Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hittin' the Highway

I pick up a rental car tomorrow to transport the things that are too delicate for the van or things needed when I get to Campion.  The movers come on Saturday and Sam and I leave on Sunday (weather permitting, I hate the weather uncertainty of this time of year).

As I survey the carnage in my room it is easy to understand hoarders.  At a certain point the temptation to give up on cleaning up the mess becomes very strong.  I was ready to throw in the towel this morning and simply adapt to the squalor.  There is no food anywhere in the mess but the only way to get around is to follow paths.  The filing cabinet, dresser, closets, and desk are empty.  The top of the desk is chaos as are a few of the corners (no photos included).  I'll get done but certainly won't enjoy it.

Attached are some photos, all but one of them of Campion Center from my visit earlier this year. It will be a wonderful place to take many photos in various lighting conditions and seasons (outdoors).  I will be buying a flash unit and I hope stronger tripod once settled there.

The only non-Campion photo is from the Saturday Flower Market in Taipei.  I wanted one of these "water features" but there was no way to transport it.
The dome of Campion Center (aka Weston-in-the-Woods).  We entered on Sunday 24 August 1997 and went to Campion on Thursday for the first probation.  I decided to go running that day and promptly got lost in the surrounding fields.  Finally, after about two miles of gradually increasing anxiety, the dome popped into view.  I simply ran toward it.
Beneath the dome is a four story rotunda.  The acoustics here and in the chapel are fantastic.  The group Anonymous 4, a quartet of women who recorded medieval polyphonic chant that had quite a ride on the classical charts, recorded their first three albums in the chapel (see the liner notes).
This is a view of the chapel from under the dome.  I've heard a few sacred concerts here.  One of the problems with the house is that if you sneeze under the rotunda someone three floors away yells God Bless You.
This is one of the candelabra chandeliers taken from one of the two lofts in the chapel.
Finally one of the "vest pocket" chapels tucked into the stair landing set up for a private Mass.
Next entries will come from Campion.

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Death, A Homily, and Some Photos

The e-mail had more of an impact on my gradually awakening state than the third mug of coffee that was steaming between my hands.  Stanley Marrow, SJ, Professor Scripture at Weston Jesuit School of Theology, had died a few hours earlier at Mass General.  I met Stanley several years before I entered.  He was Iraqi who went to Boston College to study chemistry but then entered the New England Province and became a beloved and fantastic professor New Testament.  Not everyone's cup of tea, Stanley was  my pot of coffee.  He was a mesmerizing teacher; I took five courses with him during the years of theology.  He was the consummate Old World gentleman who wrote "thank you" at the end of every exam paper he graded.  I was excited at the prospect of lunching with him regularly once I moved to Campion Center in eight days.  As it is I will go to Campion a few days earlier than planned so as to concelebrate his funeral.

A few weeks before I entered the Society in August 1997 I took Stanley and George Murray, SJ, MD, who trained me as a consult psychiatrist at Mass General, to the Rialto Restaurant in the Charles Hotel for dinner.  Not being constrained by the vow of poverty I dropped a bundle on dinner, after making sure they understood that the meal was my treat.  Afterwards we repaired to Stanley's quarters to sip on some Benedictine and Brandy.  Stanley and George took great delight in sharing French limericks with me.  I don't speak French.  None of us noticed.  Thinking  back on that night I still feel like the little kid who, after a great day says, "This was the very best day in my whole life."

I celebrated the community Mass this afternoon and will do so again tomorrow for the last time.  Sunday I will head to Plymouth and then to Boston on Monday for the funeral on either Tuesday or Thursday, depending on when his nephews and nieces can come over from Europe.

6th Tuesday in Ordinary Time
16 February 2010
Jas 1:12-18
Ps 94
Mk 8:14-21

It is consoling to read in commentaries that this particular Gospel passage is “one of the most enigmatic in Mark’s Gospel.”  What does Jesus mean by his words and his harsh criticism of his disciples? 

One of the more unfortunate indoor sports in church circles is apostle-bashing; sneering at how they didn’t get it; condescending because they, and particularly Peter, frequently failed to grasp who Jesus was.  Apostle bashers positively wallow in pointing out how they seemed so talented at saying and doing the wrong thing.  The problem with apostle bashing, which generally goes into full swing during Lent, is that it is always done with the underlying assumption by the basher that I would have recognized who Jesus was; I never would have doubted, questioned, or betrayed him.  Yeah, right. 

Like us, the apostles were called by Jesus. 
Like us, they were sinners loved by God.
Like us, they didn’t fully understand the meaning of their call. 
Like us, the “leaven of the Pharisees and Herod” set off the process described in the first reading, “each person is tempted when lured and enticed by desire.  Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.”

The episode in today’s gospel is one of those moments when, if we are honest, we see our true reflection in the apostles’ stumbling and bumbling humanness.  They are us, and we are them, in our clumsy attempts to understand and respond to this Jesus who called us as surely as He called them. We can feel Jesus’ frustration when he asks, “Do you still not understand?”  How did his voice sound?  What did his face look like?  Did the apostles take a sudden interest in their cuticles with that question?

Do we understand who Jesus is? 
Do we understand what He demands of us?
Do we understand what He did for us?

At midnight, one week from today, Mardi Gras will come to a screeching halt in New Orleans.  And Rio de Janeiro will fall silent as carnaval ends.  One week tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the penitential season of Lent. 

If we listen carefully to the readings and gospels which the Church presents, if we contemplate the mysteries of our faith, spend some extra time with the scriptures, and, particularly as we hear the reading of the Passion during Holy Week, we will have the opportunity to better understand who Jesus is, what He does for us, and to be reminded again that, in the words of the confiteor, like Peter in his denials, like the apostles in their desertion, like Pilate and Caiphas in their sham trials, and like the jeering crowds, I, too,

"have greatly sinned,
through my fault,
through my fault,
through my most grievous fault."

The first is a bunch of Coke bottles in the antique store we visited on the way to Coffin Bay.  I could have stayed there the entire day taking photos. 
The next is the beach at Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia.  This was only the second day in three weeks  that the sun deigned to appear for a few minutes. 
In  the Mekong Delta of Viet Nam I got this photo of my tertian classmate John The, SJ in the doorway of a church with the pastor.  The brass tub serves as a gong. 
The next is Ignatius Hung Wan-liu, SJ closing benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at Sacred Heart Church in Taipei.  I took the shot through the etched glass windows at the back of the church.  
The next is a detail of the pulpit in the Anglican chapel at the University of Melbourne. 
Finally, another color abstraction.  This is the reflection of a pier in the water at Port Lincoln, South Australia.  I took the original shot from a boat.  This is only a small portion of it that was run through Aperture 3 more than once.  
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Monday, February 6, 2012

Miki, Goto and Kisai

Japanese Jesuit Martyrs

Gal 2:19-20
Ps 126:1-6
Mt 28:16-20

We hear in the readings for today's memorial the following, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”  This verse is particularly resonant on the memorial of Sts Paul Miki, John Soan de Goto and James Kisai, the Jesuit martyrs of Japan, who, along with a number of others were executed on this date in 1597.

Paul Miki was from a well-to-do family that converted to Catholicism when he was under six years-old.  He entered a Jesuit-run seminary at the age of 20.  Two years later he requested admission to the novitiate.  He was such an effective disputant against Buddhism that, despite not yet being ordained, he had already preached to great effect in several Japanese cities. He was martyred at the age of 33, several months before he was to be ordained.

John Soan de Goto was born to Catholic parents who had to emigrate from Goto to Nagasaki to escape persecution and to practice their faith.  He was an 18 year-old novice when he was captured.

James Kisai, the eldest at 64 years of age, was born of a pagan family and educated by Buddhists.  He converted at some point and married a convert.  When his wife returned to Buddhism the marriage was dissolved.  He put his son in the care of a Christian family and eventually found himself working for the Jesuits.  The Society recognized how well he knew his faith and made him a catechist. He entered the novitiate as a brother only weeks before he and the two others were captured on 26 December 1596. 

