Thursday, September 6, 2018

My Artist Statement

My name is Jack and I like to paint. I like to be called John too. I like colors, especially orange and blue. I like long shadows and dark values. I like bright colors, pencils, paints, chunks, snow, water, dogs, even cats, my Dutch heritage, family, friends, food, my Italian heritage, chocolate cake, torrone, pizzelles,  frost, a warm breezes, praying, the smell of roasting coffee, reflecting, textured surfaces, choral singing, biking, hiking, camping, listening, cooking, baking, spices, crumpets, cheeses, fresh vegetables, poetry, fashionable hats, shadows, writing, blogging, blowing bubbles, writing poems, cutting grass all day, pushing snow, crunching fall leaves, frolicking in it too, creating most anything, moonlight, stars, dawn, dusk, the setting sun, clouds, the rising sun, praying, and everything in between, glitter, laughter, piano, trumpets, small birds, sleeping, waking, the sound of the ocean, holidays, walking, tropical fruit, oranges, dark chocolate, flying, music, kayaking, photographing, diving boards, a good pencil sharpener, a smooth pen, painting, teaching, learning, helping, listening, boating, contemplating, getting older, sledding, the boardwalk, the beach, the seasons, snow, mountains, deep forests, clowning, museums, herbs, antiques, gardens, sending cards, elbow room, the quiet, silence, meditation, jigsaw puzzles, monasteries, traveling, seeing new things, seeing things news, floating, tools, stretching, gazing, trees, tumbling leaves, rocks, fireplaces, decorating, making you laugh, stained-glass windows, holding your attention, creating wonder, old dictionaries, losing oneself in a book, rain, warmth, my stole, a very large swing attached to an even larger tree, a deep breath, an even deeper breath, a long sustained breath.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Jury Duty; Religious Life


As some of you know, I am serving on a jury trial in Boston this week. The trial will continue next week and possibly even longer. To my dismay, I was called when I was to be on vacation so for the third year in a row, I will not get a break that I need.

I’m also not in a position to preside at two funerals this week. One funeral is for a colleague’s mother and the other is for a childhood friend’s husband. I watch him die last night as he labored to breathe. I kept seeing Christ suspended on the cross unable to gasp for air. Fortunately, for my friend, palliative medicine helped him become comfortable.

I am instructed not to discuss the trial in any way, but I will provide some reflections on the process.

The Call

First of all, I was surprised to be called to jury service. This was my first time ever receiving notice of jury duty. I had been told I would never be called as a priest and I made sure that I spoke about being a Roman Catholic Religious Order priest. Still, prosecution and defense accepted me.

I will write further on the entire process because it is astounding and awe-inspiring.

Nevertheless, I was stunned when I heard that I was accepted. I really was disbelieving. We did hear about the case before we were interviewed as potential jurors and I was relieved because I realized I would not be called. I was wrong.

The Role of the Judge

The judge’s role is fascinating. He is the law. It is his or her job to maintain a respectful, pleasant atmosphere. His job is not to judge the case. His job is to apply the law. The prosecutor has the entire burden to prove the State’s case beyond reasonable doubt, and the defense’s case is easier because the defendant is declared innocent until the jury may decide otherwise.

The Jury is the Judge

The jury’s role is to be fair and impartial and to listen to the two sides of the argument. The jury is to be convinced of the prosecutor’s facts or not be convinced. When it comes time to deliberate, four of the sixteen jurors will be randomly dismissed. Certain points of law will be applied, and the jury will be given instructions.

The function of the jury is not to do research, seek, search for the truth. It is not necessarily to assess guilt. It is to determine if the prosecutor’s proved the case beyond reasonable doubt. The jury is instructed to not include hearsay; we have to suspend our desire to draw conclusions or do additional research. Our job is to hear the case.

A Hearing

The trial is called a hearing because this is the primary role of the jury. The jury does not ask questions or interact with anyone. The jury maintains confidentiality throughout the whole process. We do not talk with each other, except about the weather, break times, or looking forward to the weekend. The jury’s job is merely “to hear” until it is time to deliberate.

Jury Selection

In many ways, jury selection is like discipleship. We are called. We don’t know why. We don’t know why the person next to us was called. We sometimes cannot see any similarities or draw conclusions about the type of persons that we selected. The selection is a mystery.

It is just like religious life. Sometimes we wonder why a certain person was selected. We come from so many diverse backgrounds and yet Christ calls us to the same way of life. Somehow it works.

