Jan 28 “Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows”

Wednesday January 28  –   Rumi    “ . . .  as an unexpected visitor”

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī  (جلال‌الدین محمد رومی‎)   Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic 1207-1273.   A friend, who reads this list, sent me Rumi’s “The Guest House.”   Her note reminded me that I had managed to post over 200 poems and prayers without inviting Rumi onto the list.  “The Guest House” is a good poem to welcome another great poet here.

It’s the middle work day of the last January week.  Some friends from the east coast have told me stories of blizzards out there.  Some friends on campus talk about how cold it is.  A good day for welcoming what comes our way.
Best to read the poem out loud, with pauses.

No post Friday.  Tomorrow morning we have a half-day retreat  (3 trustees, 3 faculty, 1 fellow, 8 staff and administrators).   When we finish with lunch the university’s board of trustees begins the January meeting into Friday.   Too tight a fit to contemplate and write.  Monday I’ll be flying back from the ACCU  annual meeting in DC.  See you again next Wednesday.


john sj

Today’s Post “The Guest House”

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


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Jan 26 – Revolutionary Love – Remembering Gary and Suzanne Lichtman

Monday January 26  — “That our love for each other, if need be,  give way to absence.  And the unknown.”

I missed the funeral mass for Suzanne yesterday;  some airport traffic and then lots of center city traffic for the last day of Detroit’s North American International Auto Show;  102,978 people jammed their way into the dazzling re-newed Cobo Convention Center.   All those people this week set a 12 year attendance record and, in the process, clogged the streets so that when I pulled into the Ss. Peter and Paul parking lot, people were leaving for home.   Not completely though.  Gary and his family were still in the middle aisle receiving condolences from a line of people so I could hug Gary and visit a while about Suzanne’s immense goodbye.  50 years old; so young.   She did not choose to leave their house but she is gone, cancer.

One reason I made the line was that it was so long.  All kinds of people came to spend Sunday afternoon praying with Gary, Suzanne and their daughter Natalie Rose, people from across the university, people from the city, bearing witness to a great love.

Denise Levertov’s “Prayer for Revolutionary Love” usually takes readers into the depths of their loves while both are alive, the discipline of living a love.  Re-reading it again this morning as an homage to Gary and Suzanne, tells me that “Revolutionary Love” can also speak to the deepest goodbye of all.

Blessings Gary.  Blessings Natalie Rose.

Best to read the poem out loud, with pauses.


john sj

Today’s post:  Denise Levertov

Prayer for Revolutionary Love

That a woman not ask a man to leave meaningful work to follow her
That a man not ask a woman to leave meaningful work to follow him.
That no one try to put Eros in bondage
But that no one put a cudgel in the hands of Eros.
That our loyalty to one another and our loyalty to our work
not be set in false conflict.
That our love for each other give us love for each other’s work
That our love for each other’s work give us love for one another.
That our love for each other’s work give us love for one another.
That our love for each other give us love for each other’s work.
That our love for each other, if need be,
give way to absence.  And the unknown.
That we endure absence, if need be,
without losing our love for each other.
Without closing our doors to the unknown.

            Denise Levertov          1923 – 1997

Denise Levertov

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Jan 21 – David Whyte “Enough”

Wednesday January 21  — Working Days

Week 3 of this Semester still gathers momentum, still lots of “first meetings” of the term, students and teachers learning about each other,  learning what the character of this class might become during its 14 weeks.  The MLK Day break makes a little breathing space while we settle in for the long haul.

“It’s worth it,” says the wind;  we mean to say that too as we catch  each other’s eyes hurrying to get our work done.   David Whyte’s short poem makes a good breathing space for people in a hurry.   We ran it last year on January 30;  a good January poem.

Friday I’ll be in Denver for a board meeting.  The list returns next Monday.  Have a good weekend.


john sj


Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
until now.

David Whyte, in Where Many Rivers Meet, 1990


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Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 2015

“Deeds, not words.”

I have heard this thought expressed many times recently. It’s spoken with a conviction that words have done little to change things in desperate need of change. Words are empty or, worse, they are smokescreens used to cover over unforgivable deeds. And yet, when thinking today of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it seems impossible to separate the man of action from the man of words. I can’t envision the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom without hearing in my mind the cadences of Dr. King’s Dream. I can’t read “Letter From Birmingham Jail” without recalling the narrow cell in which King was imprisoned when he wrote.

“Beloved community,” “a single garment of destiny,” “I have a dream”—these are words of inspiration. These are the first words my daughters will hear in their grade school assemblies this week. But they are words of challenge, too—to us, and for us. How are we to think of violence and nonviolence in the wake of Ferguson, or New York, or Southfield? “I am at war with myself / Having trouble finding the Martin in me,” reveals Obasi Davis, a young poet from Oakland, CA, “Too much anger / Not enough tolerance.”

And yet, today people are gathering to speak with one another. People will come together to remember, and wrestle with, and re-vision communities in which so much is in need of change. I think of Dr. King, and I am both confronted and inspired by the thought it might always take both words and deeds.

“So it shall be spoken,” writes Gwendolyn Brooks in her tribute poem below, “So it shall be done.”

Rosemary Weatherston
Director, Dudley Randall Center for Print Culture

“Martin Luther King Jr.
By Gwendolyn Brooks

A man went forth with gifts.
He was a prose poem.

He was a tragic grace.
He was a warm music.

He tried to heal the vivid volcanoes.
His ashes are
reading the world.
His Dream still wishes to anoint
the barricades of faith and of control.

His word still burns the center of the sun,
above the thousands and the
hundred thousands.
The word was Justice. It was spoken.
So it shall be spoken.

So it shall be done.

Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration – January 22, 2015, 7:00 p.m. Fountain Lounge

In celebration of his many contributions to the world, the Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration will host a discussion with students, faculty, staff and the community looking at how King’s message informs us in light of the recent events in our country around race, class, socio-economic disparity and police militarization.

Contact: Drew Peters, Assistant Director, Student Life Office
Phone: 313-993-1593
Email: petersas [at] udmercy.edu

I Have A Dream . . . ,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., August 28, 1963

Letter From Birmingham Jail,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., April 1963

Obasi Davis, “17th Annual Bringing the Noise for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” event, January 20, 2014

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Friday Jan 16 Buddy’s Pizza — “Tastiest Pizza in North America”

Friday  January 16, 2015   —  Bragging rights down the street 

Today’s post began with a morning email from Gilbert Sunghera, sj, an immensely creative  teacher for UDM’s Archie students and for people across the country seeking a vision for a local sacred place, a nationally known consultant.  Around the Jesuit community he gets some teasing for another expertise.  He knows his fast foods and keeps on turning up new foodie finds while roaming Detroit as part of the School of Architecture’s commitment to the city’s rebirth.  No surprise, either; he trained from childhood in the heartland of fast food, Los Angeles.   He emailed 3 Detroit lovers — Sr. Beth Ann Finster, ssj, Joel Medina, sj, and me — long before dawn: “I guess it is official.”  www.dailydetroit.com/2015/01/15/buddys-wins-award-tastiest-pizza-north-america  (download the official Twitter app here)

The original Buddy’s, 4 miles east of campus on 6 Mile, stands high on my Welcome-to-Detroit bucket list.  Lots of us are fanatics.  Thank you, Gilbert, for word of the Chowzter award for “Tastiest Pizza in North America.”  It changed my thinking about today’s post;  I looked for a poet who writes about cooking and food and found someone new to me.  Judging the poem I found and her vita, she will become familiar to readers of the Work Day list.  How have I missed her work until now?

Best to read the poem out loud with a few pauses.    Jane Hirshfield’s short bio appears beneath the poem.    It’s taken from a longer article about her at this site:  http://www.thekitchn.com/jane-hirshfields-5-poetic-essentials-for-home-cooks-expert-essentials-194022.


john sj

p.s.       Homecoming weekend on campus, Lady Titans and the guys both won their last games.  Packers play on Sunday.

Have a great weekend.


Today’s Post:  “Da Capo”

Take the used-up heart like a pebble
and throw it far out.

Soon there is nothing left.
Soon the last ripple exhausts itself
in the weeds.

Returning home, slice carrots, onions, celery.
Glaze them in oil before adding
the lentils, water, and herbs.

Then the roasted chestnuts, a little pepper, the salt.
Finish with goat cheese and parsley. Eat.
You may do this, I tell you, it is permitted.
Begin again the story of your life.

(Note: the soup of this poem is one we made at Greens of San Francisco)


From The Lives of the Heart (HarperCollins, 1997)
Jane Hirshfield is an award-winning poet, essayist, and translator. Her work has appeared in numerous publications such as The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, The Times Literary Supplement, as well as many literary journals and several volumes of The Best American Poetry and Pushcart Prize. She was featured in two PBS television specials, The Sounds of Poetry and Fooling With Words. In 2012 she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

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Wed Jan 14 – missing, but noticing later

Wednesday  January 14  –  “and yet there are chances that come back”

Today’s Post

A friend introduced me to the poet, W. S. Merwin.    All sorts of recognition for his poetry.  Makes me wonder how I’ve missed him all this time.     Wikipedia’s short bio concludes:  “In June 2010, the Library of Congress named Merwin the seventeenth United States Poet Laureate to replace the outgoing Kay Ryan.  He is the subject of the 2014 documentary film Even Though the Whole World Is Burning.”

How many times have I noticed, remembering something that I had missed first time around, something that hindsight tells me was important, and becomes important in the remembering?   Remembering, teaches St. Ignatius Loyola, can reweave the fabric of a life.  “Attention should be paid to some more important places in which I have experienced understanding, consolation, or desolation.” (Spiritual Exercises  Par. 118)

Have a good day.

john st sj

p.s. The University’s blog management system reports that today is poetry post # 201.

Today’s Post  W. S. Merwin  (1927 – )


Going too fast for myself I missed
more than I think I can remember
almost everything it seems sometimes
and yet there are chances that come back
that I did not notice when they stood
where I could have reached out and touched them
this morning the black shepherd dog
still young looking up and saying
Are you ready this time

W.S. Merwin


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Monday Jan 12 – about birth & welcome

Monday January 12 – “When I fell into the world”

Many work mornings I begin the day with a poem written by George Herbert in the 17th century, “Love Bade Me Welcome.”  For some reason it wakes me into an ordinary day noticing that my ability to be welcomed needs to be renewed again.  On really good mornings, people from my life come fresh into memory, women and men who could welcome me out of my solipsism and into a live, hospitable world.   Magical.  I owe my life to those people, some of whom read this post, some who have died.

Here’s George Herbert’s poem.  It’s not exactly “Today’s Post.”    Richard Wehrman’s “When I Fell into the World,” a poem completely new to me this morning speaks of birth and being welcomed out into a larger world.  It appears below my signature.

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked anything.
‘A guest,’ I answer’d,’ worthy to be here':
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful?  Ah, my dear
I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’
“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste My meat.’
So I did sit and eat.

George Herbert  1633

One other thing.  UDM’s snow plow team came out early clearing campus roads and parking lots.  I’m all smiles but not all of you will agree with that I bet.   Have a blest day even so.

It’s best to read the poem out loud, with a couple pauses.

john st sj

Richard Wehrman: “When I Fell into the World”

Posted by Phyllis Cole-Dai on Jan 10, 2015 12:00 am


When I fell into the world, it was
as into my mother’s arms, it was into
the holding of warmth, the blue-green water,
it was into the beings who blinked
back at me amazed, as I was by them.
I fell from separateness, I fell from constriction.
I fell from the ice castle of myself, through
the rushing darkness, past screams,
past fear. I did not float up, I fell down,
and it was the world that waited
as I was stripped bare, as I tumbled out
of my self—faster and faster through blue
clouds and white, into the unknown arms
of joyfulness, toward the beings unnumbered
who opened their hearts in love.

Richard-Wehrman“When I Fell into the World” by Richard Wehrman. Text presented here by poet submission. 

Art credit: Image by unknown photographer.


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Friday Jan 9

Friday January 9, 2015  – settling in for Term 2

Earlier in my UD/UDM time, when I taught a lot of courses, I met the first weeks of each term with curiosity and anxiety; catch a communal rhythm of shared challenge, asking for help, offering help, managing bad days, biting into the curve of the wave of some new thinking.  Sometimes missing the wave and then recovering.   Would this group of students miss the wave altogether and never gel into a community of learning with its own soul?   Sometimes, I would remind myself, the magic doesn’t work so well.  Then teacher and students have to suck it up and slog through the learning process.  Sometimes you, teacher, feel you’ve let the students down.  But what if this group, just coming together, find in themselves a collective capacity to create and be surprised?  Is the potential for magic in this room full of human beings?  Startup times are uncertain and call for hope.

Mary Oliver’s “Making the House Ready for the Lord” contemplates winter’s early days, a place full of improbable welcome for an unlikely gathering who, with some hospitality, can grow a communal soul.    It’s good to read the poem out loud, with some pauses.

Enjoy this wintry weekend.

Today’s Post — Making the House Ready for the Lord

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice – it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under
the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances – but it is
the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do?
And the raccoon limps into the kitchen and
opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path to the door. And still I believe
you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering
sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in,
Come in.

Mary Oliver


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Wed Jan 7 – Remembering Mike Witkowski

Wednesday, January 7 –  grief and hope, goodbye and new birth

One of UofD’s graduates before we were UDM majored in biology, and then spent time as a Jesuit Volunteer in New Jersey where she and her husband Pat met and fell in love.  Now, years later, Kathy Lilla Cox is a professor of theology at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN.  Pat, like 10 of my relatives, is an attorney.  Kathy did me a favor a few days ago and sent me this poem about the power of blessings in the midst of loss.  The poet, Jan Richardson lost her husband to sudden death a year ago, December 2013.

Reading the poem brings me back into UDM’s chapel on Monday when many of us gathered with Mike Witkowski’s family to say goodbye to this good man.  Ike McKinnon, former Chief of Police in Detroit, a UDM professor on leave to serve as Deputy Mayor of Detroit, offered the eulogy.  “‘Mike and Ike’ we called ourselves when we conducted training sessions for law enforcement officers around the upper midwest. Sometimes we called ourselves ‘the American Dream,’  both of us grew up poor on the East Side of Detroit;  one black, one white, and now we are professors at UDM.”  Soul friends.  Mike died a young sixty.  Lots of us will miss him.

It’s best to read the poem out loud, with some pauses.

Have a good day.


john sj

Blessing When the World is Ending

Look, the world
is always ending

the sun has come
crashing down.

it has gone
completely dark.

it has ended
with the gun
the knife
the fist.

it has ended
with the slammed door
the shattered hope.

it has ended
with the utter quiet
that follows the news
from the phone
the television
the hospital room.

it has ended
with a tenderness
that will break
your heart.

But, listen,
this blessing means
to be anything
but morose.
It has not come
to cause despair.

It is simply here
because there is nothing
a blessing
is better suited for
than an ending,
nothing that cries out more
for a blessing
than when a world
is falling apart.

This blessing
will not fix you
will not mend you
will not give you
false comfort;
it will not talk to you
about one door opening
when another one closes.

It will simply
sit itself beside you
among the shards
and gently turn your face
toward the direction
from which the light
will come,
gathering itself
about you
as the world begins

-Jan Richardson


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Monday Jan 5 — “All that is harsh and dissonant in my life, melts . . .” Tagore

Monday January 5 — start-up time

About 5:30 this morning the western sky over Livernois showed off the moon’s sharp edges as if the first full week of Term 2 were sheer magic.   Made me want to dance into the day.   By 7:00 cloud cover had erased that moon from sight, but not from memory.  Time to settle in and get used to work weeks again.  This post, taken mostly from last January 14, is dedicated to the beauty of what universities do, as crisp and wonderful as today’s early morning moon.  Dedicated to our primary identity of teaching and learning.

We are a university.   Here, people listen, take each other seriously.  Teachers listen to students.   When I taught full-time, some students told me one day that I was most scary when one of them would say something and I would turn around and write her/his words on the board, circle one word then turn around and ask: “Why did you choose that word?”  Teachers do that.  Listen for the voice, call it forth; expect respect for words.   Not only teachers though.  Universities call on students to listen to each other, to expect meaning from each other.  Also,  administrative assistants,  staff in the registrar’s office,  nurse practitioners in the student wellness center,  campus security officers, coaches;  lots of listening.    On good days, each of us knows that.  And on hard days, maybe one of our peers will notice and ask how we are doing, and listen to our story.

Rabindranath Tagore writes of God expecting a song from human beings, thrilling us by sacred attention.  (Gitanjali # 2)

Have a good week.

john sj


Tagore # 2

When Thou commandest me to sing
it seems that my heart would break with pride
and I look to Thy face
and tears come to my eyes.

All that is harsh and dissonant in my life
melts into one sweet harmony
and my adoration spreads wings like a glad bird
on its flight across the sea.

I know Thou takest pleasure in my singing
I know that only as a singer I come before Thy presence
I touch by the edge of the far spreading wing of my song
Thy feet which I could never aspire to reach.

Drunk with the joy of singing
I forget myself
and call Thee friend
who art my lord.

Tagore  Gitanjali  # 2


The Nobel Prize in Literature 1913
Rabindranath Tagore

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