Sunday, May 20, 2018

Doctor-Patient Relationship

Did not have a Mass on this Pentecost Sunday.  It seemed reasonable to post this and a link to the article in today's (20 May 2018) NY Times Magazine.  The link is at the bottom of my thoughts on the doctor-patien t relationship.  

The Doctor-Patient Relationship. 
Canadian physician William Osler is quoted to have said, "Listen to the patient, he is telling you what's wrong with him." My dad, Temple Medical class of '31, never tired of reminding of that quote as recently as a few months before his death at the end of my junior year at Temple Med. We both went to Penn State too but that is a topic for another time.
One of the gifts of the ten years I spent in Plymouth doing primary internal medicine was forming relationships with patients, many of whom had been my dad's, and others of whom were new to my practice. I worked almost entirely with the elderly. Having grown up in Plymouth I'd known many of the people who came into the office most of my life. Perhaps the most anxiety producing patient visits during the first year were former high school teachers and other authority figures from my youth. The tables had turned. I got used to it. I think they did as well. 
Listening to a patient entails much more than just the words. One cannot get the same information if an assistant of some sort takes the history or if it is filled out by checking boxes. Check boxes are great for a quick screen or to highlight topics for further discussion, but they are not, should not, and must not, be the sole form of history gathering. Besides listening one must look. An exam should begin from the moment the patient walks into the room to the moment he or she disappears from view. What is the patient's expression while describing the symptoms? Are there any particular movements? Very early during my internist years a patient strode into my office without an appointment (family friend), stood in front of the desk, and said, "Every time I go up the steps I get 'bursitis.'" With that he rubbed his open hand over his shoulder muscles. Bursitis doesn't act that way. Several questions later and a focused exam which revealed no abnormal findings I set him up to see a cardiologist the next day. His complaint along with the motion he made with his hand screamed angina. He had a cardiac catheterization two days later. The disease was so severe he was taken directly from the cath lab to the OR for bypass surgery. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. It was the listening and the watching that gave the critical clue.
When there is a doctor-patient relationship it is both easier and harder to give bad news, to pronounce someone dead, or to make a diagnosis. There is also a greater degree of joy when the diagnostic test is negative for cancer. Under the best of circumstances, the doc can begin to sense when something is wrong with a given patient that he or she may not realize. I will always remember the day a patient walked into the office. I saw her more or less every two or three months to follow a number of minor problems as well as to assuage her hypochondriacal tendencies. She came in two months after her previous appointment and croaked a greeting with a gravelly voice that sounded nothing at all like her. I'd heard that type of voice before. Severely underactive thyroid. It took a while to get the medication stabilized but her voice came back to normal and remained that way for the following six years that I stayed in the office. 
There are many stories like that, some funny and some tragic. All of them emerged from the doctor-patient relationship, a relationship that is seriously impaired by insurance companies, the computerized medical record, the presence of "transcribers" and other factors. A relationship cannot develop in quick visits of six minutes (if the insurance company is being generous). A relationship cannot develop with a cast of physicians that changes daily when a different cardiologist makes rounds on the group's patients each day. Sometimes one learns a lot simply taking the patient's blood pressure while he or she is seated at the desk.
I've been a priest for eleven years. Looking back there were times the office served as a confessional--not a sacramental one to be sure, but a place where the patient could unburden himself or herself. I learned some things about people I wish I'd never had to learn and carry around for the rest of my life. Such is the function of the doctor-patient relationship. Other times the "confessional" dimension allowed us to define some problems and figure out how to work them out. 
The New York Times Magazine article attached here gets it mostly right. There is an interesting sentence by the author that summarizes a lot: "On a Monday morning in August 2016, I went on hospital rounds with Krishnamoorthi, as he performed the same duties a hospitalist would with one key difference: He already knew the patients." Significantly, though unmentioned, the patient already knew the physician. Important on both sides.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/16/magazine/health-issue-reinvention-of-primary-care-delivery.html?smid=fb-share
________________________________________________________________
Below are some photos I took in Slovenia considering the questions of solitude.  Will not comment on each on as per usual.  I miss the opportunity to wander around in a city alone at night while carrying expensive camera equipment without a hint of anxiety or fear.  
There is no way I would walk around my small home town in northeastern PA at night with a camera.  Not too keen about doing it during the day either.  










