I was working as hard as I could but he knew that I wasn't working smart.  To this day I remember that lesson though I find it difficult to put it into action.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Blue Marsh Lake in Spring (?)



(photos from the hiking trail near mile marker 13)