Monday, October 05, 2020

Pilgrimage 80


I am celebrating my 80th birthday with a pilgrimage walk reminiscent of such a walk when I was fifty.   You can read about it here:

And this is one of the sites for the walk:

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

From the Archives August 25, 1990

From the Archives: August 25, 1990  While Pastor at 

Church of the Gesu, Philadelphia

Off to getting some exercise, I was seeking a parking site on one of the Chestnut Hill entrances to Wissahickon Valley Park.   Reaching an unfamiliar corner where I imagined that I should make a left turn, I checked and found no opposing traffic.  But I failed to see the red light mounted on a pole to the right.   The next thing I can remember: waking up in the hospital recovering from a concussion.  While my car was totaled, thankfully there were no injuries to the people driving the truck.

The nurse told me that the police had walked me into the emergency room of Chestnut Hill Hospital and dropped me there with a singular remark, "he was in an accident and is very confused."

I have no recollection of those hours of unconsciousness but I did dream during that period.  One a dream of a woman I had seen just a short time before walking in a section of the Park where I could not find a proper parking space.   And another dream at least of the sound of the CAT scan.   When I came to later at my bedside I found  Jesuit and housemate Vince Taggart and Gesu parishioner Mary Greene, a confirmation for me that I would be OK.

A Cloud of Survival

I wonder now about the sound

That crashed against my skull.

It did not reach my ears or mind.

My memory is null.


I hear instead the water flow,

A trickle cross the stones.

It heals my heart, it heals my soul,

It heals my very bones.


The path that slopes above the stream

Is almost overgrown.

I climb it as if in a dream

And find I’m not alone.


I overtake with tepid pace

Her slow and graceful gait.

And with a smile on her face

She tells me of my fate.


Lost the crash, lost the groans

And lost are all the sighs

When I awake I see my friends

They hold me in their eyes.



Saturday, August 22, 2020

Photogenic Tiger Swallowtail


We are indebted to some benefactors who planted on the edge of our property a small garden attracting and supporting the butterfly population of Eastern Pennsylvania.    A number of butterflies will entertain visitors at any August visit.  The photos here are of a particularly cooperative swallowtail who showed off both obverse and reverse. 

Oddly the underwear is more beautiful than the outerwear!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Our black friends call out "How Long, O Lord!"

 Cries for Justice at the Philadelphia Art Museum    June, 2020

Over the past four weeks I have been feeling the terrible weight of racism in our country, freshly renewed by recent brutality.   I grew up in a white neighborhood in the Philly suburbs basically ignorant of the way the country was treating our black citizens.    My family was often in the city visiting relatives, relatives who lived in white neighborhoods and I vaguely remember conversations about where blacks might be moving.    I must have been ten or twelve years old when I first was driven on an alternate route into the city through a black neighborhood.   I saw black men and women talking on street corners and sitting on stoops and children playing in the streets.   The housing looked deficient compared to the white city neighborhoods that I had visited and the children lacked the broad yards and open streets, parks and fields where I and my siblings played with our friends. The environment looked stressed.   Did I already know that God loved these kids on this street as much as God loved me and my city relatives?

For the last fifty years I have been given the grace of knowing wonderful black men and women.  I first assisted in an interracial project when as a deacon preparing for Jesuit priesthood in 1971 and since was blessed with ministry in a black parish and school.    But now still I am struck dumb.   That is, yes the neighborhoods I saw in the 1950s were deficient and they remain deficient through the years since.  But I was able to meet people who lived in these neighborhoods, to worship with them, to visit in their homes and to enjoy baptisms and weddings and even many faith-filled funerals.  I learned more about community, about reconciliation, about family and faith, about humor and solidarity, much more than I could have anticipated.   But suffering, and very often raw and bitter suffering, visited every household.   At best Christ shares the victory of the paschal mystery in so many of these households.  But at worst the strain of economic struggle, the stress of poor health, and the lack of promising futures offered to the young fray and fracture the edges of even the strongest of families.

During the first days of June when I realized that Philly’s neighborhoods were in turmoil because of the terrible ugliness of the death of George Floyd and so many others, I felt sorrow for all the extraordinary men and women I knew in these neighborhoods who worked years and years to foster health and integrity, pastors who built senior and home-ownership housing, churches that sponsored investment clubs to support small business, and leaders and teachers refreshing schools and making them as good as any in the suburbs.  With this sorrow, I came to realize, too, that the recurring violence against black men and women simply ignited a reaction fitting to its brutality.  

Now when a tired calmness has returned to these neighborhoods, these institutions and men and women of soul are still in place.   And I find hope in knowing that they will stay in place and stand up.  They and their like will raise their voices and use this moment to strengthen their institutions with added classrooms, added health centers, added housing, added ways of reconciling with those responsible for just law enforcement.

A black brother Jesuit, Fr. Mario Powell, president of Brooklyn Jesuit Prep, points to Psalm 13 as the cry of black Americans: “How long, O Lord, will my enemy triumph over me?”  He asks us all to come close to the suffering.   “…until you jump up on the cross with black Americans, there can be no Easter for America.”

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Pictures of a Maturing Spring

A Day in the Life

 May 12, 2020:   The 52nd day of sheltering

Outside my window at 5 AM: The Morning Stars:  Moon, Jupiter and even Saturn and maybe Mars

And the Sunset at about 8 PM

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Jesus and the Time of Pandemic





“There are truths that can be discovered only through suffering or from the critical vantage point of extreme situations.”    
 Ignacio Martin-Baro, S.J., martyr at the UCA, El Salvador, 1989

The voracious presence of COVID-19 stuns the world.   We who believe that God always helps us in our works of love are numb.  How can God allow this destructive virus?   But, truly, to make it worse such extreme situations present themselves often.    We remind ourselves of our struggle to learn what God teaches us in the Shoah, in our history of slavery or in frequent natural disasters.  These situations take place in the world our God creates and each challenges our understanding.

We want our God to exercise what we think of as control over His creation.  And when He does not do what we think best, we experience sorrow and distrust.   In our confusion there is nowhere to go but to turn to the suffering Jesus who speaks to his Father and to us from his cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  But Jesus will not save himself and call on a display of his Father’s power.  Within this question he trusts in the promise of resurrected life.

Crises of every kind cause us to echo Christ’s words.  We look at Him carrying out his love for us.    He teaches us sinners the kind of life to which His Father’s creation calls us.   We react and He must endure the price of our stubborn refusal to hear him.   But if we listen we come to know a God of love who will not force Himself on us or put us under a spell of power.   Rather this God creates a world where we in turn, without coercion but freely and with hope, can imitate His love for us and return it in our love for others.   

God calls us in this age of the pandemic to acknowledge our shared dignity as His family and extend ourselves in care for one another.   We give God thanks and praise that so many are answering that call.