Catholicism had spread rapidly in the 41 years following Jesuit Father Francis Xavier’s arrival in Japan in 1549.  By 1590, however, scattered persecutions began to appear.  By 1596 the situation had turned ugly.  How ugly is described in Shusako Endo’s astonishing and horrifying novel Silence. 

After the Jesuits were captured they, and a group of Franciscan missionaries, were taken 600 miles to Nagasaki, traveling in open horse carts with their hands bound behind their backs.  The trip took four weeks.  Somewhere outside the city a Jesuit priest made contact with the three men.  He heard their confessions and received the perpetual vows of the two novices.  Upon arriving at the hill of crucifixion they sang the Te Deum and embraced the crosses on which they were to die.

While hanging on the cross Goto addressed his father who was in the crowd with the words, “Father, remember the soul’s salvation is to be preferred above everything else.” 

After forgiving his executioners, Miki’s last words, just before two lances were thrust into his chest were, “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” 

The example of these three martyrs and their companions remains relevant today.   Physical crucifixion is more or less out of fashion as a penalty for not hewing to the party line of liberalism and social relativism.  However, there are other forms of crucifixion.  Just as Paul’s words are metaphorical, crucifixion today is a metaphorical one.  It is a crucifixion of words and exclusion, of derision and snarky humor, hostility and sarcasm, rather than the physical nailing of the body to a few pieces of wood. “You’re a what?” “You actually believe in God?” “Haven’t you outgrown being a Catholic?”or, in the memorable words of Carl Sagan to a woman friend who was a Methodist minister, “You’re so smart, how can you believe that nonsense?” (Her reply was something along the lines of, You're so smart how can you not believe in God?)

The crosses on which Miki, Goto, and Kisai were martyred have been replaced by the rejection, hostility, horror and derision of nonbelievers or, even worse, the terminally hip.  This hostility is directed toward those who profess and live their faith when they take a stand against abortion, protest killing the disabled and the sick elderly, exercise an option for the poor or even pray regularly.  The persecutions of the war lords in Japan have not ceased.  Today  religious freedom and freedom of conscience is under concerted attack by a president and government who see abortion, be it by suctioning out the brain of a late-term infant or prescribing "morning after pills" as an unqualified good.  A government that is preparing to compel Catholic physicians, pharmacists, hospitals and nurses to act against their consciences.   

It is always tempting to try to fit in with the hip, the cool, the politically correct,  the edgy, the sophisticated or those desperate to be seen as more than they are.  But to accommodate to them is to devalue and scorn the lives of Miki, Goto, Kisai and their companions. 

To do so is to relinquish our own souls.
The majority of photos on this blog were taken outside the U.S.  However, there are some very good opportunities locally.  During recovery from surgery I spent some time with the camera in a circumscribed area five or six blocks from my room and in the house as well.  

The first is the view from the famous (infamous?) "Exorcist Steps" about three blocks from the house on Prospect St.  These steps are so steep that it is easier to walk up than down.  The Potomac River and Key Bridge are in the background.
It pays to carry a camera.  There is a memorial sculpture of a former G'town professor sitting on a bench with a chessboard.  It is life size.  I was walking on campus the day after Christmas and saw this shot.  Only managed to photos before the squirrel bolted.  The wall in the background separates Georgetown University from the Visitation Monastery.
Georgetown presents wonderful opportunities to be a voyeur.  These are from a house just down one of the "Letter" Streets.  Black and white seemed to work better.   The first is the entrance to a house and the second is a small library. 

Next is a dining table at sunset in the conference room across the hall from my room.  One of the men was having about a dozen people for dinner and a meeting.   Amazing what warm lighting can do to an otherwise pedestrian scene.
Finally some breviaries and other books in my room.  They will soon be packed and moved to Weston.  
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD