01 July 2022

Peter Michael Jensen 20/1/1944-29/6/2022 Requiēscat in pāce

 I think this was taken somewhere between 1954, when we moved from Bakersfield to Oroville, and 1956, since I, on the right, cannot be much older than 14. Peter stands next to me; then our mother's mother, Grandma 'Dell (Adele); Robin, our sister, and Terry Thayer, our cousin. This is the front porch of our house.

Peter's expression is one common to him, of wistful diffidence (mine is of cocky, smart-alec self-assurance 😏). There was also this Peter:

This is July, 2005, in Honoka'a. My mother is, indeed, on oxygen; Peter did not actually turn off the cylinder.

Peter and I grew up in Bakersfield. When our father sold his optometry business in 1954 and bought the farm in Oroville, we moved there in the summer of 1954. The move was easier for me. I was finished with sixth grade - like New Zealand Year 6 - and would, in the course of events, have changed schools that year; Peter was a year behind me in school. The change was rather more disruptive for him - and, I am sure, for Robin, our sister.

Were Peter and I growing apart even then? It may be so. We were very different in our likes and habits. Peter was at home with cars; had his own car - I never owned a car until Edna and I married. When I prepared for my driving licence, Peter coached me, with sharp rebukes at my failures. He was interested in clothes - bought his own when our mother declined to buy the more stylish (and expensive) things he wanted. I ... well, those who know me will not need to be told that I was not ... dapper.

High school, University, marriage for both of us, but soon geography made a significant difference. My post-graduate studies were in Honolulu; Peter's in California. For all the rest of our lives we have been separated by many thousands of Kilometres. My wife Susan and I moved to Auckland in 1973; from there to Yap in 1976; and back to Auckland in 1984. Peter spent much of his life between Hawai'i and California. He visited us in Auckland once, and the Internet has reduced the force of some of that. Nevertheless, the physical distance has possibly been less significant than the religious.

Peter's wife (also Susan!) is a Christian. I became a Christian in 1970. I do not know for a certainty that these facts were of great importance for Peter - but I suspect they may have been of great moment. I remember a time - probably in 1972, when Susan and I had travelled to California after our marriage - when Peter and I talked about religion. He was concerned to understand why I, who had been as unreligious as it is possible to be, had changed. I was then in the throes of new conversion; and my know-it-all self-assurance had not lessened. I cannot imagine that my attempts to talk to him could have been less than off-putting - and not of use in explanation.

The subject never came up again. Peter referred to himself, from time to time, as the one remaining atheist in the family. He must have been conscious of this.

Peter was a physical anthropologist; a lecturer in anthropology; and an expert on Native American archaeology. I wish I had known more about his work. He, and, later, his son Sean, ran a business examining construction sites (mostly in California and Hawai'i) for archaeological remains needing attention. Because our parents, and our sister Robin, lived in Hawai'i, Peter spent much time there, flying between California and Hawai'i several times a year. His son David lives there still, on land adjacent to our sister Robin's.

But Peter became less and less involved in any of this. The time came when it was necessary for him to cease working; eventually to retire to a place of care; and early yesterday morning, found rest. When my son John phoned me yesterday morning to tell me about it, rest was the word that came to mind. I felt, then, that Peter's trials were over. Be at peace, my brother.

07 April 2018


I am writing to correct a grave misunderstanding.  On the 13th of April, 2014, I wrote:
I was quite disappointed when 2000 rolled around.
I have been informed by a very important person who was born in that year - on the 27th of December, to be precise - that she was quite hurt at my being disappointed.  How could the most glorious year of our time be a disappointment, given such an illustrious birth?

And of course it could not.  As I went on to explain:
Oh, OK, I wasn't really disappointed.  But it is true that for one born in the first half of the twentieth century, there was a magic about the idea of "the year 2000."
I had grown up with expectations around the figure '2000'
Only the first day I went back to work - Wednesday 5 January, 2000 - I took the same old diesel 'bus; wore the same baggy clothing; worked in the same buildings of concrete and steel.  For those not born in 1942, my disappointment may be surprising.  They had not seen futuristic drawings of 2000, with people in skin-tight clothes, commuting by personal helicopter, working in sweeping-line skyscrapers.
I only wished to correct this deeply concerning misunderstanding.  I wept to think I had caused someone to believe I was disappointed at the year of her birth.

We all do experience disappointments - and often ones that are far more serious than my, admittedly, light-hearted comments above.  Some are of great moment indeed.  All reflect our view of time - at least, they do so if we truly believe that '... all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28).  For what we want is the good that we have conceived - and we want it now.

This is natural.  It is very natural.  Our calling is supernatural.

28 January 2018


We have just bought a new car ... well, newer - 14 years old instead of 18 years old (or the 'other' car, which is 26 years old :-)).

We've been looking for most of a year for a car that would have certain features that we hope will help Susan in her paper run.  Rather remarkably, Tuesday five days ago - the 23rd of January - we happened across one sitting by the road with a 'for sale' sign on it.  Things have moved fairly rapidly and yesterday we bought it.

Bought it, of course, by increasing debt.

Someone once asked me how we can be certain we are doing God's will.  "In the sense that you mean it," I responded, "we cannot."

I did hedge a bit.  I said that God does, when He wishes, grant the preternatural grace (I hope I have the terminology correct!) of 'infused knowledge.'  He makes you to know something without having had to learn it.  Normally, we do our best to make a reasoned prudential judgement - aided, we hope, by the gifts of the Spirit - and we act - we act in faith.

We do this all the time.  Most of the time we scarcely concern ourselves about the will of God - not, at least, regarding each and every action of our day.  We eat our breakfast; we go to work; we read a book.  Yes, we do make an act of the will regularly to choose God's will always - a fiat.

But the matter comes to our consciousness in a striking way when the matter is one of some thousands of dollars - we do stop and think: "do I really need this?"

The "am I in the will of God" that we would love to have is something we could clutch to our breast; hang in front of us as - dare I say it? - a kind of shield between us and God.  "I know God wants me to do this or that.  He told me.  I am safe."

And I don't have to lean on Him every moment.

This is not given to us, and, for those of us who are far from holiness, it would be disastrous.  It would become an idol.  What I know is:
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)
But what if I really am not depending on Him?  What if I choose out of self-will.  That, too, if I face Him and acknowledge it, will uphold me:
28 We know that in everything God works for good[d] with those who love him,[e] who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
We walk by faith, not by sight.

21 January 2018


I am astonished.  Not only did Jesus give His life that I might be saved from my sins; rise from the dead that I might live eternally; ascend into Heaven that He might send me His Holy Spirit; He wants to be with me, bodily, whenever I am able to come to Him.

To be sure, the Church commands me to go to Mass at least on Sundays and 'Holy Days of Obligation' - of which there remain, in New Zealand, only two (Christmas, and the Solemnity of the Assumption - and to receive Communion at least once a year during the Easter Season.  This command is to encourage the friendship between me and Him.

For I do not naturally seek this friendship.  It is precisely nature that does not draw me to friendship with God.  By nature, I am His creature.  By nature - if I were not a fallen creature - there would be no enmity between me and God.  But - by nature itself - I am not drawn to friendship with God.  It is strictly supernatural that God and I can be friends.

That supernatural life which He has put in me, by baptism and faith, seeks not only to worship Him as creature to Creator, but - astonishingly - it draws me to His friendship.

That is why I go to Mass whenever I can.  I am fortunate.  I live in a country where Mass is regularly available.  Many are unable even to go to Mass on Sundays as a regular practice - for there is no Mass they can get to.  I have St Patrick's of Pukekohe a twenty-minute walk away (being lazy, of course I drive :-)).  I have working conditions that enable me to walk to St Patrick's Cathedral at lunch most days.

He is waiting for me whenever I go.  He gives Himself to me in the Eucharist.  My own nature does not draw me - at times rebels at the tedium - for Mass is not exciting.  Mass is love.  Mass is communion with God.

13 January 2018


“Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7)
I cannot - I argued yesterday - be forgiven if I will not forgive.  By the same token, I cannot forgive unless I am forgiven.  Why is this?

For that it is so, I know quite well, even if I find it difficult to explain.  The cause, it seems, is that forgiveness is holistic.  It is not forgiveness to say that I do not hold against you the wrong you did me - and go my way, indifferent to you.  This is to say that you are not important to me - not important enough even for me to be angry.

Forgiveness and anger must often go together.  You have hurt me - perhaps deeply.  I am angry - angry at your own misbehavior; your lack of love and care for me; your action against yourself in doing something 'like that.'  I am angry because I love you and forgive you - and I want us to be one.

But when I myself am not forgiven - let me be very plain here and say 'forgiven by God' - I bear my own guilt.  I wish to hide myself from the very One Who is all my good and all my bliss.

And you - you are either forgiven by Him and at one with Him Who is (if I am not forgiven) against me.  You are on His side.

Or else you, also, are fleeing from Him - we cannot be one with one another without being one with Him (Francis Thompson: The Hound of Heaven):
I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
  I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
    Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.        5
      Up vistaed hopes I sped;
      And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
  From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
      But with unhurrying chase,       10
      And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
      They beat—and a Voice beat
      More instant than the Feet—
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.
Confession.  This priest - this man who is himself a sinner like me - he places the stole - the yoke of Christ - across his shoulders to hear my own confession.  He is the Hand of God reaching out to touch me, to comfort me, to reassure me that I am forgiven.  God may, indeed, be angry with me - particularly if my sin is grievous.  Hence penance.  Hence, if need be, Purgatory.  I first learnt of Purgatory from C. S. Lewis, in my first year as a Catholic:
Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, ‘It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy’? Should we not reply, ‘With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.’ ‘It may hurt, you know’ - ‘Even so, sir.’

12 January 2018

That they may all be one

20 “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. John 17:20-21
We pray what we call "The Lord's Prayer" - if we are Catholic, we pray it 6 times whenever we say the Rosary; once when we go to Mass.  We pray, in particular, "...forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."

That prayer is - or ought to be if we listen to what we are saying - daunting.  We ask for forgiveness as we forgive those who trespass against us.  We are, in fact, asking for the same sort of forgiveness we give others.  Indeed, our Lord gives us this prayer in Matthew's version together with precisely this warning:
“And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
    On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread;[b]
12 And forgive us our debts,
    As we also have forgiven our debtors;
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    But deliver us from evil.[c]
14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  (Matthew 6:7-15)
Trespasses ...  There are, of course, big deals.  The woman who is raped has been trespassed against.  Those who love her have been trespassed against.  These are terrible things to be told to forgive.  Yet, for most of us most of the time, it is the tinny squeaky rhythmic sounds coming from the earphones of the person on the train; the thoughtless sarcasm of the family member; the car on the motorway dodging dangerously in front - these are the trespasses that must be forgiven.

If I do not forgive these trespasses, neither will mine against my Father be forgiven.

Why is this?  Is it that God could, if He chose, forgive me whilst I am not at one with my neighbor?

God is absolute unity of Being - and His Being is love.  God is a Trinity of Persons Whose mutual love is infinite.  There can be no slightest disunity in God.

And we are called to be united with that awful unity of love - all of us are called.  It is not that God arbitrarily wills that we forgive - forgive absolutely and love without reservations everyone who trespasses against us (and who is there who does not in some way trespass against me?); it is that the unity of love to which we are called just is that forgiving-and-being-forgiven state.  To the degree I am other than absolute in loving you and seeking your good, to that degree I am outside of that unity - outside of God.

God grant that each of us may respond to the grace given us that enables us to forgive - to be one.

10 January 2018

He taught as one having authority

28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29)
 Jesus's teaching was astonishing - and, to many, offensive.  For did not say to His hearers, "Moses taught you ... but <i>I</i> say..."?  On occasion, indeed, He sought to call witnesses to His authority:
12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 The Pharisees then said to him, “You are bearing witness to yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness to myself, my testimony is true, for I know whence I have come and whither I am going, but you do not know whence I come or whither I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh, I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone that judge, but I and he[c] who sent me. 17 In your law it is written that the testimony of two men is true; 18 I bear witness to myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness to me.” (John 8:12-18)
Not as the scribes!

We have, still today, His authority.  When His Church speaks to us, we have heard the voice of authority:
16 “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)
As those who heard the Sermon on the Mount, we should also be astonished.  The Church does not call any witness to her teaching but Christ's.  We should be astonished; God grant that we be not offended.