POETRY: Whole Wheat, Decaf Black, A Morbid Curiosity by David Citino

June 6, 2018

We study the paper, fingers darkening with the stinking ink of the daily news, as Dad bangs Mommy’s head against the bedroom wall, the thud like coming thunder, as baby’s shaken until the crying stops, as the sniper’s scope X’s-out another enemy of the tribe, all for ethnic cleaning, as, at the mall, boys dressed in street colors change forever the face of other boys with semi-automatic rage, as women of the village bind the girl, legs spread wide, the oyster cut from its delicate shell, so she can know holiness. It’s not that we relish the blood, as the Romans did— is it? Somewhere, someone knows a suffering too terrible for words, nearly. Thank God it’s not us. There but for fortune. Give us the [...]

POETRY: Letter From Santa Cruz by Maura Eichner

May 30, 2018

I do not know the date. Calendars have no meaning here. One hundred miles north (or maybe more) from Santa Cruz our families live or try to live (and fail) farming rice. Five years ago only monkeys talked and swung in jungle trees. There is a road, but not when there is rain. It had been raining long when Marta died. Months ago, a doctor passing through told Marta that she ought to get to Santa Cruz. Some time, some time, Marta said, she would. She was busy at the well when the growth was big enough to stop the last thin breath from edging up her throat. Sunsets in the tropics go like that—gold, amber, scarlet— then the dark. That night Felipe came, sat in silence, said the child must be removed from Marta’s body otherwise Marta [...]

POETRY: Litany by David Craig

May 23, 2018

Mother of Sorrow, Mother of stars and night fires, arroyos, tossed tequila bottles, the dead drunk. Mother of the streets, of the violent, weekend golfers, cut off, and a windshield smashed with bare fists; the knife, the absurdity, the day in court. Mother of amphetamines, the aging speed freak, who looks to kick around an oval track in a beat up stock car. Mother of the subways, the swaying lost. Mother of day laborers, children, early mornings, in the fields. Mother of Guatemala, of empty Ohio River steel towns where no more black soot seeps into the cracks of houses. Mother of Cleveland, of every neon bar, honky tonk. Mother of Hank Williams, late night pick-ups that end in anguish or bruises. Mother of every redneck, alone and crossed [...]

SATURDAY READING: Screaming by Dan Wakefield

October 15, 2017

From Returning: A Spiritual Journey One balmy spring morning in Hollywood, a month or so before my forty-eighth birthday, I work up screaming.  I got out of bed, went into the next room, sat down on a couch, and screamed again.  This was not, in other words, one of those waking nightmares left over from sleep that is dispelled by the comforting light of day.  It was, rather, a response to the reality that another morning had broken in a life I could only deal with sedated by wine, loud noise, moving images, and wired to electronic games that further distracted my fragmented attention from a growing sense of blank, nameless pain in the pit of my very being, my most essential self.  It was the beginning of a year in which I would have [...]

EASTER STORY: Easter Under A Park Bench, by Kirk Wareham

May 6, 2017

From: Easter Stories Looks like I’m always getting into trouble for something.  Seems like maybe I get into more trouble than all the rest of the boys in Bigelow put together.  Funny thing is, I try so hard not to, and the harder I try the worse it gets.  Just can’t make it out.  Lucky for me Dad seems to understand this kind of thing pretty well; seems like maybe he wasn’t exactly a cherub when he was a boy. I’m sitting with Ben Chapman on the school bus, heading down Highway 15.  Last day of school before Easter holidays.  Can’t hardly wait to put away the books; spring is ready to burst out all over and school’s no place to be when that happens, as any boy knows. We’re just coming into [...]

JESUS: The Suffering Of Jesus, by Hubert van Zeller

April 11, 2017

From To Be In Christ We are told in the Fioretti that, Through love and compassion Francis was wholly changed into Jesus.  This took place initially on Mount La Verna but persisted for the rest of the saint’s life.  The transformation seems to have been immediate, though clearly Francis had been preparing for it, without knowing what was to come, since he first set himself on the way to perfection.  This kind of change is something which, less dramatically, should be taking place in all of us.  The passage quoted adds: The marks of the nails began anon to appear on the hands and feet of Saint Francis.  The word “anon” and later the word “after a space” would seem to show that the significant grace was the [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: The Royal Road by Thomas à Kempis

March 13, 2017

From: The Imitation of Christ There will always be many who love Christ’s Heavenly kingdom, but few who will bear his cross.  Jesus has many who desire consolation, but few who care for adversity.  He finds many to share his table, but few who will join him in fasting.  Many are eager to be happy with him; few wish to suffer anything for him.  Many will follow him as far as the breaking of bread, but few will remain to drink from his passion.  Many are awed by his miracles, few accept the shame of his cross. Many love Christ as long as they encounter no hardship; many praise and bless him as long as they receive some comfort from him.  But if Jesus hides himself and leaves them for a while, they either start complaining or [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Discipleship And The Cross by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

March 9, 2017

From: Meditations On The Cross Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.  He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter.  “Out of my sight, Satan!” he said.  “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:31-34) Suffering and rejection are the summary expression [...]

JESUS: Psalm 102, by J. G. Bellett

February 9, 2017

From Short Meditations On The Psalms A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before Jehovah Jehovah, hear my prayer, and let my cry come unto thee. Hide not thy face from me: in the day of my trouble, incline thine ear unto me; in the day I call, answer me speedily. For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as a firebrand. My heart is smitten and withered like grass; yea, I have forgotten to eat my bread. By reason of the voice of my groaning, my bones cleave to my flesh. I am become like the pelican of the wilderness, I am as an owl in desolate places; I watch, and am like a sparrow alone upon the housetop. Mine enemies reproach me all the day; they that are mad against me swear [...]

POETRY: Lord, Hear My Prayer, by John Clare

February 8, 2017

A Paraphrase of Psalm 102 (Originally published on December 27, 2012) Lord, hear my prayer when trouble glooms, Let sorrow find a way, And when the day of trouble comes, Turn not thy face away: My bones like hearthstones burn away, My life like vapoury smoke decays. My heart is smitten like the grass, That withered lies and dead, And I, so lost to what I was, Forget to eat my bread. My voice is groaning all the day, My bones prick through this skin of clay. The wilderness’s pelican, The desert’s lonely owl— I am their like, a desert man In ways as lone and foul. As sparrows on the cottage top I wait till I with fainting drop. I hear my enemies reproach, All silently I mourn; They on my private peace encroach, Against me they [...]

POETRY: Who Shall Deliver Me?, by Christina Rossetti

July 27, 2016

God strengthen me to bear myself; That heaviest weight of all to bear, Inalienable weight of care. All others are outside myself; I lock my door and bar them out The turmoil, tedium, gad-about. I lock my door upon myself, And bar them out; but who shall wall Self from myself, most loathed of all? If I could once lay down myself, And start self-purged upon the race That all must run ! Death runs apace. If I could set aside myself, And start with lightened heart upon The road by all men overgone! God harden me against myself, This coward with pathetic voice Who craves for ease and rest and joys; Myself, arch-traitor to myself; My hollowest friend, my deadliest foe, My clog whatever road I go. Yet One there is can curb myself, Can roll the [...]

POETRY: Refusing Heaven, by Jack Gilbert

July 7, 2016

The old women in black at early Mass in winter are a problem for him. He could tell by their eyes they have seen Christ. They make the kernel of his being and the clarity around it seem meager, as though the needs girders to hold up his unusable soul. But he chooses against the Lord. He will not abandon his life. Not his childhood, not the ninety-two bridges across the two rivers of his youth. Nor the mills along the banks where he became a young man as he worked. The mills are eaten away, and eaten again by the sun and its rusting. He needs them even though they are gone, to measure against. The silver is worn down to the brass underneath and is the better for it. He will gauge by the smell of concrete sidewalks after night rain. He is [...]

SUFFERING: Jesus’s Reminders, by Philip Yancey

May 11, 2016

From Where Is God When It Hurts? The image Jesus left with the world, the cross, the most common image in the Christian religion, is proof that God cares about our suffering and pain.  He died of it.  Today the image is coated with gold and worn around the necks of beautiful girls, a symbol of how far we can stray from the reality of history.  But it stands, unique among all religions of the world.  Many of them have gods.  But only one has a God who cared enough to become a man and to die. Dorothy Sayers says: For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is – limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death – he had the honesty and courage to take his own medicine.  Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Bald Places by Hob Osterlund

March 14, 2016

From Portland Magazine Rooms 652 and 653 couldn’t be more different, except they’re both bald. Room 652 is a woman with a glioblastoma.  It’s the kind of brain tumor that often kills fast, usually within six months of diagnosis.  She’s fifty-seven.  Her name is Teea.  The doctor says I’m history, says Teea softly, without apparent fear.  Her humor is deceptive.  I bet she’d bribe, threaten, or supplicate all creatures, medical or otherwise, two-legged or four, who promised they could buy her even one extra week.  She wants to live so bad she could scream it to the Heavenly rafters, but she doesn’t, at least not in the hospital.  She behaves calmly here. Each of her three daughters is as [...]

SUFFERING: To Know The Cross, by Thomas Merton

February 19, 2016

From No Man Is An Island I pray that we may be found worthy to be cursed, censured, and ground down, and even put to death in the name of Jesus Christ, so long as Christ himself is not put to death in us. (Paulinus of Nola) The Christian must not only accept suffering: he must make it holy.  Nothing so easily becomes unholy as suffering. Merely accepted, suffering does nothing for our souls except, perhaps, to harden them.  Endurance alone is no consecration.  True asceticism is not a mere cult of fortitude.  We can deny ourselves rigorously for the wrong reason and end up by pleasing ourselves mightily with our self-denial. Suffering is consecrated to God by faith – not by faith in suffering, but by faith in God.  Some of us [...]

SUFFERING: Recapturing A Sense Of Mystery by Basil Hume

November 5, 2015

From The Mystery of the Cross In our day we need to recapture a sense of mystery.  Pascal made the distinction between a mystery and a problem, and it is one we have tended to forget.  A problem is an obstacle, a conundrum something that can in principle be formulated and solved.  A mystery is utterly different.  It lies beyond us; it is too rich for our understanding.  It can be entered into, explored, even inhabited; but it can never be exhausted or fathomed. Our age dislikes intensely the idea of mystery, because it directly exposes our limitations.  The thought that there could be something, or someone, beyond human comprehension or imagining is, of course, exciting, but it is also belittling.  It puts us in our place, and that [...]

SUFFERING: A Study In Joy — 1 Thessalonians, by James Martin, SJ

October 15, 2015

From Between Heaven and Mirth You would think that the book that many scripture scholars agree to be the oldest in the New Testament would garner a great deal of respect and attention.  You would think that a document written around 50 AD – only seventeen years or so after the death of resurrection of Jesus – would be pored over by all Christians.  You would think that most Christians would know even the smallest verses of this document by heart. Well, you would be wrong.  Saint Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians isn’t all that well-known by many Christians. Still, by common consent, it is the earliest of Paul’s letters, and therefore the earliest writing in the entire New Testament.  Scholars say that 1 [...]

SUFFERING: Blessed Are Those Who are Persecuted For Righteousness’s Sake, For Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven, by Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette

October 13, 2015

From Simply Living The Beatitudes Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12) As we pray and meditate on the teachings of the beatitudes, one thing that becomes immediately evident to us is the fact that all the beatitudes are closely related.  We cannot consider one beatitude isolated from the others.  Jesus proclaimed the beatitudes as a way of life for his disciples, for all his followers.  And as we heed the call from the Master, we his followers must humbly, simply, and in all earnestness learn to incorporate [...]

SATURDAY READING: Winter by Walter J. Burghardt

January 24, 2015

From Seasons That Laugh or Weep: Musing on the Human Journey At about 60 the male of the species faces a new transition: to late adulthood.  I am powerfully reminded that I am moving from midterm: old age.  For perhaps the first time I experience mortality.  Oh, I always knew I was mortal; now I sense it.  Soldiers feel it in a foxhole; I feel it in my flesh. The decline, experts insist, actually began at 30, but now it is transparent.  Joints ache, a virus will not leave me, ligaments heal slowly.  Cucumbers make me throw up, and sauerkraut makes for diarrhea.  For some there is a stroke, a growth, a clot.  No matter what, I am not what I was.  This flesh that gloried in its strength, that lusted in its manhood, that tanned so [...]

MYSTICISM: Profitable Teachings From The Life Of The Bride Of Christ Catherine Of Siena

October 3, 2014

beginning with what our Lord taught her and continuing with what she taught her followers From The Cell of Self-Knowledge The first thing our Lord taught her was this: Daughter, do you not know who you are and who I am?  If you know these two things, you are blessed and will continue to be so.  You are she that is not, and I am he who is.  As long as you keep an awareness of these two facts in your heart, your enemy the devil will never deceive you, and you will be able to slip easily out of all his traps.  You will never give way to temptation to do anything against my commandments and teachings, and you will have no difficulty in winning my grace, truth, and love. † The second thing he taught her was this: As long as you think of [...]

THE CHURCH: Sanitizing Christ

July 29, 2014

I wonder sometimes – albeit when I’m not in church – about all the colored threads that are so carefully woven into the fabric of the church.  Or the lace that at times borders the altar cloths, the priests garb, the towel. We really are quite fancy, aren’t we? If one really wants to overdose on grandiosity all one has to do is visit the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.  Marble columns bunched like grapes throughout the floors of places to worship, gold highlighting the mosaics in the chapels, papal thrones from various visits. Jesus was born somewhere in a rejected space.  A place that no one else wanted. We are big into trinkets.  Little flashes of gold.  Pieces of [...]

JOB: Archibald MacLeish On Job, by Harold S. Kushner

June 20, 2014

From The Book of Job: When Bad Things Happened to a Good Person   I remember the day my anger at God for making my child suffer began to diminish.  It was in February 1967.  Three months earlier, doctors had told us that our son’s slow growth and loss of hair was the result of a rare disease that was untreatable, incurable, and would cause his death at a young age.  I was shattered by the unfairness of it.  Given the theological outlook I had been exposed to at that point, I could understand that God might have reason to punish me; I might have been the most observant Jew in our town, but I was not perfect.  There must have been times when I fell short of being a perfect exemplar of Judaism or of pastoral compassion.  But why [...]

JOB: The Cry Of Jesus On The Cross, by Jean-Claude Sagne

June 19, 2014

From Job and the Silence of God. Translated by Iain McGonagle. It is through the cry of Jesus that we can understand the spiritual drama of Job.  The passion of Jesus and its presence in the church come between the sufferer of the time of the first alliance and ourselves.  The glory of the cross provides the only light by which we can apprehend Job’s ordeal.  That at any rate is the way opened up to us by a spiritual reading of the sacred scriptures, the central principle of which is the accomplishment by Jesus of all the figures of the Old Testament. We shall, therefore, begin by seeking to understand something of the cry of Jesus on the cross before returning to the spiritual drama of Job.  But what is the relationship [...]

GOD 101: Challenged By Satan

June 17, 2014

It shouldn’t shock anyone by now that I pretty much completely disagree with the way most writers – people who describe themselves as theologians – knock together a vision of God from how he behaves in Job.  To Job.  To the rest of Job (his family, et al.)  To Satan. God messes with Satan, it seems, because he has some unresolved issues to work out, and hey, who do I have to answer to anyway?  It’s a bet.  No one really cares.  No one is really watching. It’s my Bible, and I’ll bet if I want to. Indeed. Because, like, you know, God and Satan, they’re like *this*.  Tight.  So just hangin’ is cool. Right? What’s a bet between friends? Good grief. Can we just start with a [...]

PRAYER: Prayers Of GratitudeAnd Praise, by Edward Hays

May 26, 2014

Blessed Are You, Lord Our God, Who Gives To Us Nourishment In Times Of Silence And Solitude From uplifted hearts, hearts full of gratitude, may this prayer of thanksgiving rise to You, God of All Gifts and of Great Generosity. We are thankful for times of stillness which allow us to listen to that holy river of prayer flowing in the heart; for the presence of Your Holy Spirit within, the Spirit who prays [...]

REFLECTION: There Shall Be No More Night, by Elisabeth Elliot

May 22, 2014

From A Path Through Suffering But all is on the very verge of a flood-tide of life, for the seed-vessel has reached its highest ministry now.  The last wrappings are torn and from every rent and breach the bare grain is shed forth and brought into direct contact with the soil.  Suddenly, as if by miracle, the quickening comes, and the emerald shoot is to be seen. (Lilias Trotter, Parables of the Christ-Life) The message of the tiny seed interprets human life.  Without it suffering remains an inscrutable mystery.  The great Corn of Wheat showed forth the meaning of love by [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Eleventh Station — Jesus Christ Is Nailed To The Cross, by Evelyn Underhill

April 9, 2014

From The Path of Eternal Wisdom, written under the pseudonym, John Cordelier The Eternal Wisdom Bound by Love to His World The cross, says Traherne, “is a tree set on fire with invisible flame, that illuminateth all the world.  The flame is love; the love in his bosom who died on it.  In the light of which we see how to possess all the things in Heaven and Earth after his similitude.” God’s way of possessing us, then, is to give himself for us: and thus only, by self-giving in the interests of life, can we possess all things after his similitude.  We, stretching ourselves gladly on the rood of the world, receive that world as our eternal heritage.  “To give all for love is a most sweet bargain.”  It is the bargain struck [...]

SILENCE: The Silence Of The Psalms, by Thomas Merton

April 3, 2014

From Bread In The Wilderness One thing remains to be explained, we have emphasized, in this book, the truth that the Psalms most often become contemplation when, through them, we manage to unite our sufferings with the sufferings of Christ, so that he in turn lifts us up in his own triumph and raises us to a foretaste of his glory.  Why this emphasis on suffering?  Suffering is not the only theme in the Psalter. We bring the substance of our own lives to the Psalter and offer it to Christ to be transformed by him.  It is all matter for sacrifice.  But since life on Earth is what it is, we all have plenty of trouble, plenty of suffering, plenty of misery.  We have our joys too.  And we should not omit to offer them to Christ and [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Seventh Station — Jesus Christ Falls A Second Time by Evelyn Underhill

March 26, 2014

From The Path of Eternal Wisdom, written under the pseudonym, John Cordelier The Eternal Wisdom stoops to the limit of His Creature All pagan peoples have thought, as it were by instinct, of serene and comfortable gods: holders of power, with none of power’s penalties: givers of grief, who knew nothing of pain.  Even those who most clearly manifested the Divine energy – as Apollo – did so by the easy and beautiful exhibition of strength without stress. But the Christian ideal, it seems, is something very different from this: it is the holy Spirit of Life triumphing in weakness, matter racked to the uttermost in order that its divine potentialities may be brought forth.  It is the bitter upward climb towards complete [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Fourth Station — Jesus Christ Is Met By His Mother by Evelyn Underhill

March 16, 2014

From The Path of Eternal Wisdom, written under the pseudonym, John Cordelier The Eternal Wisdom Encounters Human Love It is surely humanity’s most poignant moment when the best that it has produced confronts the best that the spiritual universe has given. Then, as at no other station of our journey, the awful travail of the Eternal Wisdom is revealed to the soul in whom he has been born, and who has learned to love him as her dearest possession, adore him as her God. In this supreme hour she looks into the eyes of that Perfection who is at once her creator and her son: the most intimate of all mysteries, the most mysterious of all intimates.  That glance brings with it the full realization of her impotence, as well as of her love.  [...]