Equality and Dignity

Every juror has the same dignity. No hierarchy exists. If someone is repeatedly late to service, no one can ask why, and no one can ask that someone try harder to arrive on time. Service depends upon the goodwill of people to honor and respect each other and the common good. We are equal. We take the role seriously. We know it is our honored constitutional civic duty.

Good Table Manners

Just as, in a very basic sense, the Catholic mass is a set of good table manners, the courtroom has a particular set of table manners that is upheld. The presider is respected by the court. Everyone rises when the judge enters or exits the courtroom. Prosecuting and defense attorneys have a particular decorum in the court, always asking permission of the judge to perform certain tasks, such as, “May I approach the witness?,” “May I show the jury this evidence?,” “May I enter this as evidence?” Objections are done according to the discretion of the judge. Good manners are a necessity. It is always kind to use good manners.

As the jury is the judge, the entire courtroom rises when the jurors exit or enter the courtroom. You never see this on television or in the movies.

Biblical Role of the Courtroom

I keep seeing parallels between the Old Testament imagery of legal proceedings and today’s courtroom. God, the just judge, presides over the dispute, and Satan is the adversarial prosecutor that is trying to trip up plaintiff. God is also the jury. Christ, the Advocate, is the defense witness, who declares his defendant’s innocence. This imagery begins with the Book of Job, throughout Hebrew Scripture and Wisdom literature, right up through the Gospel accounts. Christ’s representation will see us through the trial and he has won us eternal life.

The Law versus Mercy

While the legal system has the duty to apply the law and be judged by it, God’s judgment is mercy. Mercy always wins out. It is the defining aspect of Christian life, which is a reason it needs to be given ascendancy. Christians work within the law, but the law of Christ has its primacy. We are freed from the law so we can promote works of mercy.

Onto the Next Week

Monday, September 3, 2018

Changes on Morrissey Boulevard

On Sunday night, I walked by the new UMass Boston dormitories. They appear to be a well-constructed, contemporary set of buildings, and it is terrific to see the Columbia Point area have neighbors. Almost overnight, the character of this part of Dorchester has changed. One thousand and seventy-seven students have been added to the area and they will create a new type of energy. The campus is looking beautiful and I'm sure these students will spend many hours walking the nearby Boulevard that fronts the Atlantic Ocean.

Parents dropped off their children with both pride and concern. It is a big step for many parents who are sending many first-generation students to college. Many students stood in the landing of their floor and waved goodbye to their parents as they left them to get settled before classes begin.

The dormitories complement the work that is done on the boulevard making it a long string of housing from the JFK MBTA stop to the ocean. The land borders what used to be called Columbia Point, but is now called Harborview Apartments, which is a mixed-residential development area. While Columbia Point used to be fenced off, it is now open to the UMass area providing an exchange of pedestrian access.

It leads up to the Ted Kennedy Institute and the JFK Library, plus the new parking area for the Commonwealth Museum, which is a must-see museum because it contains a Massachusetts copy of the U.S. Constitution, plus other foundational documents, and a brief history of rotation topics.

The JFK Library was hopping last night for a wedding that forms a romantic setting overlooking the ocean.

Nearby is a great parcel of land that is soon to be developed. One can sense that it is going to be a large-scaled residential, commercial, and retail development. The Point will not know what hit them.

Across the way from BC High is the former Boston Globe that is being gutted and retrofitted for new light industrial workspace and restaurants. Work is fairly constant, as is change. Each day the area is looking more desirable, and what energy!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Appreciation for Public Transportation

For the past two weeks, I've had to take the subway system into Boston each morning and home during the late afternoon. I am impressed. During rush hour, I've been able to board a train within three to five minutes of my arrival. The trains are standing room only and the passengers are accommodating. The ride along the Red Line for six stops has been efficient and smooth.

The ride home has been equally smooth and efficient. Even in the midst of hot, humid weather, the trains are well air-conditioned and on-time. The city moves people well and the transit system is well-used. A diversity of people ride the subways trains, which are reliable. I am edified to know how well the city works to move people efficiently. Questions remain about how much more growth it can handle, but for the time being, I give the city high marks.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Good Morning

The other day, I boarded Boston's MBTA Red line on my way into the city. The woman announcer starts to speak on the Public Address System. She says something like this:

"Good morning, friends. I hope you are having a good day. It is quite a good day and I wish you blessings, peace, and much happiness. I hope good things come your way today and that you are able to turn to your neighbor and wish them a good morning as well."

