Friday, June 29, 2012

Finally Got to Downtown Boston with the Camera

Yesterday I took one of the men who prefers to avoid driving at night to a dinner engagement.  While invited to tag along (I knew several of the guests) I had no desire to attend.  The dinner was at the new hotel added to the old Charles Street Jail adjacent to Massachusetts General Hospital.  The forecast was warm but clear.  We agreed I would drive in, get him to the restaurant, and then return when dinner was over (which was 2 1/2 hours later).  It was great having my parking paid and an ample amount of time to wander along the river down to the Public Garden and then back along Charles Street.  And there was still time for a cup of coffee.

During fellowship at Mass General I took running clothes to work four or five days a week.  Warren Building was fifty yards from a pedestrian bridge from Charles Street to the Charles River Park which led to the Esplanade.  The runs of up to eight miles were great ones, even when the weather wasn't.  Because of some neuromuscular problems I can no longer run despite successful cardiac surgery.  This was a chance to revisit one of my favorite places.

The first is a view of downtown from a different pedestrian bridge leading to the Esplanade.   The tall building is the Hancock.  When it was first built panes of glass were falling out all over the place.  So much for modern engineering.  Years later a tile fell out of the roof of a tunnel from the big dig.  A woman died when the tile crashed into her car.  So much for modern engineering.
This is one of several shots of Community Boating where one can rent small sail boats.  The view of the boats gliding across the water is one of the finest views one can get while walking (or running) across the Longfellow Bridge, aka the "Salt and Pepper Bridge."  The tall building is the Prudential Building or "The Pru" that marks the end of the marathon. It looks as if four metal watchbands were welded together.
This is a shot of the marina near the Longfellow Bridge.  The buildings across the river are in Cambridge.
The same basic view as above with a more wide-angle approach. 
These are some of the upturned boats at Community Boating.  
A runner along the Esplanade.  Twenty years ago when I began fellowship (it will be twenty years on Sunday 1 July) that runner could have been me.  
The iconic swan boats at rest in the pond at the Public Garden.  I spent as much time as I could walking through there over the years.  Boston Common is OK but the Public Garden is one of the most beautiful pieces of public real estate in the U.S.   Very well maintained.
The Hatch Shell is along the Esplanade.  It is being readied for the Boston Pops performance on 4 July.  Don't think about getting a seat on the ground close to the shell unless you are willing to arrive at 7 AM when the barricades are let down.  And you must be prepared to remain in your spot, on a blanket, all day long.  Bring lots and lots of sunscreen.   By the time the fireworks go off approximately 500,000 bodies will be crammed in the area.  Do not take a car.  Walk or use the T.
Church spires from Charles Street at sunset. 
I enjoy taking photos of shop windows.  Antique stores are particularly fertile sources.   This is the window in one of the several antique stores that punctuate Charles Street.  
After walking for 2 1/2 hours my legs were a bit tired and my shutter finger was tender but it was a great evening.  One of these Sundays will drive into the city very early and wander around with the camera. 
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hypocrisy on the 12th Monday in Ordinary Time

Time has been moving way too fast.  This past weekend I'd planned to spend most of the time reading neuropsychiatry and getting some needed continuing medical education credits.  However, yesterday was one of those unpredictable days that began with finding that we could not make outgoing phone calls from the house.  Within house calls were fine but nothing went out.  The problem was due to a lightning strike Saturday evening behind the BC Observatory that adjoins our property.  It seems that some of our phone equipment is routed through computers down there.  It makes not sense but thats how it is.  I spent several hours with the guy from the phone company, the director of the observatory, fire, police, alarm company . . . at one point the parking lot looked like a working day.  we are almost back to being able to make calls.  Perhaps in the next few hours.  

I've added only one photo after the homily today.  

12th Monday in Ordinary Time
25 June 2012
2 Kgs 17:5-8, 13-15a, 16
Ps 60
Mt 7:1-5

Hypocrite, as a singular noun, appears twice in Matthew and once in Luke.  The plural, hypocrites, appears twenty-two times in Matthew, once in Mark and twice in Luke.  Obvious the noun resonates with Matthew.  The association of hypocrite and judgment drives this particular pericope.

Xavier Leon-Dufour notes, "By trying to deceive others, the hypocrite deceives himself and becomes blind, unable to see the light."  Religious hypocrisy is a lie that deceives others in order to win esteem for oneself.  But most garden-variety hypocrisy is also a lie that results in judging others unjustly, or unfairly or without a shred of compassion. 

We judge others constantly.  We must judge others on a daily basis.  In the classroom: is he working up to his full potential?  Did she really write this or is it plagiarized?  Physicians make judgments hourly: is this patient psychotic?  Is this patient really taking his blood pressure medication?  Is this back pain truly incapacitating or is the patient trying to get lifetime disability payments? 

We all judge others when walking down the street.  We have all crossed the street to avoid walking past a certain group, to avoid a panhandler, or to get away from what looks like a threatening and rowdy mob.  We can't NOT judge others.  We can't NOT judge their motives, their actions, or their way of proceeding, if we want to survive on a day-to-day basis, if we want to remain safe. The key point in the reading is the command "remove the wooden beam from your eye first, then . . . " 

Jesuit Father George Murray of this community had a carved wooden sign on the door of the office his consultation psychiatry fellows' used at Massachusetts General.  It read, in Greek, Gnothi Se Auton:  Know thyself.  Only when we know ourselves, our strengths and our weaknesses, only when we are conscious that we are sinners, only then can we avoid the malignant aspect of judging others so as to increase our value in our own eyes.  This is a difficult balancing act.  Yet we must learn it if we are not to fall under the term hypocrite.
I took this about ten days ago.  The rose was laden with water after two days of rain.  It was night with a time exposure using a double flash.  This is as surrealistic as anything I've managed with a camera.  No computer adjustment here.  This is how it came out of the camera.  It was a pleasant surprise.

+ Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Five Years and Counting

Yesterday was five years since I was ordained.  Oddly enough, given the vagaries of the liturgical and secular calendars, 10 June 2007 was also the Feast of Corpus Christi.  Sleep was a lot easier last night than it was five years ago.   I admit to recycling parts of the homily but as the readings are different it is not identical to the one I gave at that first Mass (or last year in Australia).  

Corpus Christi
10 June 2012

Ex 24:3-8
Ps 116
Heb 9:11-15
Mk 14:12-16.22-26

Jesuits are described as contemplatives in action.  Unlike our Trappist brothers who live in monastic cloister and silence contemplating the word of God, we move around a lot.  Were you to have asked my mom how many phone numbers and addresses I had in my early years in the Society she would have laughed.  In the beginning she carefully erased the old one before putting the new one in her address book.  Then she simply scribbled it--in pencil--on an old sticky note figuring that she wouldn't need it for long before another move.

Jerome Nadal noted that the Jesuit’s cloister is the highway.  Our work, oftentimes very mobile work, drives our prayer life and our prayer life, oftentimes entered into while on the move, drives our work.  Overall, action seems to trump contemplation much of the time. 

It is a feast such as this, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, or the Feast of Corpus Christi, that reminds us of the contemplative side of our lives.  This feast pulls us into the contemplative because it doesn’t recall an event. 

Our liturgical calendar is crammed with feasts that recall specific events in the history of salvation. 

The Ascension.
The Annunciation.

These feasts recall specific moments in the history of the world.  We can close our eyes and, with only a little imagination, see the events unfold on an internal movie screen.  They are events with a narrative flow.  There is a story that can be told and retold.  We can, and indeed Ignatian prayer demands, that we place ourselves in the action, that we participate in that history and allow that history to form us.  On Corpus Christi, however, we have to sit back.  In silence.  There is no script.  There is no “story line.”  We are forced to be less active, at least for a bit, and more contemplative. 

What do we contemplate? 

We contemplate the gift of Christ truly and substantially present in the Eucharist.  It is overwhelming to consider that Christ is present in the bread and wine that we receive and in the Eucharist that we adore on the altar. 

For some Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist is a stumbling block.  They can understand symbol. They can understand simile. They can understand metaphor.  They can even understand allusion. But they can’t seem to understand the meaning of real.  It’s a pity. 

We heard in the first reading how the blood of animals was used to ratify the covenant God forged with Moses.  Blood is the ultimate seal on a promise.  How many of us sealed some kind of childhood or adolescent pact with our own blood? 

We hear in the second reading, "He entered once for all into the sanctuary . . . with HIs own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption." 

In the first reading we heard how the people vowed, as Moses sprinkled them with the blood of covenant,  "All that the Lord has said we will heed and do."  Of course we know that things didn't quite work out that way.  Thus Jesus is mediator of the new covenant to deliver us from the transgressions under the first covenant.

Commenting on today's gospel would be an absurd attempt to gild the lily.  We will hear "This is my body . . . This is my blood . . ."  in the words of institution during the consecration.  Listen carefully.

Today we recall the great gift of the Body and Blood of Christ.  Real.  Substantial.  And transubstantial.  With that in mind we can only sit back in stunned silence and gratitude and say with the psalmist:

"I am your servant you have loosed my bonds."
The photos today have neither rhyme nor reason. 
Angles, lines and shadows are fascinating in black and white.  This was somewhere in Australia. 

 A guy running on the beach at Gerroa, NSW Australia.

 A Catholic cemetery in central Taiwan.
How many Jesuits can fit on a surfboard?  Tertian classmates in Gerroa. 
The Pond at Campion Center as per Monet and Aperture 3.
The following five shots are all the same thing, the beach at Gerroa in the evening.  The first is the original while the following four represent what is possible with Aperture 3.  Am going to print the four of these and put them in a quad frame.   The magenta one reminds me of one of the great album covers (remember those?) of all time.  It featured a giraffe on a plain with red and magenta filters over the lens.  The album was (is) Antonio Carlos Jobim "Wave" one of the great jazz albums ever. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Its June Already!

Time has been flying.  The pace at Campion ranges from leisurely to full speed ahead.  I did not expect to make an 800 mile round trip from Wednesday to Friday this past week.  However, that is what I had to do.  Fortunately, I was back here before yesterday's steady and, at times, heavy rains hit.  Am finishing the presentations for a day of recollection titled: I Did Not Forget Thee Jerusalem: Aging, Dementia and Spirituality.

Today is the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity.  Sunday Masses have been moved from the main chapel to the smaller daily Mass chapel in anticipation of the need for air conditioning.  We could have used a bit of heat today but that is another story.   Some summer photos following the homily.

Solemnity of the Holy Trinity
Dt 4:32-34, 39-40
Ps 33
Rom 8:14-17
Mt 28:16-20 

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  This celebration forces us to consider an essential dogma of our faith.  We recall this dogma every time we begin and end Mass.  We invoke the Trinity every time we pray.  We recall the Trinity whenever we say the words Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  What we call the Trinitarian formula was given by Jesus at the end of today’s Gospel.  It is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It is NOT the absurd, gender-free, "politically correct" versions in vogue in certain circles.  The Trinitarian formula is critical to every sacrament from baptism to the anointing of the sick and dying.  The sign of the cross begins and ends everything the Church does. As it should.

We read in The Catechism of the Catholic Church,  “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in Himself.  It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them.  It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the hierarchy of the truths of faith.”

Every time we make the sign of the cross, we recall a mystery that remains ultimately incomprehensible despite the volumes attempting to explain the dynamics within the Trinity.  Each book may contain a small kernel of insight into the nature of the Trinity, but none captures the essence of the Trinity.  The dogma of the Trinity depends on faith.  This begs the question what is faith?  One definition is: “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.”  Another short definition of faith comes from the Letter to the Hebrews:  “Faith is the conviction of things not seen.”  

Both definitions tell us something important about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity; there will never be a logical proof of the dogma of the Trinity that satisfies everyone.  Thus, we must become comfortable with faith at its most mysterious because, despite the absence of logical proof, despite the impossibility of philosophy or science to explain the Trinity, one cannot call oneself Christian if he or she denies the Trinity. 

The word Trinity does not appear in scripture.  Rather, the understanding of the Trinity grew in the early years of the Church as Christian thinkers began to consider what Jesus said and did during His time on earth.  Jesus always speaks of His Father as distinct from Himself.  Yet, He also states that, “I and the Father are One.” The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

We are accustomed to persons being distinct rather than the same.  We have a hard time wrapping our minds around three in one.  We really have a hard time wrapping our minds around the meaning of consubstantial.

Over the past weeks many of the gospels have been taken from the farewell discourse in John’s Gospel Jesus refers to both the Father and the Holy Spirit in reference to Himself several times throughout this farewell.  Ultimately though, the Trinity is, and will remain, a mystery.

The first two photos are proof of the old Boy Scout motto:  Be prepared.  I had the camera in the car.  More critically, the tripod and cable release were in the trunk.  During a stop in Hairy John State Park, one of my favorite state parks, I came across a flock of butterflies.   They were all over the place.  One cluster was trying to create, or so it seemed, a pyramid in a small mud puddle.  Using a 300 mm lens and tripod (no way to hold a camera steady at that kind of magnification) I got these shots.  There are many more where they came from. 

The sun porch at Al and Karen's.  

 Al and Karen's backyard. 

 The "Allen Room" at the Hotel State College.  The quotes are there because it is no longer called the Allen Room.  However, in my mind it will always be the Allen Room.  Very good food.  Splendid views.  And a good bar that I used to frequent back in the day.  The tables in this part of the restaurant overlook the mall leading to Pattee Library.  
These flowering shrubs were at the new Arboretum at Penn State.  I wish I were going to live another 30 years to see it when it is mature.  Approximately 400 acres in the northeast campus (just to the north and west of East Halls) are being developed as an arboretum with formal gardens, fields and forest.  A pavilion at the top of the meadow is already booked for weddings into 2014. 

Finally, two irises in the arboretum.

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD