Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota by James Wright

The quiet and beauty are what we need to be able to heal. We are in existential dread with the sweltering heat, scared of a future of more climate change. I want to hear the cows on the hillside, and feel the air dancing the ginko leaves!

Heart Poems

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

Lying in a Hammock

When I first read Wright’s poem, enticed by the title, I came to the end and broke into smiles. I realize it may not strike you this way. Certainly that last line is an abrupt turn around from all the gorgeous pastoral images – butterfly, leaf, cowbells, sunlight, golden stones, a chicken hawk floats over. What does he mean?

I’m not going…

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The Divine Touch – A Sermon On Mark 5:21-43

This is a very beautiful meditation on the power of touch. It is a remedy for so much of the isolation we have been feeling!

Interrupting the Silence

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8, Year B – Mark 5:21-43

I’m usually the one that drives when my wife, Cyndy, and I go somewhere. If we’re going further than a few blocks I almost always roll up the sleeve of my right arm, lay my hand in her lap, and say, “Would you rub my little arm please?”

On the one hand it just feels good and I like it. On the other hand it’s about so much more. I want to be touched. I want to be seen, recognized. I want to be reminded that I am real and that I matter. I want to feel connected to someone and something beyond myself.

“Would you rub my little arm?” She’s heard it a million times. I don’t think I am the only one that asks that. I think all of us, in…

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So last night I watched the movie “The Social Dilemma” and came to the conclusion which I reached 50 years ago, that we have to “solve one damn problem after another” trying to make the world a better place, rather than trying to make money. If you were wondering about how you can make a difference, in trying to stop Nestle and other big companies from privatizing the water supply of the whole world, leaving millions of people to die of thirst, here is an answer: Charity: Water. Every penny goes to helping bring clean drinking water to small villages all over the world. They have a separate business for generating the plans, engineering, and support system, so that every donated penny goes to getting the water to the people. You can give $5 a month, or more. It is easy to do. I watched their ad, the night I was watching Midnight mass from the Vatican, and they are a total inspiration. I wrote a poem about it. “WATER FROM THE SPOUT” Little faces lit with joy, as they put their whole heads under the spigot, and their hands, eagerly cupped to catch the clean sparkling water as it pours generously, dancingly, a ribbon of miracles, continuously from the pipe.
 Water (the Health Inspector says:) So the baby will not get dysentery, so the mother can wash the clothes, so the children can go to school, and not be thirsty, Or nauseated, or anemic, because of amoebas and worms, because of this new spigot, because of the gift of the well, drilled by someone who wanted to be of service, to make a real difference: A miracle in the desert. Water They have seen only mud holes, wet by opaque brown water, glaucous as a cataract, full of bugs, where animals have washed, and drunk after walking through the dust, toward the pond which seemed a mirage, there are footprints all around the slimy rim. Dancing down the road, these strong children carried on their heads big oil drums and plastic containers full of contaminated water, for miles, their feet dusty and hardened by walking on the earth with bare feet, singing and flashing their smiles, on their daily walk from the mud puddles, back to their homes. Water. They laugh, they sing, watching the clear, clean water splashing from the pipe. The well is in the middle of the village, women come with their baskets. full of clean washed clothes, children play in the open air, their voices full of excitement and joy, their hands clapping and touching, clean hands and clean faces, bright smiles of happiness, Water!

Unless … – A Sermon On John 12:20-33

This is a beautiful and compelling reflection on the word “unless”. Where we put conditions and blocks to faith and to personally bending our will to try to do the will of the One who created us.

Interrupting the Silence

Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B – John 12:20-33

“Unless a grain of wheat ….”

Last week I spoke with you about the contradictions in our lives, the many ways in which we contradict ourselves through our thoughts, words, and actions. Today I want to talk with you about the conditionals in our lives, the “unlesses” with which we live. I don’t know if “unlesses” is a real word but I am using it as one today. It’s a noun and the plural of unless. 

We all have our “unlesses.” They are lenses through which we see. They are the restrictions, limitations, and conditions that shape and inform our relationships and understanding of each other, Jesus, and ourselves.

Let me give you some examples of the “unlesses” that I’ve either heard from others or lived with in…

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when we get through this Maya Stein

wonderful poem for coming out from under the pandemic, into Spring!

Heart Poems

When we get through this, I want us to set a table with all of the loaves of bread
we’d practiced in our quiet houses. I want us clutching fistfuls of the cilantro we coaxed
from our city windowsills, and I want the nascent musicians, the ones who learned
old songs on their new ukuleles, or warbled choruses on isolated balconies, to take
the stage together. I want all the knitted, crocheted, stitched, and mended things pooled
at our feet, warming our ankles. I want us to greet each other in unfamiliar languages,
to tell the stories of those who have been lost. I want us to look, in unison,
toward the world millions of miles and light-years away, to take in what is before us,
and beyond us. I want us to wake to the magnitude of our fortune against the smallness
of our time. And then I want…

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Prince Caspian

(Book 2 in the Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis)

The Chronicles of Narnia are some of my favorite books. (I also love the Oz books). I got the Prince Caspian second book, on audio, because of the headache I got from the vaccine, so I was delighted to have someone read to me. It turns out that the wonderful voice reading the story is Lynn Redgrave. I highly recommend all the books, but this is one of my favorites! I love Narnia, and I go back and read the books every few years, when I have forgotten the stories, but sort of remember the general gist. I had forgotten that the woods come to help fight the great battle against the Telmarines, and that the trees wade in the earth, as they come forward. Maybe this is a bit of extension of the metaphor from Shakespeare in Macbeth– “til Burnham woods do come to Dunsinane”. CS Lewis has a wonderful imagination, and I believe there is a deep consciousness of good and evil in the stories. I had not realized until reading the book “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” that he fought in WW1, in the Somme, at age 19. His experience of war and probably also of the despair and PTSD of being a soldier in that disastrous event shaped his whole later life. I think the story where Lucy is the only one who can SEE Aslan, because she happens to be the youngest, is poignant. AND I LOVE Trufflehunter, the badger, who says that the animals don’t change, they stay loyal and true. Where others can betray and switch sides because they seem to see a new advantage, he stays loyal and true all the way through. It is a great book!

Context and meaning in the delivery of news

During the past year, as the administration of Mr. Trump made more and more threats to the ongoing function of our government, one critically important voice for me was Heather Cox Richardson. This teacher of American History who wrote and spoke daily from her home in Maine, in her “Letters from an American,” helped give us vital information, with footnotes, and with context, throughout the pandemic and through the daily punches in the gut which we had to endure.

Context matters. History matters. We need to understand what is happening, leaning on people who are able to put it in context. Heather Cox Richardson is a history professor, with expertise and depth in understanding what happened in our country after the Civil War. What is out there in the visual media world is not the same as what is being written. We are being swamped with advertising which distracts, by media which calls itself entertainment so they can’t be sued for twisting the news all our of shape, and a lot of crazy-people with big mouths. There are people who know how to distort and change visual images, so you can not know if what you see is real unless people who were there tell you it is true. Reading what someone who is knowledgeable has reflected on, gives us a bit of time, context, precedent, and meaning. It also matters that they CARE about our country. The movie “Social Dilemma” about what FB and other big internet advertising engines do shows us that we can generate a Civil War in 6 months, by turning your beliefs toward conspiracies, fear, anxiety, self-doubt. In order to have a real chance at building a stronger multi-cultural Democracy and world, we have to listen to each other, trust our elected officials, and continue to care about participating in our governmental decisions. If we cannot work together, we are going to destroy each other and the world. Everything we do now has to be aimed at learning to work together for the common good.

Women and the Jesuits

An article was recently published in AMERICA magazine, speaking of why women cannot be Jesuits.

(1/21/21) by Fr. Geger. It was fascinating, as it gave the history in some detail, of two prominent women in the life of St. Ignatius; Isabel and Juana, the crown princess. This is my response to the article:

Thanks for this excellent article and food for thought.  One of the problems for women from Ignatius’ time to now is that some men considered a wife “property” rather than a loving companion.
In the story of Ignatius, Isabel and Juana, we see women who were trying to be saintly and love God, but they really needed their contacts with the men who were brilliant and engaged in trying to work for the greater glory of God.  They needed context and meaning, and male companionship which was not possessive; and marriage in the conventional sense wouldn’t have given it to them.  I have been re-reading Brian Doyle’s stories and poems, and one of the great gifts in them is his real love for his wife.  And he tells stories about his parents, a true marriage of hearts and minds, and spiritual companionship.  The Jesuits may not need women in the order, but women surely need the Jesuits in life.  Many women do not want to belong in a community of only women.  Our friendships and our faith help us to find the wholeness in human personhood that we long for, and invigorate our love and service to God.   As we move deeper into understanding relationships and human sexuality, perhaps all the orders will be reconsidering these issues.  It does seem true that the Jesuits, by history, will never have women in the order. But the men who move mountains will always inspire and create new communities, and not surprisingly, many brilliant and talented women will be part of those efforts.