Temperament, Faith, Attitude and Why Poetry Matters

Why poetry matters: Richard Wilbur died last month. "He was, Dana Gioia said, the finest poet of his generation and the greatest American Christian poet since Eliot. Here's an example of why I liked him so much:"

St. John tells how at Cana's wedding feast

 The water pots poured wine in such amount

 That by his sober count

There were a hundred gallons at the least.

 It made no earthly sense unless to show

 How whatsoever love elects to bless

 Brims to a sweet excess

That can without depletion overflow.

 This is from John Garvey's article in the Pilot. Garvey admires the rhythm of Wilbur's poetry.  It's like music.  The words are beautiful and the meter and rhyme beg to be put to be put in a song.

Garvey likes the discipline of Wilbur's style.  It makes sense to him.  He compares Wilbur's poetry to an ordered universe.  In fact, he says when chaos reigns, the world dies.  This is why poetry and its beauty and reflection of the glory of God are necessary.



The reading at Mass today was 2Maccabees 6:18-31.  This is the story of the prominent scribe, Eleazar.  He refused to break the Hebrew dietary laws.  The punishment was death.  Everyone was on his case to just eat the stuff anyway, or pretend to eat it.  Eleazar was adamant.  Not only did he refuse to eat the forbidden food, he eagerly went to the torturer and his death.

I'm conflicted about Eleazar's decision.  I'm pretty sure I'd eat the stuff and then go to Confession.  That's was the sacrament is for. 

But Eleazar reasoned that breaking the holy sanctions went deeper than eating. He was setting a poor example. 

    At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense; many young people
       would think the ninety-year Eleazar had gone over to an alien religion.  Should
      I thus pretend for the sake of a brief moment of life, they would be led astray by
       me, while I would bring shame and dishonor on my old age.  Even if, for the
      time being, av…

The Wisdom of the Drunk

Oftentimes I dismiss what some people say because I know them to be drunks, or potheads, or just plain contrarians.  This morning's reading in Chapter, gave me pause to reconsider my actions. 

We are reading Timothy Radcliffe's I Call You Friends, and in the chapter, "To Praise, to Bless, To Preach: The Mission of the Dominican Family," Father Timothy explains it is exactly because someone struggles with alcoholism, drugs, emotional and mental issues, that they know whereof they speak.

Every one of us is a wounded preacher.  But the good news is that we are preachers because we are wounded...  We have a word of hope and mercy because we have needed them ourselves.
I, of all people, who volunteer in a prison, who profess to believe in redemption, should know better.  I have seen how men who have been wounded can help others who have been wounded.  Don't I who have three children, run to my sister who had six children for advice?  Direct experience is more valuable…

An Act of Love

Years ago when life was innocent
setting the table was an act of love.
I would look out the window and see
a future of broken dishes,
the stale smell of malt and whiskey,
or feel the prick of a needle .

No, my gaze didn’t see that far out
around curves and high hills,
inside potholes down hell holes.

Setting the table was an act of love.
Now looking out between iron bars
I yearn to perform that act of love.

A Worthy Wife


Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 157
Reading 1PRV 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31When one finds a worthy wife,
her value is far beyond pearls.
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her,
has an unfailing prize.
She brings him good, and not evil,
all the days of her life.
She obtains wool and flax
and works with loving hands.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her fingers ply the spindle.
She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her a reward for her labors,
and let her works praise her at the city gates.
Studium:  This reading id organized by the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, each verse begins with the next consecutive letter.  It's an acrostic pattern.
      The message is telling what the ideal wife is.  This woman is a good worker, loyal, a good mother, and contributor to society.  But her best virtue is her spiritual goodness because she fears the Lord. …

Prayer Has a Life

Living things grow.  Prayer grows, therefore it is living; it has life.  Father Aniello Salicone is a missionary priest.  He has been visiting Massachusetts about once a year, for a while. 

The first time he came, he gave us this prayer:
Thank you, Jesus, for loving me.
The second time he came, he added this phrase:

Thank you, Jesus, loving me and making me Your number one.
The third time he came, he put a reciprocal twist on the prayer:

 Thank you, Jesus, for loving me and making me Your number one. Help me to make You number One.
The fourth time he came, he added a long thought:

Thank you, Jesus, for loving me and making me Your number one.  Help me to make You number One and to love others as You love them.
This time, Father Aniello didn't add anything.  It's perfect the way it is.  What else could one add?

Thank you, Jesus, for loving me and making me Your number one.  Help me to make You number One and to love others as You love them.


When I was a child, I was very conscious of being poor.  We barely made it “pay check to pay check.”  Often times we didn’t.  One blatant sign of our situation was the fact that we couldn’t pay our grocery bill.  In those days, there weren’t supermarkets.  But I was a child, and wouldn’t have known about supermarkets.  We didn’t have a car and wouldn’t have driven to a store.  Our grocery store was Twaites Market.  The family did all our shopping there.
Oftentimes during the week, I was sent to Twaites to buy something or other.  Since we didn’t have the money, I had to tell Mr. Twaite to put it on our bill.  “Charge it.”  And when my mother got paid, she would pay up the bill.  I found this humiliating.  “Charge it,” was a public, verbal affirmation that we were poor and couldn’t afford to pay for the milk I was buying.  I hated it but it was our way of life.
One day when I was playing with a new schoolmate, my mother asked me to go to Twaites to buy hamburg for supper.  I was stuck…