People giggled and shook their heads, not in disgust, but in disbelief.

"She continued. We are neighbors and it is always better when we see each other as fellow travelers that we can wish well. Enjoy your day, and greet your neighbor."

She signed off and people laughed. They turned to their neighbors to check their expression and within seconds everyone was talking with each other and laughing.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

A Month in Omaha

A month in Omaha has passed so quickly, and I'm amazed at how much I fit into a short period of time. My time teaching in the Spirituality program at Creighton continues to be rewarding. The class on "Prayer and Christian Spirituality" keeps getting better. Of course, having excellent students makes it that much more enjoyable.

Omaha is a city on the move. The Old Market is expanding northward and westward. Hotels are now lining the blocks near the stadia and performance centers, and the Capitol District is setting itself up to become a prime entertainment destination. The Farmer's Markets in the Old Market have really gained steamed and many patrons visit regularly.

I'm amazed at the amount of construction and renovation that is moving from the Old Market to Mid-Town. The Thursday night music festivals regularly attracts thousands of fans. I would imagine the corridor connecting the two sections of town will be a major boulevard of high-end shops in two to three years. Creighton, likewise, is expanding and filling in the property leading from the school down to the ballparks.

The city has about 400,000 residents with 8 Fortune 500 companies. A lot of money resides in this town, and of course, Warren Buffett continues to live in his modest once-suburban house. Many sections of town are highly desirable: Dundee, Benson, and the western edges of town. Creighton continues to be the big university in the town, though University of Nebraska has a large student enrollment.

St. John Church, a diocesan church run by the Jesuits, is the place to worship. Omaha is a big blue dot in the red state.

I stay with the Jesuits who live in Creighton Hall, the main residence, and Ignatius House, a smaller community of two townhouses. The space is well-designed and it is quite easy to interact with the guys in the community. They are very welcoming and hospitable and I just enjoy my time with them.
I like worshiping with them and having nice meals together.

The Dean of the program where I teach is a good friend, Eileen Burke-Sullivan. She is a good administrator and a wealth of ideas and counsel. She has assembled a good team of teachers and we work diligently at forming a community while we are present.

The students are a nice mixture of priests, sisters, and lay men and women. They are dedicated to the church and they travel internationally to participate in this program. While the CSP is forming hearts and minds, another group called the Institute for Priestly Formation runs a month-long program.

I met many friends in the city and we enjoyed some time together: from visiting a friend's home, to seeing the location of the Cloisters on the Platte and the Holy Family shrine, to eating at famed ice cream places, like Zesto's, Dolci, and Ted and Wally's, to eating burgers at local haunts, visiting artist galleries and museums, to seeing films at Film Streams, and of course, going to the zoo. There's much to do in town, and it is walkable, which I like to do.

I thoroughly enjoyed my students and I was very pleased they were moved by the prayer class. I returned home to Boston today, but there are many people for whom I will pray during this next year. I feel blessed to have run into so many neat people.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Porpoises, Horseshoe Crabs, and the Setting Sun

Life is good. Silence. Stillness. Warm breezes.

For the past two nights, I've gone to sunset beach at the close of day. Mind you, my motives were not pure. The first night, I went because I heard a small store sold Soft Serve Ice Cream with Chocolate Sprinkles on them, but the consequences of the trip were worth it.

Thousands of Horseshoe Crabs line the beach because they go to the shore for feeding and reproduction. They are the most fascinating creatures because of the hard, but not impermeable shell. It is fun to see the waves flip them over and thereby exposing their underbellies, which make them vulnerable to the flocking seagulls. To some, they look beastly and fierce and they will not even hold their non-living skeleton because of fear.

People come to watch the sunset, but they leave far too early. Once the sun disappears over the horizon, people scatter in their cars back to their homes, but they miss the best part. Once the sun sinks below the horizon, it begins to reflect its rays up into the clouds for at least an hour longer. The most brilliant colors appear at this time, but only a small remnant stays to see it. Patience pays off.

Once the sun sets, porpoises begin to crest in the waves. They are large animals and their fins bring excitement to those who are not expecting to see them. Once the sky darkens, the lights of the ferries and other ships make it seem like there is a grand party happening in the ocean. It makes for great photography.

All the while, the seaside cafe churns out dozens of ice creams, hamburgers, Philly Cheesesteaks, and other temptations.

Life is good.