+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Solemnity of the Ascension

Back in December we were taking our leave of others with the words, Merry Christmas, or Blessed Christmas, or the sooooo politically correct, government, and university approved, Have a Happy Holiday.  Forty days ago we wished others a Happy and Blessed Easter.  What about the Solemnity of the Ascension? I’ve yet to see a card celebrating the Ascension or hear any kind of greeting.   

There is something odd about how the arc of what is called “the glorification event”--the trajectory of Jesus' life--has been disrupted.  The glorification event is comprised of Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven.  None of these moments in Jesus’ life happened in a vacuum, in splendid isolation, or unrelated to the others. No event in Jesus' life can stand alone. 

Jesus’ birth is the most problematic when it comes to standing alone.  Too many isolate Jesus’ birth from all that followed, and indeed, from all that preceded it. Christmas is not a stand-alone episode.  Were it not for the events of Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and the Ascension, what we call “the Christmas Story” would make no sense. It would be nothing more than a charming story featuring a cute kid, a story without meaning or relevance, if there were any story at all.  Hammarskjold wrote a haiku that I quote frequently.  It is a perfect synopsis of the arc of Jesus' life, from birth to passion and death, using only seventeen syllables.   

"On Christmas Eve, Good Friday
was foretold them
in a trumpet fanfare"

Similarly, Jesus’ resurrection and ascension are of a piece.  The late Jesuit Father Stanley Marrow put it well when he wrote, "We must beware of isolating discrete moments in what is one continuous event in the revelation of God.  He who is born of Mary is he who dies on the cross, is he who rises from the dead, returns to the Father who sent him, and sends his Holy Spirit on all who confess him as Lord and Son of God.”  

The Easter Season will end in ten days with the Feast of Pentecost.  The Church will return to ordinary time. Ordinary time will continue throughout the spring, summer, and most of autumn. It will end on 2 December 2018 when we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent and prepare to recall and experience the glorification event—Jesus’ birth, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension—yet again.  

May you all have a Happy Ascension Thursday and receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost with great joy. 
_______________________________________________

Oftentimes on Solemnities and Feast Days rather than preaching on the readings I will focus on the solemnity or feast.  The Boston Archdiocese is one of the few in the U.S. that continues to celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension on Thursday rather than transposing it to Sunday.  Thus, I celebrated this morning at St. Patrick Manor.  

I was at the charterhouse over the weekend.  Had a lot of time on Sunday and less so other days to shoot.  Still getting adapted to the new camera.  One of the older lenses is balky and a bit unpredictable.  Is getting better but there is still some work to be done. 

The books in place for the night office.

The large crucifix in the small visitor's chapel.  Very dramatic angles for shooting.  Can't decide if I prefer the black and white or the color. 


 One of my favorite decorating accents, though it is quite outdated by current standards, is glass block.  There is a small glass block window.  The hall in which I was standing was dark and very narrow.  The room it overlooks is quite large and fairly bright.  

 A set of weathered stairs. 

Three small stained glass windows in the back of the church.  They are embedded in a gray concrete wall.

 One of the lakes at sunset.

A red dock with a fishing pole at the ready.  Needed:  One worm.

Birch trees.  Love 'em. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ

Metropolitan Museum and Sacrilege

Saw the New York Times photos from the Metropolitan Gala do over the weekend.  Read some of the swooning over a purported meeting between faith and fashion.  Travesty meets titillation is a more accurate description.  The cooperation of the Vatican in loaning vestments, miters, and so on is perplexing. Are there those over in Rome who are so f'ing desperate to seem hip that cooperating in sacrilege is a reasonable option?  

The photos included here are a far cry from the grotesqueries of the red carpet at the Met. I took them in a monastic sacristy over the weekend. Fashionable?  Probably not by the standards of the pathetic crowd that pranced the red carpet.  Faith? Not in and of themselves as pieces of variously cut fabrics.  They are, however, conduits to a deeper experience of faith through the liturgy for which they are worn, the only proper place and time to wear them.  (Both photos below were taken over the weekend that this travesty was put on.  I was at a monastery at the time giving some conferences.  The top photo shows the vestments prepared for the conventual Mass on Sunday.  Mine are the ones on the back table on the extreme right.  The second photo is the vestments I wore.  My amice, alb, and cincture with the rest supplied by the community.)




Each of the vestments a priest puts on is associated with a vesting prayer meant to remind him fundamental truths and desires.  Many religious who continue to wear the habit, also repeat specific prayers as they put on the various parts of that habit in the morning. 

The whole process of vesting begins with the washing of hands while repeating a prayer that begins, "Give virtue to my hands . . . . "

The amice, a rectangular cloth with cords at two corners and a cross embroidered on the middle upper part, is kissed, touched to the back of the head, and then draped over the shoulders.  The long cords are wrapped around the midsection and tied at the waist.
The accompanying prayer begins, "Place upon me O Lord, the helmet of salvation . . ."   

The long white alb that extends to the floor is put on with a prayer that begins, "Make me pure O Lord, and cleanse my heart . . . " 

The cincture is a long to very long (the one I'm currently using is very very long) white cord that is knotted or has tassels at the end. As the priest puts it on he begins, "Gird me O Lord, with the cincture of purity . . . "

The stole is distinct to the ordained minister.  A priest wears the stole draped behind his neck and over both shoulders, the deacon's stole is draped over his right shoulder, across the chest, and is joined at the left hip.  The color may vary with the liturgical season though white is always an option. The stole is put on with a prayer that begins, "Lord, restore the stole of immortality . . . "

Oftentimes the priest's cincture is not tied around the waist until after the stole is put on.  The cincture can then be wrapped and tied in such a way that the long stole is contained closer to the body.   On one occasion at a funeral in the Slovenian mountains the cincture prevented my stole from taking wing in a brutally cold wind.

Finally, the chasuble, the large garment put over the head and draped over the entire upper body, sometimes almost grazing the floor.  The full prayer that accompanies vesting with the chasuble is: "O Lord, who has said, "My yoke is sweet and My burden light," grant that I may so carry it as to merit Thy grace."  Any decoration should be subtle and enhance the visual experience of liturgy.  One of the men at the Trappist Abbey in Spencer, MA explained that that they generally avoid figurative decorations as the vestment should be allowed to speak for itself.  Would that all vestment makers hewed to this philosophy.

And no, though the abuse is common, the stole is not to be worn over the chasuble.  

The party at the Met was, in the end, an exercise in silliness, worthy perhaps of a ten- year old at Halloween, but not much beyond that. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Memorial Mass

Wis 3:1-6,9
1 Cor 15:20-26
Jn 12:23-28

The sonnet begins with a challenge directed at death as if it were a person:

"Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so . . . "

The sonnet ends ten short lines later with gentle reassurance and a sense of hope directed to those who are dying and to those who survive and must go on.

"One short sleep past, we wake eternally, 
And death shall be no more, death, thou shalt die."

In his tenth holy sonnet, the 17thcentury Anglican priest and poet John Donne, tells the personification of death that he thinks very little of its reputation or its power. 

We heard in Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, "For as by a man came death by a man came also the resurrection.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive."

A few verses later we read Paul's declaration, "The last enemy to be destroyed is death."  It was these words that allowed Donne to end his sonnet as he did, 

"And death shall be no more, 
Death thou shalt die." 

A quiet moment.  A slight pause.  And it is done.

In an especial way during the Easter season, we are reminded of the significance of Jesus' life, the destruction of death and its power. Death no longer holds sway over us. Through his loving self-surrender Jesus vanquished the hold that death exerted over us for eons. He destroyed it so that it never can, and never will, exert that power again. 

We heard in the Gospel just proclaimed: "Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be." This is our task and our mandate, to serve and follow Jesus, who freed us from the thrall of death. Only because of Jesus' saving act could Donne admonish: "Death, be not proud."

Jesus victory over death does not mean that we will not die.  Dying can never be avoided. Even though we can sometimes postpone it for many years, we all die. But, we do not have to submit to death. We never have to submit to the nihilism of the pseudo-sophisticate who sniffs that death is nothing more than returning to the food chain.  That is true only if one chooses to consciously and intentionally reject the promise of Jesus' redeeming act. That act of rejection requires great effort and determination. 

There are many challenges for those of us who must go on after the death of someone we love. The greatest of those challenges is grieving. Grief is never easy. It is never quick. Grief never reaches so-called 'closure,' one of the most bizarre and phony concepts ever forced down the throats of a gullible public. 

The first reading reinforces Donne's sonnet when it proclaims:  "The souls of the just are in the hands of God and no torment shall touch them."

We heard in the Gospel that was just proclaimed:  "Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be."  This is our task, this is our mandate, to serve and follow Jesus, who freed us from the thrall of death.  Only because of Jesus' saving act could Donne admonish: "Death, be not proud."

The words of the readings are a source of some consolation.  But that consolation can only be partial. The words can never fully ease the pain of the broken hearted, they cannot answer the questions of those who wonder how to go on after the death of a spouse, a child, a parent, sibling, or friend.  

Grieving is the most solitary and isolating of all human experiences.  Grief is the great leveler.  It brings both the peasant and the dictator to his knees in pain, rage, and sorrow.  Grieving sets off an insatiable hunger in the poor man as well as in the wealthy gourmand.  Grief brings all of us to our knees, sometimes in prayer and oftentimes, perhaps most often, in pain.  It is an uncharted course through a wide variety of emotions.  

No writer ever described the grief better than C.S. Lewis did in the opening sentence of the small diary he kept after his wife's death. It is titled, A Grief Observed.  “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.  I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.  The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning." 

Grieving takes time. It takes energy.  It takes more than the week or two, or the maximum couple of months, that American society insists it should.  With time a loved one's death becomes part of a new reality.  Coming to that new reality compels new ways of living for all who survive.  

As we grieve we are called to pray:

Requiem aeternam 
dona eis, Domine, 
et lux perpetua luceat eis. 
Requiescant in pace. 

"Eternal rest 
grant unto them O Lord, 
and let perpetual light shine upon them. 
May their souls and the souls of the faithful departed
rest in peace."

Amen.

 __________________________________________

In about 12 hours I will give this homily at the monthly memorial Mass for those who died the previous month at St. Patrick Manor, a 325 bed nursing home run by the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm.  It is always a difficult task.  Many recently bereaved family members are in attendance.  I'm not scheduled for Mass on Sunday.  After the past week of massive amounts of travel I will appreciate the time off.  

Photos were taken halfway up Mt. Equinox in Arlington, VT.  Still winter up there.  The background for the first and third shots is ice on Lake Madeleine.  I suspect it is all gone as a result of the warm temps on Monday and a lot of rain over the next two days; including during the drive home.  




+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD









Monday, April 23, 2018

Vocation Sunday

4th Sunday of Easter 
22 April 2018
55thDay of Prayer for Vocations

For the past 55 years the Church has designated the Fourth Sunday of Easter, as the Day of Prayer for Vocations, to the vowed religious life and to the priesthood. I look forward to this Sunday annually. It presents an opportunity to recall my own vocation journey, to consider the vocations of friends, and to encourage other young, and even middle-aged, men and women to be open to vocations to the religious life as nuns, brothers, and priests.    

The word vocation derives from the Latin root: Voco, vocare, vocatus.  To call. To name.  To summon.  To invite. To challenge.  Every vocation story, every description of what brought a man or woman to a particular order, congregation, monastery, or diocese taps into the different meanings of these words.  We spend the rest of our lives parsing those meanings. 

I arrived in Sydney, Australia on 10 January 2011 to begin tertianship, the last thing a Jesuit does before he pronounces final vows.  There were twelve of us including: 

A Belgian professor of canon law in Rome.  
A Korean Jesuit who became Catholic in high school and entered after college.  
A Vietnamese man who escaped to Germany and entered there.  
An American physics professor who was also a Penn State grad. 

So as to get to know each other we shared our vocation stories in great detail. Aspects of the individual stories were unique.  But the stories shared certain characteristics.  These included, a persistent sense of being called . . . even when we tried to ignore it, the anxiety upon beginning the application process, and the challenges of the two years as novices.  We all talked about the importance of prayer, the critical role of the Eucharist, the need for contemplation, and, ultimately, a willingness to say, 'Yes, I will follow you.'

One of my friends, a cloistered Benedictine nun, wrote with great insight about what a vocation is well after she entered the monastery. “Many people don't understand the difference between a vocation and your own idea about something.  A vocation is a call – one you don't necessarily want. The only thing I ever wanted to be was an actress.  But I was called by God.”

Shehadbeen an actress. A young, beautiful, successful, and increasingly busy actress.  Ten movies in five years.  But when Dolores Hart walked through the cloister door at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, CT in 1963, where she is now Mother Dolores, it was years before she appeared in public again.  She celebrated 50 years of monastic profession in September of 2016. I chatted with her this past Holy Saturday after celebrating the Vigil Mass at the Abbey.  At 78 she remains chatty, witty, sharp, and happy. She was truly called by God.  

As was Chase Hilgenbrinck, now Fr. Chase Hilgenbrinck, who, after playing pro soccer first in Chile and then with the New England Revolution in Boston, left pro sports behind to enter the seminary.  He is now a priest in the Diocese of Peoria, currently assigned as Newman Center chaplain at the University of Illinois.  

After considering what a vocation is we must ask, 'How do we encourage and nurture vocations, particularly in a sadly secular and increasingly amoral American society?' The single most important element, besides praying for vocations, is asking.  It is critical that someone ask.  It may be a parent or grandparent who sees something or a friend who recognizes a spark.  It may be another religious or priest. Someone needs to ask. 

I'd been considering the Jesuits for two years. No one knew.  On the Friday before Thanksgiving 1992, George Murray, SJ, MD under whom I was a psychiatry fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital, didn't feel like rounding.  The other fellow was away.  It was just the two of us.  He suggested coffee. As we sipped it he cleared his throat and stammered: "There is something I have to ask. You don't have to answer but I have to ask.  Have you ever considered becoming a priest?  Have you thought about the Jesuits?  Have you given up on the idea?"  The rest is history.  I entered in 1997, three days before turning 48. He vested me as a priest ten years later. I celebrated his funeral Mass six weeks after he witnessed my final vows in 2013.

In 2002, I took a young Taiwanese friend, a grad student at Georgetown, to lunch. There was a reason. While driving home I asked the same questions George asked me.  What I didn't realize beforehand was that asking a man about becoming a Jesuit included the dry mouth, sweaty palms, butterflies-in-the-stomach and stammering that recalled asking for a date to the junior prom at PHS.   He was thinking about it.  No one knew. We talked for 2 1/2 hours.  He entered as soon as he got his green card. I didn't even try to hide the tears as he pronounced his vows a few years ago. 

The prayer and support of family and friends is crucial.  Many of us have stories of ruptured friendships or broken family ties because someone didn’t understand or accept the decision to enter religious life or the seminary.  We've all been bullied with arguments about throwing our lives away, wasting our educations, or the ever-popular whine, “But you would be such a good father, or "You would be an awesome mother.”

The arguments don't dissuade. They don't convince. They disappoint. They hurt. 

They hurt a lot. 

What I ask of you today is to encourage others to consider life in a religious order or congregation. Don't insult or devalue a decision to say yes to a vocation.  Say something like "That's great. Tell me more about it."   The other request is to pray that young men and women will say, with Mary our Mother, 

"Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum."
“May it be done unto me according to your word.”

And, finally, as I am a shameless opportunist, if you know any young man wondering about becoming a Jesuit, he can call me at any time.  And, I'm on Facebook.  Send a PM.

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Was in PA for a quick trip over the weekend.  Planned to post this last night.  However, by the time I got back the concept of exhaustion had taken on a whole new meaning.  Could barely move.  

The photos below are from the Boston Marathon last week.  The weather was beyond ugly.  It was the slowest marathon in forty years.  Many elite runners dropped out along the way.  The temperatures were in the high thirties to low forties.  The wind was hitting 25 mph.  It was a headwind.  And the rain varied between gentle and downpour.  Wretched running weather.  The only reason I got the photos was the proximity of our community to the course:  one block.  Was out there for much of three hours but that was it.  See last photo.  It was pouring.  Went back to house and up to bathroom.  Five layers of clothing did not prevent getting soaked to the skin.  It was worth it.  

BC is just below the crest of 'Heartbreak Hill."  This inflated sign was a challenge given the wind. 

BC is 5 1/4 miles from the finish of the 26 1/4 mile race.

The wheelchair racers begin earlier and finish in under two hours.  I can't imagine the challenge of figuring out what is a puddle and what is a pothole. 

