Posts Tagged ‘Loyola High School Los Angeles’


Lent:  A Life-long Pilgrimage

I don’t suppose most people associate Lent with pilgrimage.  On the popular level the indulgence of Mardi Gras is the prelude to Lent.  Then, perhaps out of necessity, some set aside Ash Wednesday and sometimes a few extra days for heartfelt regret and recovery.  Then come the fasting and self-denial that are grist for a traditional Lenten observance.  Though much of this can be done from the comfort of a recliner, it’s best done actively, on our feet.  After all, spiritual exercises should have a physical expression about them as well.

Beyond that, there’s something to be said for linking our personal regimen for Lent with the itinerary of the ministry of Jesus.  For instance, on Ash Wednesday we can still vaguely make out the Nativity in our rear-view mirror.   That’s a reminder of the humanity that we share with Jesus, as are the passion and death of Jesus which end the Lenten season.  In between are the years that Jesus spent as a young man in Nazareth and as a teacher in Galilee.  Those were formative years for him, and in that interval he grew in age and wisdom.  But they were also the years when Jesus came to terms with the mission that his Father had bestowed on him.

7DA89B51-8E48-40F9-9CF3-14F0B07020D8Geography obviously played a key role in the life of Jesus.  He was born in Bethlehem, a stone’s throw from Jerusalem.  But it was in the north, in the lower elevations of Nazareth and Galilee and the Jordan River Valley where Jesus came to terms with his relationship with his Father.  And from there he eventually went up to the high places of Jerusalem to fulfill his ministry.

The life of Jesus points to something fundamental for us all.  Like Jesus, we are not called to live a static existence.  Like Jesus, we should grow and mature.  Like Jesus, we should deepen our human relationships.  Like Jesus, we should become ever more aware of our talents, of our capacity to be generous and make sacrifices for the sake of others, and of our ability to be supportive of one another.  And we should do this for a very specific reason.  Jesus invites us to continued growth so that we might use our hands to do his work and open our hearts to share his love.  All that requires movement on our part.

Lent then is not a time to sit still.  Lent instead is a time to reflect on the pilgrimage of Jesus from Bethlehem to Nazareth to Galilee and finally to Jerusalem.  It’s a pilgrimage on which Jesus invites us to join with him.  And along the ascent from our own Galilee to our own Jerusalem Jesus promises to walk with us.  That certainly is a pilgrimage worth considering, especially since it lasts a lifetime.


+This was a momentous week for us in the monastery.  On Friday the 21st the new pipe organ accompanied our singing at evening prayer for the first time.  Then on Sunday the 23rd Fr. Bob played the organ at Mass, and Fr. Anthony played at vespers.  Not all of the new pipes have been tuned, but the additional 3,000 pipes show great promise.  Meanwhile, this Wednesday the electronic organ that has kept us company for many months will return to the organ studio from which we had rented it.  Despite its obvious differences from a pipe organ, that electronic organ had the capacity to produce some really interesting sounds.  For better and for worse all of our abbey organists resisted the temptation to produce music suitable for a hockey rink.  It might have been fun.

+On Saturday February 22nd I gave a presentation on the history and mission of the Order of Malta to provisional members of the Western Association of the Order of Malta.  The retreat day took place at Loyola High School in Los Angeles.

+In March of 2019 I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with members of the Western Association of the Order of Malta, and the photos in today’s post derive from that experience.  At top is the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  Below that is the basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, a structure that blends the old and new.  The next photo shows the ruins of the synagogue in Capernaum, the city where Jesus lived during much of his ministry.  It was in the earlier version of this synagogue where Jesus taught and preached.  At bottom is the tomb of Jesus in the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.




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The Lord Presents Himself to Us

I’ve always loved the Canticle of Simeon from the Gospel of Luke chapter 2.  It’s the joyful confession of a just and elderly man as he holds the infant Jesus in his arms.  It’s a day he probably never thought he would see, and yet it had come to pass.

This passage is familiar to any and all who pray compline, the final prayer in the daily cycle of the liturgy of the hours.  It’s also a favorite prayer at the end of funerals, and we monks sing it to a chant that is hauntingly beautiful for the ability of the music to support the words.  “At last you may let your servant depart in peace” is what Simeon says to God, and in our funerals those words reinforce the drama of what we are doing.  We sing them at the moment in which we begin to let go of a brother who has been part of our community for most of a lifetime.  It’s both a sad and happy moment, when we give our brother back to the God who had so kindly given him to us years earlier.

The Presentation of Jesus in the temple is a full and rich story that taps into the emotions of many.  Simeon is overwhelmed as he holds in his arms the savior for whom he had prayed for who knows how long.  Anna gives thanks to God as well.  She had witnessed to the power of God to sustain her as a widow and prophetess through most of her life.  But now she’s seen her visions fulfilled.

88A1EEFA-CFEB-4159-835D-BC2E17FFE2A6Finally, it’s Joseph and Mary who intrigue me most.  What ideas were churning in the minds of this naive young couple as each stepped cautiously into the precincts of the temple?  And the words they heard about their son had to be a little unnerving.  How did Simeon and Anna know about their son?  How could they say those odd things about him?  And certainly not least among their worries, who was this child to whom Mary had given birth?

All of this speaks to the power of Jesus to touch their lives and ours as well.  Like Anna and Simeon, we look for the coming of the Lord into our lives.  And sometimes we wait, and we wait, thinking God has neglected or forgotten us.  And then, just when it seems too late or impossible, the Lord does appear, right beside us.

And as for any advice that Joseph and Mary might have for us, I’d like to think it would go something like this.  Never underestimate the power of God to surprise us.  Never stop wondering what God has called us to do or to be.  Never assume that God has given up on us.  And never doubt for a moment that God has something amazing in mind for us to do.  For as surely as the Lord was presented in the temple, so the Lord will present himself to us.


+On January 28th I presided at Mass in Saint Dominic’s Church in San Francisco.  The occasion was a gathering of members of the Order of Malta, at which one of our colleagues made his promise of Obedience.

+On January 29th I flew back to Minnesota in order to host a visitor to Saint John’s who was flying in from St. Louis.  Unfortunately I got back just in time to enjoy the worst cold weather that we’ve experienced in twenty years, and that same cold put off to another time the visit of my friend.  I never made it back to Saint John’s, but thankfully for three days I did enjoy the warm hospitality of some friends of mine in Minneapolis.

+On February 2nd I gave a retreat day as part of the preparation for provisional members of the Order of Malta.  The event took place at Loyola High School in Los Angeles, and the investiture will take place in Los Angeles in June.  Today’s post is the homily that I gave that day, which happened to be the feast of the Presentation.

+On February 3rd I made it home to Saint John’s in time to catch the last bit of our annual Super Bowl party.  Each year the monks on the formation floor of the monastery host the rest of us for an informal buffet.  It’s always a nice occasion, no matter who wins the game.

+At the top of the post is Mary Presents Jesus at the Temple, by Giovanni Bellini, housed in the Fondazione Querini Stampalia in Venice.  Everywhere you turn in Venice the neighborhoods seem to be works of art in themselves, as the other photos in today’s post suggest.  Though it’s been years since I’ve been to Venice, the memories are warm and fresh.


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Jesus:  A Surprisingly Good Shepherd

I’m not an expert when it comes to animal husbandry.  I appreciate it, of course, and I’m grateful for the toil that so many invest in it.  However, despite my general ignorance on the subject, something in Sunday’s gospel struck me as a little odd.

In John 10 Jesus describes himself as a good shepherd, and like a good shepherd he’s ready to lay down his life for his sheep.  That’s the part that bothers me.  To my way of thinking the really good shepherd never gets killed in the first place.  The really good shepherd may lose a few sheep along the way, but if I were a sheep I would give a superior rating to any shepherd still alive at the end of the day.  In fact, the last thing I want to see is a dead shepherd at the front of the flock.

005FDE11-E7FC-4054-81EC-413DB781AFFAOne obvious consequence of a dead shepherd is the need to do a national search and conduct interviews to find a new shepherd.  My preference would be the applicant who wouldn’t fall victim to wolves or poachers.  Even if I were dumb as a sheep, I’m still smart enough to know that if the shepherd goes, we all go.  Is that logical, or what?

I feel the very same about any shepherd who would leave the 99 sheep to find one lost sheep.  If I were one of the 99 I’d fire that shepherd in a minute.  After all, if one of the sheep is dense enough to wander off, then the shepherd should cut his losses.  He should also show a little gratitude to the 99 who were loyal enough to stick around and make the shepherd’s job a lot easier.

That’s when I begin to appreciate what Jesus is up to when he tells us these stories.  Jesus knows that his audience is not stupid, and he intends to impress upon each and every one of his disciples the love he has for them.  The fact is, he’ll never abandon a single one of them.  He may seem to go off to search for the one lost sheep, but all the while he holds the other 99 by the wool of their necks.  He’ll not lose a single sheep, including the dummies who show poor judgement now and again.

Given that, I’m happy to have Jesus as my good shepherd.  It’s in that light that his death on the cross begins to make some sense.  Jesus did lay down his life for his sheep, but Good Friday was not the end of the story.  With Easter the story of his loving care for us resumes.  That’s when we realize that we are his sheep, whom he loves.

Jesus is no hireling who abandons us.  He is a surprisingly good shepherd, which has to be a comfort to all of us sheep who tend to wander off every now and again.


+On April 16th I said Mass for the San Francisco area members of the Order of Malta.  We met at Saint Dominic’s Church, where I had witnessed a wedding several years ago.

+On April 17th I gave a talk on The Saint John’s Bible at St. Alphonsus Hospital in Boise, ID. They have begun a year-long program with The Saint John’s Bible.

+On April 21 I gave a session as part of a retreat day for provisional members of the Order of Malta, who will be invested in June.  This took place at Loyola High School in Los Angeles.

+This last week was a mixed bag when it came to travel.  My worst day in many years was on the 16th, when I flew from San Francisco to Boise via Salt Lake City.  Nothing went right, until the very end.  My flight, scheduled to leave at 4:15 pm, left San Francisco four hours late.  They had rescheduled my connecting flight to one leaving at 10:20, and so when we landed at 9:50 I felt pretty good.  But because there was no gate available, we sat on the runway for forty minutes.  Thankfully the connection was running late too.  It was now to leave at 11:00 pm, but no one was surprised when we left at 11:50.

The car rental desk in Boise was scheduled to close at midnight, and you can imagine my elation when the lady at the desk had wanted an extra hour and fifteen minutes — just for me.  Then, to her surprise, she could not find my reservation.  A neighbor at another desk explained that at midnight Alamo had merged with Enterprise, and now I was renting from Enterprise.  I got to the hotel at 1:30 am.

+On Wednesday I flew to Los Angeles and discovered that the place was teeming with pollen.  Since in Minnesota our pollen is still frozen, we Minnesotans are defenseless in a pollen jungle like Southern California.  I was a mess until I got back to Minnesota and inhaled the pollen-free air.  But I know our time will come.

68C09D46-587B-4DC1-9991-4BBFA122E350+Thanks to the kindness of a couple whose son graduated from Saint John’s, I was able to get a wonderful tour of Boise.  I’d never been to Idaho before, and I thoroughly enjoyed the cityscape.  Among the highlights was a visit to Saint Mary’s Church, which recently underwent an expansion.  The carvings are nothing short of stupendous.  The top three photos show a ten-foot ceremonial door, carved by an artist from Oregon.  The first photo shows a rendition of Noah’s ark, which overlooks the baptismal font inside the church.  On the obverse is a scene from the Book of Revelation, which faces people as they enter the church.  Most intriguing is a sculpture of the Virgin Mary, seated in the front pew, just below the pulpit.  With her arm draped over the pew, it looks like she is reserving judgement on the quality of the sermon.  It is wildly popular with children, who want their photos taken as they sit beside Mary.

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