Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Memorable Weekend

A terrific weekend. I spent an evening in Worcester with a Jesuit who often visited Portland, Maine when I lived there. It was good to reconnect with him again and to catch up on his story. We had a lively discussion at the Sole Proprietor on Highland Avenue and we were both pleased with our meals. I ordered a rare seared tuna steak that was stuffed with feta cheese, sundried tomatoes, and capers. Very tasty. Mostly, I was glad just to hang out with my Jesuit brother for the evening.

On Saturday, I validated the marriage of two friends who were civilly married last April. This couple very much wanted the church to bless their marriage because faith means so much to them. I hope the ceremony was lovely for them, but at least I enjoyed it. It was also good to connect with a Jesuit with whom I worked in Portland years ago. I was able to see two friends from Cheverus High School at the end of mass. Quite a lovely evening.

The bride was lovely; the groom handsome; both were very excited. They seemed to like the watercolor painting of a small bird that I created this week. Dinner at the Treehouse restaurant on Stevens Avenue was terrific. I had the saffron sautee, which was another very satisfying seafood meal. Such a good night.

O, and to top it off, her daughter announced her engagement to be married in 2017.

This morning I said mass in Spanish once again. I hadn't presided since October when there was a change in leadership in the Roxbury parish. I was just becoming comfortable with the language. This morning I was fearful that I would stumble over words and phrases again. I did, but at least people said they could understand every word I said, even though it was with a Bostonian accent. I'm pleased I got through it fine. I just loved that they were from El Salvador because they articulated words clearly.

The church was one hundred percent packed. There were probably over 600 people in this small church. After mass, we did the blessing of throats because Saint Blase day is on February 3rd - Candlemas. I laughed because I had not spoken the language in three months and then I had the opportunity to repeat it by rote by the end of the day.

Afterwards, I brought two Jesuit novices that live with us this semester for a tour of Boston. They are good men and I know that the Society's future is bright with  men like this being called into our order. Lastly, I said mass in English in Woburn and it was quite a fine celebration. I inserted two prayers during the intercessions: one, for the people of Flint, Michigan and their water purity crisis, and two, that civility in the Presidential Election cycle reigns and that the common good be advanced.

Now to watch Downton Abbey.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Celebrating What's Right With the World

I recently was introduced to a terrific video called, "Celebrating What's Right With the World." It is a film by National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones as it captures his philosophy of telling a story through his lenses. His work captures the extraordinary as it breaks into our ordinary world.

I resonate with his photographic philosophy because it is similar to the way I view of the world. As David Fleming, S.J. would put it, "The world is a vision of Love loving." I try to have my homilies capture the same joy expressed in this video. It is always what I try to do in my painting as well. It is as if Mr. Jones has made the Ignatian Exercises as now can see the world as God sees the world.

I send you to this link where you can watch the 25 minute video. My viewing it was time well spent. I simply want you to enjoy it as well.

"Celebrating What's Right with the World" on Youtube.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Retreat for Sisters

I have learned quite a bit from the Sisters of St. Joseph's religious order of women this past week as we are on retreat together. They are a religious order for the diocese of Boston. They are unlike the Jesuits whose provinces span multiple dioceses. The CSJs are bound to this particular diocese of Boston.

Some of the sisters have asked, "Do you know Dan Harrington, S.J.? He was a student in my first class." It is amazing that they have trained so many diocesan and religious order priests. 

Their Framingham facility is much like the Jesuits' Campion Center, but with a feminine touch. Over 90 sisters are here in the health and retirement center and they are a community of love. Incredibly gracious, hospitable, and generous, these sisters live the rule of faith authentically. Their love for the church is firm. The lives they have influenced positively is enormous.

Charity pervades these institutions. They seek spiritual aids and pastoral kindness and they naturally provide their goodness to others. No matter their accomplishments, they only exhibit their humility and are content to be a part of the larger community that shares the same gifts. 

Anyways, it is a delight to be with them. They are eager and open for God's personal love for them and they are delighting in being with each other after a full life of ministry well-served.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Legend of La Befana - The Christmas Witch

Getting in touch with my Italian roots. I just heard of this Christmas witch story from a 93 year old retreatant.

Like children everywhere, Italian kids look forward to the arrival of the red-suited

Babbo Natale on Christmas Eve. However, this relatively modern tradition pales in comparison to the anticipation generated by the arrival of an old witch in early January. On Epiphany Eve, the old, tattered and soot-covered Befana flies around the world on a broomstick and comes down chimneys to deliver candy and presents to children who have been good during the year. For those who have fallen a bit short of model behavior, la Befana will leave lumps of coal. (Realizing that no one can be perfect for a whole year, these days la Befana often leaves a sweet “lump of coal” made from black sugar.)

La Befana has been an Italian tradition since the XIII century and comes from Christian legend rather than popular culture. The story is that la Befana was approached by the Three Wise Men who asked her to lead them to the stable where the baby Jesus lay in a manger. La Befana was too busy cleaning her house at the time, so she declined the offer to go with them. Very soon she realized that she had made a huge mistake, so she gathered up a bag full of gifts and set off alone in search of the baby Jesus. Though she followed the same star as the Magi, she was unable to find the stable. Undaunted, la Befana continues to travel the world over to this day searching every house for the Christ child. On January 6, the first day of Epiphany, Italian children hold their breaths as they search their stockings for a sign that they have been good that year.

The arrival of la Befana is celebrated with traditional Italian foods such as panettone (a Christmas cake) and marks the end of the long and festive holiday season in Italy.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Farewell, Joe Palmisano, S.J.

Today was the funeral of Joe Palmisano, S.J. who died at the age of 41 on Christmas Day. It is quite a tragedy that he suffered a lengthy illness, but there is comfort in knowing that his suffering has come to an end. We will miss him.

My last visit to Joe was two weeks ago at Campion Center. I was told he was weak and would not be able to recognize me. As I walked in, he said, "Hi, John," and we had a pleasant conversation. He thought he was at villa where he could rest and pray for a while before returning home. It was quite consoling for me

The funeral was filled with concelebrating priests. Though it was certainly a sad gathering, I again was very consoled by the presence of so many good brother Jesuits who cared deeply for Joe and for one another. It was very much like a homecoming for me since I haven't seen so many men of my province in three years as I was in Amman for two and had surgery this summer whereby I missed the province assemblies.

Joe arranged his own funeral and one of the most moving portions of it was when the oboist played Gabriel's Oboe from the film The Mission. The luncheon afterwards was just the way he wanted it: festive with lots of laughter.

We do miss him. The day was sad, but we have great stories to share with one another. He is now home with Christ and together they are making sure we are strengthened by our care for one another.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Quiet Sunday Morning

The other day as I said two masses in East Cambridge, I decided to take a walk in between the liturgies. I used to live in the area and I wanted to see what has changed in the area.

The first thing I noticed was just how quiet the streets were. I could not hear any automobile traffic and there were no people walking along the sidewalks. It was the most quiet I've heard in an inner city neighborhood for a long time. Sometimes parts of Roxbury can be this quiet.

As I walked towards Kendall Square, young professionals were outside for exercise or to walk their dogs. The area, while remaining quiet, had some energy. MIT borders Kendall Square and the students receive many commercial services in the area. I remember when the area contained just a few hotels and some computer company offices. Now there are some fine restaurants, boutiques, and coffeehouses.

Just down the road from the T-station is a new Square called Federal Square. It contains a series of restaurants, open gathering spaces, and a walkway to the Charles River. It feels hip and seems like the place to be. As I continued my walk, I came across more specialty shops and coffeehouses. I was pleased with the amount of development. Of course, there are also many new residences that support these markets and restaurants and the professionals who occupy these spaces have disposable income.

This new area is just three streets away from the church, which is basically a modest working-class neighborhood. I can see many changes coming fast to an area that was once, and for the present, a sleepy, quiet neighborhood. When I went back to church, I was hoping some of those people might have found the church, but that discovery is still to happen.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Tom Reese's eBook

NCR eBook: Caring for Our Common Home

iPad-mockup_laudato-si.jpgA Readers’ Guide and Commentary on Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the Environment
By Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ

Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on the environment has captured the attention of millions of people all over the world. One of the most important documents of this century, the encyclical puts the Catholic Church firmly behind the environmental movement, calling the world to a conversion that will have a huge impact on how we live, how our economy works, and how governments operate.

National Catholic Reporter Senior Analyst Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ provides an introduction, thoughtful questions, in-depth analysis and prompts for discussion.

Available from these eBook sellers:
iPad-mockup_inside_laudato-si.jpgTable of Contents:
The Encyclical’s Introduction
Chapter 1 “What is happening to our common home?”
Commentary - Pope Francis says ‘Facts are more important than ideas’
Chapter 2 “The Gospel of creation”
Commentary: Revelation and creation, respecting and sharing God’s gift
Chapter 3 The human roots of the ecological crisis
Commentary: Francis’ equation: Technology + greed = disaster
Chapter 4 Integral ecology
Commentary: Everything is connected
Chapter 5 Lines of approach and action
Commentary: Saving the environment through dialogue and transparency
Chapter 6 Ecological education and spirituality
Commentary: The path to change is environmental education and spirituality
About the Author:
Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. He writes weekly onNCR's Faith and Justice blog. Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasReeseSJ.