POETRY: Canaan by Geoffrey Hill

October 29, 2017

I They march at God’s pleasure through Flanders with machine-pistols, chorales, cannon of obese bronze, with groaning pushcarts, to topple Baal. At crossroads they hoist corpses and soiled banners of the Lamb. The sun takes assize. Aloof the blades of oblation rise, fall, as though they were not obstructed by blades of bone. II Fourier’s children their steeds, kazoos, the splashed fetlocks— deliquescent manna that most resembles a sudden urban sleet— shedding innocent blood their ragged fusillade a bit of a laugh indifferent hatred stained with their own works: détentes of corpse-gas reactive furnaces of the spirit immemorial sightings in Canaan: fig trees and planted vines and the groves unguarded messuage for jackals. [...]

POETRY: The Night Train by Thomas Merton

October 20, 2017

In the unreason of a rainy midnight France blooms along the windows Of my sleepy bathysphere, And runs to seek in a luxuriance of curious lights. Escape is drawn straight through my dream And shines to Paris, clean as violin string, While spring tides of commotion, (The third-class pianos of the Orient Express) Fill up the hollow barrels of my ears. Cities that stood, by day, as gay as lancers Are lost, in the night, like old men dying. At a point where polished rails branch off forever The steels lament, like crazy ladies. We wake, and weep the deaths of the cathedrals That we have never seen, Because we hear the jugulars of the country Fly in the wind, and vanish with a cry. At once the diplomats start up, as white as bread, Buckle the [...]

POETRY: The Great Black Heron by Denise Levertov

August 27, 2017

Since I stroll in the woods more often than on this frequented path, it’s usually trees I observe; but among fellow humans what I like best is to see an old woman fishing alone at the end of a jetty, hours on end, plainly content. The Russians mushroom-hunting after a rain trail after themselves a world of red sarafans, nightingales, samovars, stoves to sleep on (though without doubt those are not what they can remember). Vietnamese families fishing or simply sitting as close as they can to the water, make me recall that lake in Hanoi in the amber light, our first, jet-lagged evening, peace in the war we had come to witness. This woman engaged in her pleasure evokes an entire culture, tenacious field-flower growing itself among the [...]

POETRY: Success Is Counted Sweetest by Emily Dickinson

August 26, 2017

Success is counted sweetest By those who ne’er succeed. To comprehend a nectar Requires sorest need. Not one of all the purple Host Who took the Flag today Can tell the definition So clear of Victory As he defeated—dying— On whose forbidden ear The distant strains of triumph Burst agonized and [...]

COMPASSION: A Letter Of Consolation from Abraham Lincoln

August 17, 2017

A letter to a mother who lived in Boston, who President Lincoln mistakenly believed lost her five sons in the war.  Carl Sandburg wrote of this letter, “More darkly than the Gettysburg speech the letter wove its awful implication that human freedom so often was paid for with agony.” Executive Mansion Washington, Nov. 21, 1864 To Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass. Dear Madam, I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.  I feel how week and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.  But I cannot refrain from tendering [...]

POETRY: Childhood Stories by Gražina Bielousova

January 11, 2017

I will never forget the story I was never supposed to know— Nor was my mom, who as a child Overheard some distant relative of hers After a couple shots of vodka In a large family get-together brag About his war-time heroic deeds Of cleansing the country from the Jews; “I’d take a kid and throw him up in the air And shoot him. By the time He hit the ground, he was already dead…” I can see him grab the baby from the crib, A helpless bundle, unsuspecting of such evil, See him perform his act of murder In the eyes of the screaming mother… No, I will never forget the story I heard as a child, long ago, When my mom amidst her never-ending chores Instead of fairy tales would talk to me About life, the family and the war, [...]

POETRY: The Dry Salvages by T. S. Eliot

November 9, 2016

No. 3 of “Four Quartets” (The Dry Salvages—presumably les trois sauvages—is a small group of rocks, with a beacon, off the N.E. coast of Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Salvages is pronounced to rhyme with assuages. Groaner: a whistling buoy.) I I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable, Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier; Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce; Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges. The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten By the dwellers in cities—ever, however, implacable. Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, [...]

SPIRITUAL WARFARE: The Sword Of The Spirit by Christopher Dawson

June 23, 2016

From The Judgment of the Nations We have seen that the Christian view of man and society is far from being a static traditionalism, as its rationalist critics have so often supposed.  What distinguishes the Christian view of history from that of secular philosophy is above all the belief in the divine government of the world and the intervention of the Spirit in history and in the power of man, to resist or cooperate with this divine action.  These conceptions are most clearly expressed in the prophets of Israel, who are in a special sense the bearers of the Sword of the Spirit.  For the prophets not only give an interpretation of history in terms of the kingdom of God and the divine judgment, they also show the power of God [...]

PEACE: Imagining God, by John Dear

November 12, 2015

From Living Peace Part One The culture of violence would have us believe that just as we are violent, God must also be violent.  It portrays God as vengeful, waiting to throw us into the eternal fires of hell.  Such a god must surely justify and bless our wars.  Instead of God the peacemaker, we have been taught to believe in god the warmaker.  Since we were children, we have been presented with these false images of God.  This fearful figure still lingers in the back of our minds. Because of this, many reject God.  Who would want anything to do with such a terrifying prospect of “divine violence”? The Bible is filled with images of a violent god.  From the wrathful god who orders the rains to flood the Earth and kill [...]

VIOLENCE: War, by Thomas Merton

September 18, 2015

From Love and Living Living in a world that is constantly at war, in an age when all war has become total war, we scarcely need an explanation of what war is.  And yet we are so familiar with it that we forget what it really is.  If we did not forget so easily, we would not be so ready to become involved in new ones. The most obvious fact about war today is that while everyone claims to hate it, and all are unanimously agreed that it is our greatest single evil, there is little significant resistance to it except on the part of small minorities who, by the very fact of their protest, are dismissed as eccentric.  The awful fact is that though mankind fears war and seeks to avoid it, the fear is irrational and inefficacious.  It can do [...]

SATURDAY READING: Worshiping The Prince Of Peace, or Preemptive War?, by Jimmy Carter

April 18, 2015

From Our Endangered Values For months after the terrible terrorist attack in 2001, the American people were inundated almost daily with claims from top government officials that we faced a devastating threat from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction or from large and well-organized cadres of terrorists hiding in our country.  But as was emphasized vigorously by foreign allies and key members of our own intelligence services, there was never any existing danger to the United States from Baghdad.  It was obvious that with the U.N. sanctions, intense weapons inspections, and overwhelming American military superiority, any belligerent move by Saddam Hussein against a neighbor, an overt display of a weapon of mass destruction, or sharing [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: The Sign Of Jonah And A New Monasticism, by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

August 21, 2014

From On Heart, One Soul, Mary Forman, editor I am a representative of the Rutba House, a new monastic community in Durham, North Carolina.  The celebration of one hundred fifty years at Saint John’s is a reminder to me of just how new we are.  We’ve only been around for three years.  The Rutba House takes its name from a little town in the western desert of Iraq, where my wife, Leah, and I were at the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq with a group called the Christian Peacemaker Teams.  When American friends of ours were seriously injured in a car accident, some Iraqis stopped by the roadside and picked them up.  They carried our bleeding friends to this town called Rutba.  When they got there the doctor said [...]

WAR AND PEACE: An Open Letter To A Bishop, by Philip Berrigan

July 3, 2014

This is a 1971 letter that Berrigan sent to Catholic Bishop William Baum, who had invited Berrigan to share his thoughts on justice and peace. Here are a few ideas I promised you.  They are qualified, of course, by my status and by the two years I have already served.  But I possessed them before imprisonment, my books are full of them, and, it goes without saying, I believe them profoundly enough to stake my life on them.  I have not found many men who can say that about their ideas. So if you find the following negative, caustic, angry – remember that they come from one who has questioned domestic racism and modern war for ten years; who has lived in the slums and seen the anguish of the poor; who has resisted militarism and [...]

WAR AND PEACE: The Church And War, by Evelyn Underhill

July 1, 2014

We are moving – perhaps more rapidly than we realize – towards a moment in which the church, if she is to preserve her integrity and her spiritual influence, will be compelled to define her attitude towards war; to clear her own mind as to the true reason why her members, by the mere fact of of their membership, are bound to repudiate war, not only in principle but also in fact.  The reason, for there is only one, is simple and conclusive.  The Christian church is the Body of Christ.  Her mission on Earth is to spread the Spirit of Christ, which is the creative spirit of wisdom and love; and in so doing bring in the kingdom of God.  Therefore, she can never support or approve any human action, individual or collective, which is [...]

PRAYER: Franklin Roosevelt’s D-Day Prayer

June 30, 2014

They Fight To End Conquest My Fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation.  It has come to pass with success thus far. And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in  prayer: Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. They will need thy blessings.  Their road will be long and hard.  For the enemy is [...]

SATURDAY READING: “The Lord Is A Warrior,” by Jerome F. D. Creach

March 15, 2014

From Violence in Scripture In Genesis 1 and 2, God is as open to the creation as one who invites participation by the elements in the creative process.  This view of God, in turn, has direct bearing on the understanding of humankind as made in “the image of God,” (1:26-27).  The absence of war and coercive action is at the center of the nature of God and of God’s intention for humankind.  With this picture of God and creation the book of Genesis sets the stage for the rest of the Bible.  This will become apparent, among other places, in the exodus story.  What may seem at first glance simply a story of liberation from slavery in which God battles an historical ruler, the pharaoh of Egypt, is actually an account of a contest [...]

PRAYER: A Quiet Witness In The Desert by Holly Bridges

February 10, 2014

From A Circle of Prayer No power is greater than the power of people who meet in love together. In 1957 a small group of people, mostly Quakers, walked out into the Nevada desert and formed a circle.  The vast silence of the place, its stark but intricate beauty – rocks, yucca, sagebrush – masked the destruction churning and poisoning the land.  The group’s presence in the nuclear bomb test zone was both prayer and protest.  It occurred at the height of Cold War hostilities.  The nation was infatuated with tools of annihilation, which were hailed as the key to the country’s strength and global ascendancy. This tiny group in the desert, by contrast, believed that such a course was a terrible evil against humanity – [...]

SATURDAY READING: Peace — A Religious Responsibility, by Thomas Merton

January 25, 2014

Between 1918 and 1939 religious opposition to war was articulate and widespread, all over Europe and America.  Peace movements of significant proportions were active in Germany, Britain, and the United States.  Yet they were crushed without difficulty and almost without protest by totalitarian regimes on the one hand, and silenced by the outbreak of a clearly defensive war on the other.  Since 1945 there has been nothing to compare with the earlier movements of protest.  Instead we have witnessed the enormous and crudely contrived fiction of the Communist Peace Movement which has been accepted with disillusioned resignation on one side of the Iron Curtain while, on the other, it has managed to make almost all efforts of independent [...]

POETRY: Sacrifice, by Anthony Hecht

January 17, 2014

(“Sacrifice,” appears in Anthony Hecht’s last collection of poetry, The Darkness and the Light.  Hecht wrote poetry as a way of responding to his experience in World War II.) I ABRAHAM Long years, and I found favor In the sight of the Lord, who brought me out of Ur To where his promise lay, There with him to confer On Justice and Mercy and the appointed day Of Sodom’s ashen fate; For me he closeted sweetness in the date, And gave to salt its savor. Three promises he gave, Came like three kings or angels to my door: His purposes concealed In coiled and kerneled store He planted as a seedling that would yield In my enfeebled years A miracle that would command my tears With piercings of the grave. “Old man, behold [...]

POETRY: On Living, by Nazim Hikmet

December 11, 2013

(Turkey) I Living is no laughing matter: you must live with great seriousness like a squirrel, for example— I mean without looking for something beyond and above living, I mean living must be your whole occupation. Living is no laughing matter: you must take it seriously, so much so and to such a degree that, for example, your hands tied behind your back, your back to the wall, or else in a laboratory in your white coat and safety glasses, you can die for people— even for people whose faces you’ve never seen, even though you know living is the most real, the most beautiful thing. I mean, you must take living so seriously that even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees— and not for your children, either, but [...]

POETRY: War Cries

December 11, 2013

A Boy Against The Wall Sargon Boulus (Iraq Assyria) Leaning against the wall near the blackened brick-oven, the boy waves a blueberry branch lazily before his face, and buries his eyes in its leaves, too ashamed to tolerate their stares, that crowd of neighbors hovering over the walls like a bunch of crows, policemen’s badges flashing in the sun, and his father, still in his pajamas, in the middle of the yard, whipped like a slave. The Earth Is Closing On Us Mahmud Darwish (Palestine) The earth is closing on us, pushing us through the last passage, and we tear off our limbs to pass through. The earth is squeezing us. I wish we were its wheat so we could die and live again. I wish the earth was our mother So she’d be kind to us. [...]

POETRY: Poems Of Pain

December 4, 2013

To A Terrorist For the historical ache, the ache passed down which finds its circumstance and becomes the present ache, I offer this poem without hope, knowing there’s nothing, not even revenge, which alleviates a life like yours. I offer it as one might offer his father’s ashes to the wind, a gesture when there’s nothing else to do. Still, I must say to you: I hate your good reasons. I hate the hatefulness that makes you fall in love with death, your own included. Perhaps you’re hating me now, I who own my own house And live in a country so muscular, so smug, it thinks its terror is meant only to mean well, and to protect. Christ turned his singular cheek, one man’s holiness another’s absurdity. Like [...]

POETRY: Paper Cranes: (The Hibakusha Come To Gethsemani), by Thomas Merton

November 22, 2013

How can we tell a paper bird Is stronger than a hawk When it has no metal for talons? It needs no power to kill Because it is not hungry. Wilder and wiser than eagles It ranges round the world Without enemies And free of cravings. The child’s hand Folding these wings Wins no wars and ends them all. Thoughts of a child’s heart Without care, without weapons! So, the child’s eye Gives life to what it loves Kind as the innocent sun And lovelier than all [...]

PRAYER: For the Sorrows of the World

September 30, 2013

From Standing In The Circle of Grief, by Blair Gilmer Meeks Prayer for Dying Children in Africa People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them.  But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.  Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’  And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16) But when they saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ [...]

POETRY: Original Child Bomb, by Thomas Merton

September 27, 2013

Points for meditation to be scratched on the walls of a cave 1: In the year 1945 an Original Child was born. The name Original Child was given to it by the Japanese people, who recognized that it was the first of its kind. 2: On April 12th, 1945, Mr. Harry Truman became the President of the United States, which was then fighting the Second World War. Mr. Truman was a vice president who became President by accident when his predecessor died of a cerebral hemorrhage. He did not know as much about the war as the president before him did. He knew a lot less about the war than many people did. About one hour after Mr. Truman became president, his aides told him about a new bomb which was being developed by atomic scientists. They called it the [...]

POETRY: The Unpardonable Sin, by Vachel Lindsay

July 3, 2013

This is the sin against the Holy Ghost:— To speak of bloody power as right divine, And call on God to guard each vile chief’s house, And for such chiefs, turn men to wolves and swine:— To go forth killing in White Mercy’s name, Making the trenches stink with spattered brains, Tearing the nerves and arteries apart, Sowing with flesh the unreaped golden plains In any Church’s name to sack fair towns, And turn each home into a screaming sty, To make the little children fugitive, And have their mothers for a quick death cry,— This is the sin against the Holy Ghost: This is the sin no purging can atone:— To send forth rapine in the name of Christ:— To set the face and make the heart a [...]

PRAYER: Pius XII’s Prayer for Peace

April 30, 2013

Our Father, who art in Heaven, our God and our protector, turn your eyes upon Christ, your son.  Behold the crimson marks of his wounds to which he was brought through love of us and obedience to you.  Through these wounds he willed to be our advocate and peacemaker in all our sorrows. O Jesus, our savior, speak to your father and ours.  Plead with him for us, and for your church, yes, for all mankind purchased with your blood.  You are the king that gives peace. You are the prince of peace.  You have the keys of life and death.  Grant peace and eternal rest to the souls of all who are caught up in this whirlwind of war and swept unto death.  Some are known, others unknown.  For some tears are shed, for others there are none to [...]

SATURDAY READING: A Man for All Reasons, by Paul Elie

November 24, 2012

From The Atlantic Monthly The vital center was not holding.  Arthur Schlesinger Jr., bow-tied eminence of American liberalism, stepped in.  The “war on terror” was sputtering into its fifth year, and there was no end in sight; Schlesinger was eighty-seven, and the hour was getting late.  He tapped out an essay for the New York Times, confident that the men down in Washington could be set straight if only they had the right guide.  Where, he asked, was the wisdom of his old friend Reinhold Niebuhr when the country needed it?  “Why, in an age of religiosity, has Niebuhr, the supreme American theologian of the twentieth century, dropped out of twenty-first-century religious discourse?” Schlesinger was evidently unaware that the [...]

POETRY: Atlas And The Fatman, by Thomas Merton

October 26, 2012

On the last day of a rough but fortunate voyage, near the farthest end of the known world, I found my way to the shores of a sentient mountain. There stood the high African rock in the shadow of lucky rain: a serious black crag, at the tip of the land mass, with a cloud balanced on its shoulder. O high silent man of lava, with feet in the green surf, watching the stream of days and years! We saw the clouds drift by the face of that tame god, and held our peace.  We placed our feet on the hot sands as the ship ran aground on the edge of night and of summer. This was Atlas at his lonely work!  I never thought I would have seen his face! His head was hidden in cloud and night.  His eyes were staring darkness.  His thoughts were full of [...]