The elite men were behind this truck.  Not a good photo technically.  As I was using the camera under a "rain bonnet" made of plastic bag and rubber bands, I couldn't necessarily see what I was doing with the buttons.  Changed autofocus to manual.  Had many photos out of focus until I figured out the problem. 

 Hundreds of paper cups on the ground.  This was well before the hoi polloi that made up the bulk of the 30,000k runners came by.  They would present quite a hazard on wet pavement. 

 I can't imagine being cold, hungry, thirsty, and having 5 1/4 miles to go.  

 A representative of the Navy. 

These three Army guys were enjoying themselves, waving, laughing, high-fiving. . . . 
Not sure I would want to run a marathon in combat boots. 

The volunteers who hand out the water are unsung.  And they hung in there for hours. 

It was getting ugly as a band of heavy rain was moving through. 

A man after my own heart who wears a proper fitted baseball cap rather than those silly things that are adjustable in the back.  Not much of a baseball hat wearer in the first place but the two I have (with Penn State on them, no surprise I'm sure) are fitted. 

It was starting to get real ugly with the rain at this point. 

Real ugly. 

And then I said:  "I'm done." 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Sunday, April 8, 2018

2nd Sunday of Easter

2nd Sunday of Easter 
Acts 4:32-35
Ps 118
1 Jn 5:1-6
Jn 20:19-31

When preaching on this Second Sunday of Easter it is tempting to focus on Thomas, or Doubting Thomas, as he is colloquially known.  However, focusing on Thomas--to say nothing of his putative doubt--would miss deeper meanings found in today's readings. The Gospel is not about doubt.  It is about faith, as are the other readings.    

Faith is not the opposite of doubt. Faith and doubt are complementary.  Faith and doubt are interdependent.  Neither could exist without the other.  Mature faith must always contend with a degree of doubt, sometimes more and sometimes not so much.  But faith, as it matures, must struggle with or pass through, periods of doubt if not angry denial. 

Many of the first readings in the Easter Season are from Acts of the Apostles, a book written by Luke the Evangelist.  While lacking the magnificent prayers of his Gospel, Acts describes the earliest days of the Church, the first gatherings of the faithful, and the first ministries of the apostles.  Acts of the Apostles is our history as a Church and as a people.  It is our spiritual genealogy.  

In the first reading we hear how "the community of believers was of one heart and mind," living in a manner that sounds almost idyllic and marked by sharing of resources. As the days go by we will learn that the ideal did not continue without problems, conflict, anger, disagreement, disaffection, and desertion. One would expect nothing else as the Church, then and now, is made up exclusively of imperfect human beings who are nonetheless loved by God.  A short term for the phenomenon is sinners.  Once we become too convinced of our fundamental goodness or rightness we are on a slippery slope to conflict.  Quite a bit of conflict marked the early Church.  At times that conflict was necessary to her development, growth, and maturation.  

The reading from the First letter of John and John's Gospel are about faith.  The second reading presents the problem that each verse could be the basis for a homily on faith.  "And the victory that conquers the world is our faith."  So it does. 

We must ask ourselves if our faith depends on signs and wonders, miracles, and prayers granted in the way we want them granted. Does our faith exist only in good times?  This of course brings up the fundamental question. What is faith? 

The Letter to the Hebrews gives a definition of faith that is unsurpassed for brevity and accuracy: “Now faith is the conviction of things not seen.”  In his Letter to the Romans Paul reminds us that “Faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes by the preaching of Jesus Christ.”  That preaching of Jesus Christ does not come to us only in oral form, as it did during the Sermon on the Mount, the discourses in John’s Gospel, or Jesus' private discussions with the Twelve.  Jesus’ preaching comes to us in scripture, it comes through the tradition of the Church. It is manifest most perfectly in the Eucharist and the prayers of the Mass.  

The apostles and other disciples did not grasp the reality of Jesus’ resurrection immediately afterwards despite Jesus having foretold all that would happen.  Mary Magdalene did not recognize Jesus at the empty tomb. The disciples on the road to Emmaus were clueless about the man who joined them during their sad walk, recognizing Jesus only in the breaking of the bread.  Today's Gospel tempts us to use Thomas as an exampleagainst whom to compare ourselves in a self-righteous manner, as in, "Well, I never would have doubted." 

This particular Gospel passage ends with Jesus asking a question--“Have you believed because you have seen me?"--and pronouncing a blessing--"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”  It is for the latter group, those who have not seen and yet believe, it is for us, that the Gospel was written.  

The gospels were not meant to be--and most decidedly are not-- albums of verbal snapshots. They were not meant to depict and record every episode from Jesus' life.  There are not video clips anywhere.  The gospels are not a log-book that traces Jesus daily movements nor are they a diary of Jesus’ day-to-day thoughts.  The gospels are definitely not history in the modern understanding of the word.   Any attempt to read the gospels through the lens of modern historiography, any attempt to limn the "historical Jesus," is doomed to failure.  We can never interpret the gospels in the light of the modern concept of journalism--whatever journalism means today--without frustration and ultimate faithlessness.  The less said about "Historical Biblical Novels" such as The DaVinci Code the better.  One learns little about Jesus from these sad self-aggrandizing attempts but a great deal about the writer.  The current embarrassing and appalling so-called theologian at the College of the Holy Cross is a useful illustration. 

The last sentences of today's Gospel puts all the fatuous attempts to reconstruct some sort of historical Jesus according to modern norms and desires into perspective. “Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in His name.” 

The Gospel proclaims one essential truth: that Jesus of Nazareth of whom it speaks is the Lord. Thus, the complete fullness of Easter joy is contained in Thomas’ startled, doubt-free, faith-filled, and ultimately joyous proclamation:  "My Lord and My God." 

That one essential truth is why we too can gaze upon the Body and Blood of Christ present on this altar and say, “My Lord and My God.”  

"Give thanks to the Lord, 
for He is good, 
His love is everlasting."
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Some photos from Holy Week at the Abbey.  Was staying in a different house than usual along with another priest.  Great house with many photographic opportunities.  Built sometime in the 1800s but I don't know when.   This is the kind of setting made for black and white conversion.  One of the great things with digital photography is the ability to shoot in color and convert into black and white.  As I shoot almost exclusively in RAW, resulting in very large files and no loss of data, all the photos are in color.  However, upon clicking the black and white option in processing and then playing with light, shadow, and filters, the results are very good.  I love black and white photography and looking and black and white photos.  Without the distraction of color one can focus on other characteristics such as the interplay of light and shadow, shape, texture, and other attributes of the photo.  Another advantage is that in certain conditions, and this house had them, it is easier to work with black and white than color.  Any manipulations to the color versions results in some unnatural looks to the furniture.  The various lighting sources play a major role.  

The time at the Abbey was deeply consoling though also physically exhausting.  I celebrated Palm Sunday and the Triduum, and concelebrated the other Masses.  The traffic home was not too bad but was getting very heavy.  Having given up alcohol for Lent I drove directly to the Jesuit residence, grabbed a sandwich and two beers.  I needed nothing more for the afternoon.  

The main room of the house.  The floors are wide-plank.  There is a fireplace.  As I don't do fires on the hearth it stayed cold and I wore an extra sweatshirt of two.  

Shot this through the music stand of the piano. 

Who of my generation could look at the guts of a piano and not be reminded of the classic Tom and Jerry cartoon featuring Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody #2? 

A very comfortable chair for morning and evening meditation. 

The interplay of light, shadow, shape and texture drew me to this.  It is also the kind of photo that a non-photographer companion might find inexplicable as in "Why in the hell are you taking a dozen pictures of THAT?"

The entrance to the farmhouse.  I posted this on a photography site.  At least two members who responded named it the freezer door.  It is the back door to the house. 

 Two studies of light.  The first is the paschal candle, all fifteen pounds of it, in the sacristy at the church awaiting the blessing and lighting at the Saturday vigil.  The second is three sources of light in the house: the small clip-on halogen nightlight seen only in its light, the candle and the kerosene lamp.  


The sheer curtains in my bathroom.  It had a free-standing claw-foot tub.  I've seen people go nuts over claw-foot tubs, screeching how badly one is needed for the master bath.  Don't.  Getting out of them when wet and the bottom is soapy is not easy. 

Outdoors by the car and pond.  Looking straight up.  Am still trying to learn the new camera, particularly metering.  It is coming along.  Took multiple shots of this in an attempt to see what worked best.  

Have a Blessed Easter Season. 
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD