Friday, November 07, 2014



    A Pilgrimmage.

That is the title of the newest book of Father James Martin, SJ, a Jesuit Priest, editor of America Magazine in New York, who spoke at Georgetown
this week discussing his trip to Israel described in the book. Every time I hear him speak (third time now)  I am more and more in awe. He packed the house, as he always does and had the crowd both in uproarious laughter as well as 'ahah' lightbulb moments. People left with a 'Thank God For Priests Like That' feeling.

This Priest, whom I particularly connect with because he grew up not far from where I partially grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs is one of the single best advertisements for "Catholic" I know of- he is extremely witty (wrote also "Heaven and Mirth"), down to earth, and profoundly spiritually insightful. Moreover, he's just extremely kind and sweet and disdains trolling meanness on the internet. "We have to recover and reuse the word 'Mean'", he said describing some of the vitriol he received merely by posting something controversial. He describes how going to Israel aided greatly his understanding of Jesus' talks, noting that he saw places along the Sea of Galilee that were 'rocky' ground, and good soil that had things growing-and noted when Jesus spoke parables of the Word falling on rocky ground and good soil that bore much fruit, he wasn't making up abstractions but pointing to -that good ground over there with good soil, or that rocky ground. The book chronicles in part his journey with his friend George (a prison priest chaplain at San Quentin) as they followed trails to purple rocks spotting the Bay of Parables where Jesus taught from a boat to a natural amphitheatre because the acoustics were great as sound travels over water so well.

     He noted that when Jesus was called to the Tomb of Lazarus by his frantic sisters they likely didn't have a singsongy tone but one of exasperation and anger. What would you think if your brother was having a heart attack and you called a relative who was a heart surgeon and he didn't come for days- he noted in expressing the Jesuit approach to putting yourself in scripture to better connect with the message.

We can understand Christ better by embracing the Jesus of history- a historical Jesus approach. He was fully human and fully divine at the same time all the time. Fully human when raising Lazarus, fully divine when doing 'carpentry.'  The implications of that are truly staggering if you realize the fullness of what that means.

There are some encounters which have been called holes in heaven where light travels fast to touch earth and Father Martin walks with one over his head. An encounter with him leaves one with the feeling that you touched heaven for a few minutes, or an hour long talk and you didn't want it to end. This is a real Priest, and a really good man.

I highly recommend getting his book- (which make excellent Christmas presents and some of my relatives are getting it:-)

click to order here:

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